BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt
The House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has appealed to the federal government to pay all outstanding debts to the Commission within a reasonable time.
The chairman of the Committee, Hon Nicholas Mutu, made the appeal yesterday when he led his colleagues to pay a courtesy visit to the managing director of the NDDC, Mr Nsima Ekere, at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
Mutu, told the NDDC chief executive officer that the committee’s visit was part of its oversight function to inspect project sites, look at the books of the Commission and evaluate its performance.
He affirmed that the Committee would support the NDDC through regular engagements, with a view to enhancing the performance of the Commission and improving on its service delivery to the people.
The Committee chairman restated the committee’s displeasure with the debts owed the NDDC by the federal government and other agencies that contribute to its funding, calling for a change of attitude.
Mutu declared, “In future, we expect that all statutory obligations to the NDDC would be paid as and when due. The delay in the release of funds has created a situation whereby the Commission is unable to meet its financial obligations to contractors and stakeholders.”
He advised the NDDC to set up a mechanism to leverage resources outside the statutory sources of funds by working out partnerships and joint venture arrangements.
The Committee chairman said, to address the challenge of high rate of project abandonment across the length and breathe of the Niger Delta, which he put at over 3,000, the committee had directed the NDDC to commence the immediate audit of performing and non performing projects.
Mutu said, “This is with a view to determine non-performing contracts and give impetus to NDDC to put in place a mechanism that will help it to mitigate the abandoned project syndrome currently bedevilling the region.
“Going forward, the NDDC should award contracts to only contractors with capacity and focus more on completing on going projects as an additional measure to mitigate contract failure and enhance value added service to the Niger Delta region.”
He charged the NDDC to commit 50 per cent of its funds to completing existing projects while devoting 30 per cent to new projects, saying, “Other available funds should be used to pay contractors with outstanding Interim Payment Certificates, IPCs, to facilitate the completion of existing projects.
“The Commission should undertake this review by facilitating the process and allowing other stakeholders to take leadership in determining the content and objectives of the Master Plan.
“This will engender ownership by the people and institutions of the region to ensure that it will be acceptable and widely implemented by the states, local governments, oil companies, private sector and civil society organisations, as well as other development partners working in the Niger Delta.”
Earlier, the NDDC managing director, Mr Ekere, said that the committees of both chambers of the National Assembly have been most supportive and helpful to the Commission. “They have given us the backings that will enable us deliver on the mandate that we were given by the president and the people of the Niger Delta region,” he said.
Ekere said, “We appreciate you, especially for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the NDDC Act without rancour. We owe you and the entire membership of the National Assembly a debt of gratitude for that wonderful show of patriotism and statesmanship.”
He noted that since the appointment current board and management by Mr President, the NDDC had articulated a new a reform strategy christened the 4-R initiative.
Ekere said, “We articulated the 4-R initiative to add value to the process of the NDDC. The new initiative will structure our processes and make them transparent. It involves restructuring the balance sheet, reforming the governance protocols, restoring the Commission’s core mandate and reaffirming its commitment to doing what is right and proper.”