Former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark has asked the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio to as a matter of urgency, stop his constant interference with the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for effective performance and service delivery for the people of the region.
According to the Elder statesman and Chairman of Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Minister should note that the NDDC is an independent interventionist agency and that he should not abandon his own ministry as it has become very imperative for him to concentrate in the ministry and allow the NDDC to work, adding that the minister should live above personal interest and have the interest of the Niger Delta region at heart in all its ramifications.
Clark has also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the board of the NDDC in consonnance with the Act establishing the Commission, even as he stressed that there is a lot of Illegality and corruption in the NDDC hence he described the forensic audit as a welcome development that will help unravel the very bad deeds that took place at the Commission.
Speaking yesterday at his Asokoro, Abuja residence when he received the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Effiong Okon, and his Interim Management Committee (IMC), the Niger Delta leader also called on President Buhari to set aside a special fund to complete the East West Road started by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He has assured that as the leader of the region, he will work with others to appeal to the boys to give Peace a chance against the backdrop that the people must remain united and not fight themselves.
Clark said: “There is a law governing NDDC which we all participated in producing and no one should bypass that law or bridge it. Even Mr. President has no power to bypass the law establishing NDDC except he has to go back to National Assembly for any amendment. So, any attempt to bridge the law will become illegal, null and void.
“Well, there has been many arguments about sole administrator or the legality and illegality which have been discussed. The NDDC was under the presidency and we know how it was used. But many of us never thought removing NDDC to Niger Delta ministry was the best thing to do because it would be misused. Niger Delta ministry is our own ministry, therefore, NDDC going to the ministry would not have been a bad idea so we supported it. But what we are opposed is that NDDC is an independent agency like any other one like NPA. In other agencies, the ministers do not abandon their own ministries to go and concentrate in these agencies, that is the problem we have.
“For sometime, some of us have been advising the minister, don’t abandon your ministry and concentrate on NDDC it, is not fair. The minister of transportation does not concentrate on NPA or NIMASA or Railways. The minister of state petroleum does not concentrate on NNPC. So the problem we have therefore, is the constant interference with the affairs of NNDC by the minister of Niger Delta Affairs. So, I do hope that in your performance of duties you should have a free hand.
“I was shocked when the minister announced that the East West road must be completed, N18 billion was voted for the ministry for capital project. And the minister said we are going to spend about N16 billion on the east west road and you have just confirmed it. There’s no provision anywhere even in the NDDC budget that part of the budget is to be used in the completion of the east west road. East west road is one of the economic roads in Nigeria, I see no reason why the federal ministry of works should not be in charge of the East West Road.
“That is not the duty of NDDC, east west road is the duty of the ministry of works. So we have been protesting that the federal government should make available special funds for that very important economic road. In the recent budget, Kano State alone has three roads within Kano costing about N60 billion to be constructed with our oil money. What is being done for us? Do we have to go and beg for money to build roads? So whoever is the minister should live above his own personal interest and put the interest of Niger Delta first.
“So, Mr. President should provide enough for the completion of the East-West Road.”
Clark who also appealed to the youths of the region to give peace a chance in order to allow for development, said, “Nobody will leave this world with what they stole, or what you acquired illegally, but the good name you leave behind, your children will benefit from it. Let’s love ourselves, I wish you all the best of luck. We appeal to our boys to give peace a chance. Thank you for coming to visit me.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Interim Administrator of the NDDC Effiong Okon who assured the people of the region that the East-West road, would be completed and commissioned in six months, however appealed to Delta youths who last week blocked the Delta State axis of the East-West Road, protesting his appointment by President Buhari, to allow peace to reign for the benefit of the region.
Okon said: “The East West road that was initiated by the administration of President Obasanjo many years ago is still lingering. That is why the current minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, took it as a responsibility that the east west road must be completed and handed over for the use of the people of the Niger Delta. That enough of the accidents, enough of robbery on the road because of the non-completion of this road and bridges.
“He has also suggested that we collaborate with the federal ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with the budget we now have, and we are going to collaborate. So, you are going to see within the next six months to one year, that the East West Road stretching all the way from Warri up to Oron with the bridges will be completed and handed over for the use of the Niger Delta.”
Recall that Okon was appointed by President Buhari last December to oversee the affairs of the NDDC.
Speaking further, the NDDC boss noted that the abandoned 750 bed hostels in the universities in Delta, Ondo and Rivers states would be completed and commissioned in the next three months.He however commended the National Assembly for approving the 2021 budget of N453.2 billion for the NDDC, last December after 12 months of not having a budget to work with, even as he assured that verified contracts that have not been attended to for years, will also be paid in phases.
Recall that the East-West Road project began in 2006 under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo and it was expected to be completed in 2010. However, the project got stalled a couple of times due to financial constraints, and in 2018, President Buhari announced his intentions and readiness to complete the project.
In June last year, President Buhari had approved the release of N19.67 billion to boost efforts to complete sections I-IV of the ongoing East-West Road project in by 2021, in a bid to address infrastructure deficit in the Niger Delta region and the entire country at large.
Okon who disclosed that part of those things IMC wants to do is to pursue payment of contractors whose jobs have been verified. He said: “Number one, we will identify some of the people that did contracts. Contractors for many years have not been paid, it is unfortunate what we met on ground but we want to say that some of our sons who ran the place some times did not follow the extant rules. So we have large volumes of jobs on ground not paid for thereby subjecting our people to untold hardships. Individuals have lost their lives who could not afford money for delivery because, the contracts have been held down for many years.
“We have made this presentation to the National Assembly to make arrangement to give NDDC their funds from ecological funds, statutory deductions so that we can make money available to contractors that have done their jobs over time. That will alleviate the suffering of the people of Niger Delta. So we want to pursue payment of contractors that did their verified jobs so that their problems could be eased.”
According to the Interim Administrator, the IMC will also intervene in the completion of hostels in some federal universities in the region. He noted, “during my visit to one of the universities, we discovered that a 750 bed hostel had been abandoned for the past 20 years. I have told myself that this project has to be completed in the next three months so that it would benefit the people. It is a federal university.
“We have them in Ondo, Delta, Rivers and others scattered like that but not yet completed. We want to ensure these hostels are completed and made for students to move in. The COVID-19 rule would have been obeyed. There should be ease and enough rooms to give students social distancing otherwise our people will suffer.
“I appeal that the people of Niger Delta should discountenance some of the things they see on social media. We are here to serve the people. I’m not working alone. We have over 47 directors. These are persons that come together to take decisions for NDDC. The idea that Buhari or Akpabio has imposed one man is not correct. I’m pleading that people of Niger Delta should support our leaders and allow peace to reign. And in a short while Niger Delta will be like any other country in the world.”