The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, (left) and the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr Efiong Akwa, (right) addressing newsmen at the newly completed headquarters of the Commission at the Marine base in Port Harcourt.
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to better the lives of the Niger Delta people through his commitment to the restructuring of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
This as Akpabio has announced that a new board of management for the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC would be constituted after the on-going forensic audit of the commission was concluded.
The former Senator stated this on Tuesday, during a press briefing in Port Harcourt ahead of the inauguration of the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to the Minister, following the intervention at the Commission and other developmental projects ongoing in the region, “Niger Delta will never be the same again”.
He commended the President that during the Covid-19 pandemic Nigeria was still able to pay salaries to civil servants.
Reacting to questions from journalists at the briefing on the demand by the South South governors that funds for the running of the commission be kept in an escrow account until the emergence of a board, Akpabio faulted the governors by declaring that they had no right to give directives to the President.
He said: “I’m not aware that the governors are the ones that give directive to the President. So if you are saying that the South South governors just finished their meeting and gave directives to the President not to release funds, I want to let you know that we have pleaded with the governors, even when I was a governor to ensure that local government have elected executives. Some governors for 8 years use caretaker committees to run local government and the federal government has not denied them their funds”.
He explained that he was not against the constitution of a board for the NDDC but added that it was being delayed by the on-going forensic audit of the NDDC which he said had reached advanced stage and would be concluded in no distant time.
“We are not against the reconstitution of board for the NDDC but if for 19 years NDDC board has been on they could not produce an edifice of this nature, they could not use mere N16-million to connect the rented head office at 167 Aba road to the national grid one would think that sometimes the constitution of board is not necessary”, The Minister stated.
Akpabio added; “We are saying that there is need to be a board for the NDDC nobody is against a board but let us finish the forensic audit. And boards have various interests. In a few months the forensic audit will be over and a board will be definitely constituted for the NDDC, I don’t see a problem there, it doesn’t need governors calling on the President to do so. Rather I plead with the governors to ensure they carry out local government elections”.
He commended the Interim Administrator of NDDC, Barr Efiong Akwa for ensuring the success of the edifice.
He said: “What you are seeing now and what I have seen so far justifies the request which I have on my desk. I should go back to the Executive Council and ensure that we get approval for the furnishing of the entire edifice. Honestly, there is nobody that will come here seeing from the entrance round the edifice that will not give respect to the NDDC and the Niger Delta at large.
“Since the Interim Administrator came onboard, he has used all uncommon tactics to ensure the completion of this edifice”.
Speaking also on the commissioning of the 13 floors new NDDC headquarters, the Interim Administrator, Barr Efiong Akwa disclosed that President Mohammadu Buhari would conduct a virtual inauguration of the headquarters on Thursday this week.
He expressed delight that the building which had lasted 25 years under construction and passed through series of managements and administrations was now ready for commission due to the zeal, capacity and passion displayed by the current interim management and administration of President Buhari.
“This is a building that was started about 25 years ago, 1996 or there about. Between 1996 till date series of managements, series of administrations none has the capacity to do what is being done in this era.
“So I want to specifically thank the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces on Nigeria because he is a man that loves the Niger Delta people, he is a man that loves development he is a man that loves progress”, the NDDC boss stated.
He explained that the motivation behind the completion of the headquarters was to avoid the series of rents that is being paid on the rented head office, which according to him amounted to N100-million per annum an amount which he said could easily afford the NDDC a property of its own adding; “that was why we decided that this property could be completed, must be completed and be put to use”.
He described the edifice as a great honour to the people of the Niger Delta, it’s a great achievement that the APC government has made in just the past two and a half years.
He said the push to complete the project began when the minister was deployed to the ministry of Niger Delta and the supervision of the NDDC was also re-assigned by the presidency because of proximity and because of capacity of the man, so the result is what you are seeing today.
He also lauded the Rivers State Governor for his support to the commission by providing a conducive environment for it to work, adding that throughout the duration of the project there were no youth or community disturbances at the site of the new headquarters.