The Governor of Yobe State, Buni Mai-Mala, cuts the tape on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to commission the new NDDC headquarters building at the Marine base in Port Harcourt. First left is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr Efiong Akwa, is on the right.
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Twenty-five years after the grandbreaking ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari has on Thursday commissioned the 13 floor headquarters building of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Rivers.
Buhari who virtually commissioned the headquarters complex from his office in Abuja, said the land was acquired by the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1996, and was abandoned after series of design amendments.
He commended the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, for steadfastness in ending many years of renting by the commission, and the attendant profligacy.
He said: “In 2015, as part of our Administration’s cardinal objectives to kill corruption, some critical reforms were embarked upon, part of which was a holistic reform of the NDDC for greater service delivery for the people of the region.
“To achieve this, I reassigned the supervision of the NDDC to the Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs for administrative efficiency. Second, was the appointment of Forensic Auditors to review the operations of the Commission from inception to 2019 and to ensure that the appropriations made to the NDDC are commensurate with what is on the ground,’’ he said.
Commending the minister further for ensuring the historic completion of the edifice located at Marine Base in Port Harcourt, Buhari urged the management to commit the amounts used for renting to more rewarding benefits.
“I, therefore, use this opportunity to commend the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for providing the required leadership that saw to the completion of this edifice.
“Today, we are handing over to the people of Niger Delta, a befitting Head Office Complex for present and future use. Consequently, huge yearly rentals would now be saved and deployed to other areas of needs in the region.
“I commend the management and staff of the NDDC for staying the course and keying into the Reform Agenda of our Administration. I am particularly pleased to note the cordial relationship between the NDDC and the National Assembly and hope that this relationship will be strengthened further for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta region,’’ the President added.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs noted that the completion of the NDDC building signals the President’s commitment to the development of the oil producing region, and ending of activities of corrupt public officials, who also negated the connection of the offices to national grid over many years in order to seek rent on fueling of generators.
“You will be remembered by this gesture, and generations will never forget you,’’ the minister said.
Sen. Akpabio urged leaders, traditional rulers and youths in the region to support Buhari’s administration so that it would complete most of the abandoned projects by previous administrations, which include the Second Niger Bridge.
In his remarks, Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, thanked the President for the completion of the building, promising that the nine governors under the NDDC would continue to support his bold steps in development.
“I wish to express my gratitude to Buhari and the federal government of Nigeria for the realisation of the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission. It took so long a time for this project to come to fruition almost two decades after the commission come to being by June 5th 2000. The credit must go to our President who in his usual result oriented manner had made this abandoned projecf a reality.
“This project was started and for whatever reason was abandoned for a very long time. But with the inauguration of this building, NDDC will seize to waste a staggering sum of N200 to N300m annually on rent. The money will now be channeled to other productive ventures. We are aware whey NDDC was born. It was a direct response of the Federal Government to the agitation of the oil producing communities and states for the establishment of interventionist agency that will address the degradation in the area as well as tackle the infrastructural deficit.
“Because some stakeholders said that the 13 per cent derivation funds may not adequately take care of the needs of oil-producing communities, NDDC was well-received by our people.
“Unfortunately after two decades of its existence, with an estimated allocation of over N946.19bn in 18 years, NDDC may find it difficult to convince many Nigerians especially those from the Southeast and Southsouth states that it has justified while it was created.
“However, nobody can write off NDDC as a total failure all these years. The commission has done its best in the prevailing circumstances. But majority of the people, feel that the agencies have fallen short of expectations. The financial scandals that have rocked NDDC not too long ago blighted whatever impact it has made in the past. That is why I wholeheartedly commend President Muhammadu Buhari for setting up a forensic audit to look through the books of NDDC. I also welcome the setting up of an interim administration to manage the affairs of the commission pending the conclusion of the forensic audit.
“On that notes nine governors are solidly behind the federal government efforts to reposition the NDDC and to make it responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of our people. To achieve this, will require a little tinkering with the NDDC Act. It is my view that to address the kind of contract scandal that rocked the NDDC in the past and the concomitant allegations of corruption that followed, there is need for more involvement of the people in the affairs of the commission”
Earlier, in his welcome address, the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr Efiong Akwa, commended President Buhari, the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs and members of the defunct Interim Management Committee for a job well done.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer thanked the President for reassigning of NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, stating that the office complex stood as a monument to what Niger Delta people stood for, as “a people who are strong and resolute.”
“It is noteworthy to observe that President Buhari, in a demonstration of the remarkable political will, initiated three major policies that impacted positively on the speedy completion of this project.
First was the re-assignment of the supervision of the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Then second, was the appointment of forensic auditors to review the activities of the Commission form inception up to the year 2019. With the forensic audit exercise, it can no longer be business as usual in the Commission.
Third was the policy direction for the completion of all abandoned projects which have positive impact on the people. The completion of this edifice is, therefore, a direct consequence of Mr President’s focused policy direction.”