· Camps to serve as temporary measure
By Ignatius Chukwu
Ideas rule the world and solve hard problems when men put their brains to work. This seems to have taken place in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where an ideas has been created to combat frequent flooding and disaster. instead, the brains at the Commission want to turn disaster to asset.
The NDDC led by Dr Samuel Ogbuku has concluded plans to tackle the increasing threats of flooding in the Niger Delta with a dam project plus camps in worst hit areas.
The managing director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, who dropped the hint on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, during an interactive session with newsmen in Port Harcourt, said camp sites in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states would be built as temporary scheme while a dam would be the permanent solution.
He said designing of the project is in progress after which the NDDC would meet partners and the federal government to agree on execution and participation levels.
The beauty of the dam scheme, Ogbuku said, is that it would be a disaster-to-asset scheme, saying whereas flood is a disaster, dam is an asset.
He said it would supply light through power generation and with the liberalization of the power sector, become a huge income generation project by using the power purchase agreement (PPA) mechanism.
On the camping project, the MD said it would be completed in November 2023 which is when he said flooding is heaviest. The idea, he stated, is to provide temporary abode for ravaged communities.
He said the camps would also provide administrative ease by isolating the victims and administering food supplies directly to them.
The CEO also told newsmen that N100Bn has been provided in the 2023 budget to pay debts.
He said it has been made a policy and a law so that no MD would have a choice to pay or not to pay.
In the past, he stated, CEOs decided not to pay and rather awarded their own contracts. He said even if the N100Bn was small compared with over N1trillion owed to contractors, but that it was better for hope to be rekindled that money is now being paid gradually.
He stated some of the debts have stayed over 15 years, trapping peoples funds and rendering many persons to paupers.
He admitted that the NDDC receives court orders to pay debts to various contractors.
He did not reveal how much oil corporations owed the NDDC but revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is releasing funds held for the NDDC from IOCs while he said verification of the actual receivables were being calculated.
On poor budgeting system whereby little amounts are captured in annual budgets for big-ticket projects, the MD said it has given the Commission huge headache. “Imagine a situation where a project is costing N50Bn and you get less than N10Bn in one year. It means it will take many years to complete it. Add this scenario to frequent change of CEOs who would want to award their own contracts, the result is mere chaos”.
The MD revealed that the bridge to Okrika has been restarted saying it was N16Bn in 2012 but would surely need some variation.
He said it would be executed despite the ‘pittance budgeting system’ but that the management would explore some windows in the budget to get the sensitive project done.
He said the management would consider the suggestion by ex-governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, to participate in the bridge across the waters as part of the PH Ring Road.
He agreed that more consultation is going on with new governors of the Niger Delta states as governing board members to brief them on activities, but noted that they already have representatives in the NDDC and in the budget committee.
Ogbuku harped on the need to close the communication gaps and widen transparency by engaging in interactive sessions with the media more frequently.
This seems to be the first big-ticket and pan-Niger Delta project that the masses have been clamouring for.