*Group says project completed long ago
The invitation sent by the Niger Delta development Commission (NDDC) to President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, August 3, 2020, to come to Bayelsa State and commission the N24Bn Ogbia-Nembe Road project has rather sparked off harsh criticism from groups pushing for sack of the present management of the Commission.
The Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, had gone to Abuja on Monday where he handed an invitation to President Buhari through the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio after which he talked to the press on a number of issues including commissioning of projects and effort to pay the allowances of the stranded NDDC scholars abroad.
One of the groups fighting the present interim management, the Niger Delta rights Advocates (NDRA), dismissed it as a ruse, insisting that the project was long completed. A statement issued by the spokesman, Darlington Nwauju, said: “In as much as government is a continuum and ordinarily, nothing would have been seen as awkward in having a sitting Management team commissioning the projects completed by its predecessor(s), the case of the Pondei-led NDDC IMC is quite different for the basic reason that whereas there are a plethora of uncompleted and abandoned projects which the IMC could lay hands on to deliver to the people of the region, including the Headquarters project which the Pondei team had made so much media noise about; the NDRA considers the attempt to dig into their bag of tricks to continue to put the people of the region in ‘confusional conference’ while he and his co-travellers continue in the sharing bazaars.”
NDRA said rather than come clean by refunding the billions of naira extra-budgetarily wasted in the past few months including during the period of lockdown, the Pondei team has chosen another theatrics to divert public attention just as the professor of virology chose to faint during a normal public hearing, rather than put his integrity to the crucible of public scrutiny. “Pondei has again chosen the path of dramatization over a road project completed over a year ago by the Nelson Brambaifa administration of the NDDC.”
The group recalled that on the 8th day of July 2019, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, did publicly commend the then NDDC IMC for completing that project without media glitz or fanfare. “Today, we challenge the current NDDC IMC to point us to one project it has completed.”
BusinessDay was one of the media houses that reported how in April 2016, the then Community Interface Manager for SPDC, Evans Krukrubo, affirmed that the partnership with the NDDC on the Ogbia-Nembe Road had been very successful, stating that it was encouraging that the project had reached 97 per cent completion. “We are very proud to be associated with this project. This kind of partnership is what the Niger Delta needs,” he had said at a meeting with the then acting CEO of the NDDC.
Now, the NDRA called on President Buhari not to rub the Presidency of Nigeria with the ‘mud of corruption’ by endorsing the continuous dramatization of corruption at the NDDC.
“NDRA is appalled that rather than do “corruption contact-tracing” by isolating both the index case, some misguided elements choose to urge him and his team on in the odious path of corrupt enrichment while poverty and insecurity in the region is at its apogee.
“We reiterate our call on the President and C-in-C to disengage the Pondei team and invite the anti-corruption agencies to recover the looted billions belonging to the region.
“For the avoidance of doubts, monies belonging to the people of region were looted under the following sub-heads – Condolences (#122.9m); community relations (#1.3billion); security (#744m); stakeholders engagement (#248.9m); #85.6m paid to 14 staff members to embark on overseas travel to the UK (during lockdown), publicity (#1.121billion); COVID-19 relief funds (#3.14billion); #143m paid to 5 member of staff to attend a conference on budgeting during lockdown; #641m paid to assist the NDDC IMC identify its own projects; #1.088billion for distribution of palliatives without a single proof (video or pictorial); #171m paid to 300 drivers to attend training course during the lockdown; #150m paid to some union executives for an ILO conference in Turin, Italy (scheduled during the COVID-19 travel restrictions)!.
“Finally, we shall have no other option than to join forces with the TUC and sister civil society organizations to public protest the seeming delay on the part of the Federal Government to decisively take action against the current NDDC IMC.”
The NDDC management has however waved off such criticisms as tantrums, saying whereas the accusers mentioned N40Bn and later N81Bn, the Commission published where the funds went to.
Also, the National Assembly which probed the N40Bn issue only asked the Commission to refund some N4.5Bn, a situation that has confused innocent observers who wondered why such a small amount was all what the storm could isolate.
Odili has recently said accusers were recycling same accusations that had been raised and found lacking in substance even by the National Assembly.