Long abandoned projects in the Niger Delta receive new hopes for completion, courtesy of Senator (Chief) Godswill Akpabio’s transformation agenda. Prince (Barrister) Anthony Ekene Onwuka, Special Assistant, Project Monitoring and Special Duties, Presidential Monitoring Committee on the NDDC, explains the work of the Committee and how the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is changing the dynamics of development in the long-suffering region.
When the contractor of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) moved to site to begin construction of a bridge at Atan Ikpe in Edemeya Clan in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State in August 2006, the people of the area and their neighbours heaved a sigh of relief.
And they let out a cry of joy in acknowledgement that the dangerous rickety bridge would soon be replaced with a brand new spanking solid one and would boost social and economic activities in the area.
Fifteen years later, that joy is yet to be consummated, as the work till date stands shamefully at less than 10% completion with whooping sums, which cannot justify the work done, already collected and the site left deserted and desolate.
It is the same story in Ogheyeye-Koko of Warri North L.G.A. in Delta State where the construction of a strategic road, which links the riverine people of Itsekiri land and the adjoining areas that stretch as far as some part of Lagos, was awarded to Levant Construction Limited in May 2009.
Twelve years down the road nothing much has been achieved to justify the optimism of the people of the area when the contract was awarded.
Both projects – in Atan Ikpe and Ogheyeye-Koko, may soon see the light of the day, if the recent inspection by the Presidential Monitoring Committee (PMC) on NDDC and its report is anything to go by.
The PMC, appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari last October, is chaired by Chief (Senator) Godswill Obot Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
According to Prince Onwuka, a Germany-based lawyer and international project consultant, the PMC embarked on a visit to the said projects as part of its statutory oversight with the intent to identify the status of work, isolate the challenges and prospect for ways and means of corralling stakeholders to recommit themselves to the completion of the laudable project.
Pursuant to the said objective, the PMC adopted a pragmatic approach to wit: Physical visitation of project site; interaction with members of host community; interface with community leaders; review of initial reports on the projects by the supervising engineers and interaction with the contractor handling the job.
“There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that such consummate interaction with all stakeholders would afford members of the PMC touchstone knowledge of the project and has duly embodied same in its evaluation and recommendation,” Prince Onwuka said.
“Suffice it to note that the recent special focus on the Niger Delta region and determination of Mr. President to treat the region justly through accelerated development, have begun to pay off,” he added.
The PMC believes that the contractors and indeed the NDDC can do better if the appropriate funding is provided as at when due, to enable the purchase of material needed for the job.
The significance of the projects, when fully completed for use is not lost on the PMC. Ogheyeye-Koko/ Escravos Road is situate in Warri North Local Government Area and would link the riverine people of Itsekiri, thus promoting social and economic interaction within the axis and beyond.
Also, Edemeya bridge is a critical infrastructure. Its completion would connect and promote interaction, as well as exchange of goods and services which invariably would boost the economy of Edemeya and the catchment area, including the entirety of Ikot Abasi and Akwa Ibom State.
Road infrastructure is a well known economic artery. The conception of the projects by NDDC was therefore well intentioned. But their execution had been unduly delayed, owing to an array of challenges.
PMC has identified the said challenges and made recommendations that would support the acceleration of the pace of work and ensure timely delivery of the projects for the benefit of the people of the regions.
“It would be recalled that since the appointment of Senator Godswill Akpabio in August 2019 as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the confirmation of his supervisory role of NDDC, a myriad of radical and transformational actions, aimed at changing the fortunes of the agency to reflect public good, have taken place but not without formidable resistance by entrenched interests which are inexorably anti-people,” Prince Onwuka explained.
“Interestingly, Mr. President and the Minister have remained focused and resisted the distractions.”
The result is the significant strides that have been made in the region within the period, including the identification of more than 12,000 abandoned projects in the face of humongous debts running into trillions.
“This frightening spectre of anti-people conduct on the part of certain entrenched interests within the Commission led Mr. President to call for a forensic audit of the agency. The result of that exercise is being awaited with bated breath, as two interim reports have already been submitted to Mr. President with the final report almost on hand.,” Prince Onwuka said. “Mr. President and the Minister have thus proven that with requisite political will, things can change for the better.”
The Forensic Audit instituted by the Buhari Administration to scrutinise the activities of NDDC is again a laudable initiative especially when viewed from the prism of recurring cases of abandoned projects. As the Senator Godswill Akpabio once said, “some people turned NDDC into an ATM”, stating that such action was at diametrical variance with the interest of the people of the region and the core reasons that informed the founding of NDDC.
“The mood in the region today is that of unbridled yearning for development. The Buhari Administration has shown sincerity and preparedness. Senator Akpabio, the poster boy of the region has rolled up his sleeves and is ready to work,” Prince Onwuka reported. “Now is the time to say No to abandoned projects.”
Sola Jolaoso/ © The African Courier