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Leave NDDC Alone to Work for the Niger Delta Region

The attention of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has just been brought to a spurious, unfounded and irresponsible news story making the rounds online, titled “N21.9b Akwa Ibom NDDC Office Fund Disappears, Project Abandoned”, written by a faceless hack in the obvious employment of mischievious, dubious characters.

The fabricated story alleges, among many fabrications, that the foundation stone of the project was laid “two years” ago, that reptiles have taken over the site, as well as the actionable, criminal lie that the Managing Director/CEO of the Commission, Mr. Nsima Ekere, allegedly “diverted” the funds to his “governorship election” in Akwa Ibom State.

While it is not our usual practice to dignify irresponsible and fraudulent journalism with a response, we believe it is important to set the facts straight, so that the public will know the truth and understand that in this day of politicking, people who sit in otherwise noble and responsible positions, compelled by desperate efforts to demonise their opponents, resort to blackmail, lies, dubious shenanigans and questionable tactics to deceive the people and divert their attention from their own failings.

It bears restating here that the Niger Delta Development Commission is a responsible and responsive organisation, under a Governing Board peopled by very responsible Nigerians, with clear protocols for the administration and implementation of projects and programmes. It is not a one-man show and cannot, therefore, experience any diversion of funds, as the story alleges.

Now the facts:

1. The foundation laying ceremony for this project, as accompanying photograph shows, was laid only on July 20, 2018, and not two years ago;

2. The project was awarded to Messrs Brett Integrated Investment Limited (and not Brett Nigeria Limited) at the contract value of N1,061,012,796.22, and not at N21.9bn, as falsely reported. But it is very clear that this faceless reporter was neither concerned about his/her reputation nor facts;

3. The contractors has been at site working. A visit to the site will reveal, as these pictures reveal, will show that materials are on site, iron works fabricated and over 10,000 blocks moulded, which would take the project to its first milestone within one month, as assured by the contractors. Only last week, more materials were deposited at site.

4. That the account for the project, opened by the contractors with First Bank of Nigeria Plc, is secured by an Advance Payment Guarantee (APG) where all monies are deposited. It cannot be possible therefore within law to divert the funds as fraudulently reported. This can be easily verified with the bank.

5. It is indeed important to note that the Commission, desirous to see the judicious and expeditious completion of this project, as it is our practice with all our projects and programmes, on August 20, 2018, wrote a letter, signed by the Commission’s Director, Project Monitoring and Supervision, Engr (Dr.) Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua, directing First Bank to release funds to the contractors to enable them discharge their duties to the project and the Commission;

6. The Letter (a copy of which is attached) reads in part: “Please note that your continuous denial of the contractor access to funds deposited in your bank by the Commission will be seen as a deliberate effort to frustrate our project…”

The Niger Delta Development Commission will no longer sit back and watch criminal journalism as attempts to tarnish its corporate image and attempts to detract us from the onerous task of developing the Niger Delta region. All too often, we have been exposed to constant, vicious and virulent attacks, deliberate distortions, falsehood and open confrontation, driven by political scheming, and it often comes from a certain section of the region.

As the Commission has often stated, NDDC, as an intervention agency, is not in competition with any of the nine state governments of the Niger Delta region. Our mandates are different, but equally important and desperately urgent. We ask that the Commission and its representatives be allowed to focus on our duty to develop the region. We believe that there is no reason to poison the chalice, because our people drink from it.

The entire Niger Delta region is in dire need of rapid, even and sustainable development. That is our core Mandate. That is our primary focus. That is why we are more concerned about governance, which impacts positively on the people, than divisive and fraudulent politicking. Through our structures, we have extended our hands of cooperation and partnership to all the nine Niger Delta States.

Our footprints in Akwa Ibom State are obvious in keeping with the mandate of the current Board to ensure that the state enjoys the largest share of NDDC projects as the leading oil producing state in Nigeria.

We have extended our hand of friendship to the State Government on many occasions, as we have done with other State Governments. Indeed, our partnership with the State Governments has yielded important projects, such as the construction of the 50-kilometre Akodo-Araromi/Ibeju-Lekki Road, connecting Ondo and Lagos States, being funded by the Commission and Ondo State Government. We do hope that Akwa Ibom Government will see reason why it must open the door to NDDC as a credible development partner, rather than continue to demonize it.

Ibitoye Abosede

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