* Is the debt N450Bn, N1trn or N2trin?
By Codratus Godson
Just by oing verification of contracts, the debts being claimed by contractors have reduced by half. This must be why most contractors resisted the exercise. Several intrigues took place during the run up to the exercise.
The huge debt owed contractors by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may have crashed to half after the recent but controversial contract verification exercise which many contractors and politicians kicked against. This has however raised another issue; how much the Commission owes.
The interim management of the NDDC led by Joi Nunieh (PhD) said in Port Harcourt that the teams to go round the nine states to inspect jobs were set to move out, saying payment would begin as soon as the teams file in reports.
Nunieh said despite the hedging by many contractors, the verification exercises that held at state capitals of the nine states were a huge success. She said the debt has reduced by half because only those who turned out for verification were truly owed, instead of the books being clustered with records of debts.
It is not clear which figure the Nunieh-led Commission is using to calculate ist debt liability. The acting managing director in June 2016 had mentioned N450Bn as the figure. The Prof Nelson Brambaifa era as at September 2019 had mentioned N1 trillion as the debt while the minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswil Akpabio, had put the figure at N2 trillion.
Now, Dr Nunieh said in Port Harcourt that the Commission has empowered its Project Assessment Committee to begin visits to project sites in communities across the Niger Delta region.
Nunieh spoke during a courtesy visit at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt by some chiefs from Kula, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, under the auspices of Concerned Citizens of Kula Kingdom.
The NDDC CEO emphasized that the Interim Management Committee (IMC), which she heads, would not succumb to the pressures from contractors, who want to be paid even before validation of their claims.
The NDDC boss urged the Kula chiefs to support the IMC and stand with the NDDC to ensure the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, noting that the story of the region would not be complete without a mention of the contributions of Kula as an oil-producing community.
Nunieh said that the assessment committee had worked out a schedule for the visit of project sites in various communities, including Kula, to inspect on-going projects, emphasizing that no contractor would be paid without evidence of work done.