The Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has called for better funding for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to enable it deal with the peculiarities of project execution in the difficult Niger Delta environment.
The governor was speaking yesterday when the Senate Committee on the Niger Delta and the NDDC directors led by the Acting Managing Director, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, paid him a courtesy visit at the Delta State Government House, Asaba.
Dr Okowa justified his advocacy for adequate funding of the interventionist agency, stressing that the difficult terrain of the region made it imperative to ask for additional support because the challenges ultimately affect the cost of projects, especially roads cutting across the swamps.
He observed that the problem of funding sometimes stems from long delays which invariably put the projects outside the budget cycle. He also advised that major projects should be awarded to contractors who had demonstrated capacity and competence.
The governor said: “I want to thank the National Assembly and the NDDC for the projects which already exist in the state. While a lot of work has been done, we also realise that there are challenges and I believe that in the process of your oversight functions, you will be able to proffer solutions.
“This oversight function obviously provides the opportunity to make things work. It helps to stimulate the NDDC to do its work and it gives room for the Senate to help the management of the Commission because it is a partnership that creates a win-win situation. I think that it is something that must be encouraged as much as possible.”
Dr Okowa noted that some communities in the state agitate because of genuine grievances which could be assuaged if proper information were made available to them. He, therefore, urged the NDDC and the Senate Committee to always use information available to them to address such grievances and meet the needs of the communities as much as possible. “They should make the communities less restive and more open to partnerships,” he declared.
On the Amnesty Programme, the governor emphasised the need for proper placement for graduates of the various training programmes to ensure that those they did not return to militancy and agitation. He observed that agitation in itself was not wrong as long as it was done in the right way. “We should use the platform of dialogue to agitate rather than resort to violence and vandalism of oil and gas installations,” he said.
In his remarks, the chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, said that they were on a fact-finding mission. He added: “We are here to find out what the NDDC has done with the funds appropriated for it. Have they been able to positively affect the lives of the people? Has the money been judiciously used for the benefit of the people?
“The Senate is very worried about what is happening in the Niger Delta. A lot of money has been voted for the execution of projects but very little is seen on the ground. So, the Senate mandated us to carry out a holistic investigation into the activities of the NDDC to determine how well it has performed its functions. That is why we are here to carry out a comprehensive investigation.”
Senator Nwaoboshi said that Delta State, as a very prominent stakeholder in the Niger Delta, deserved to have projects that were diligently executed. He regretted that 20 per cent of NDDC projects in the state valued at about N14.6 billion have either been abandoned or stalled.
The Senate Committee Chairman informed the governor that his committee was going to have a public hearing on the Amnesty Programme. He stated that a lot of money had been spent on the programme and wondered why we were still having threats of violence from Avengers and other militant groups.
He said further: “We have just finished our budget for 2016 and we want to assure you that we did well for Delta State. As for the implementation of the budget, we will hold the NDDC accountable if their contractors fail to deliver because of lack of capacity or incompetence.