The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr Nsima Ekere has stated that the Commission will pay more attention to big ticket projects that will boost regional integration and development.
Ekere, who spoke during a Good Morning Nigeria Programme on the NTA International, assured that NDDC would continue to focus on massive regional projects that would positively impact the Niger Delta region.
He explained that NDDC had identified some of the key projects to be executed in collaboration with state governments. One of such projects, he said was the Omadino-Okerenkoko-Escravos Road, meant to link the Maritime University at Okerenkoko and other coastal communities in the State.
In a similar vein, he said: “We have signed a pact with the Ondo State Government for the construction of the 50-kilometre Akodo-Araromi/Ibeju-Lekki road. This strategic road will reduce the journey to Lagos from Ondo by forty- five minutes.”
To strengthen collaboration with state governments, Ekere said that NDDC had revived the Partners for Sustainable Development, PSD, Forum, to serve as a clearing house for projects. He added that the Commission had set up budget committees in the states. “This is the first time this is happening in NDDC,” he observed.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that over the years, the Commission had done a lot in the area of infrastructural development. He said that this was not enough because, according to him, “we also want to build human capital. We have signed collaboration agreements that will help us to achieve this.”
Ekere stated that the Commission recently entered into a partnership with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, to set up a N5 billion development fund, where both parties would contribute N2.5 billion each. “This we will use to accelerate SMEs and Agricultural development in the region,” he said.
“The partnership with NEXIM Bank is meant to develop the agricultural sector by boosting the entire value chain from training to planting, processing and provision of funds for setting up agricultural enterprises. We want to create an export initiative in the agricultural sector to create jobs and help the nation’s economy.”
Ekere said that the NDDC was also partnering with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN to help provide employment for the youths, stating: “We want to turn the youths to entrepreneurs. That is the way we can reduce unemployment.”
In addition, he said, the Commission had just signed a tripartite agreement for the establishment of the first enterprise innovation and growth hub in Nigeria, stating that the Commission was partnering with SMEDAN and Builders Hub Impact Investment Programme, BHIIP on this.
As part of the efforts to build human capacity in the Niger Delta, Ekere said that the Commission recently met the Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe, to discuss tapping into their excess internet bandwidth. He observed: “Sao Tome and Principe is just 30 minutes away from Port Harcourt, so we want to tap into their excess bandwidth for the benefit of the Niger Delta and this is done through a partnership with a Federal Government agency, Galaxy backbone.”
Reacting to misunderstandings over the NDDC Foreign Scholarship programme, Ekere explained that it was necessary to sanitize the system to ensure that genuine students in universities get paid and that government money was not wasted. “When we came in, we had loads of petitions and complaints. So, I set up a committee to look at all the anomalies.
“A typical example is someone who registers for a Master’s programme which is twelve months. But you find out that in year 2017, we are still getting bills for a student who was given scholarship since 2010.
The MD regretted that a few genuine students had not received their reimbursements as a result of the verification exercise. He pleaded: “We are sorry that the process has taken a bit longer than originally intended. So, we apologize to the students who are genuinely in school and have not received their payments. We are working to ensure that all genuine recipients of NDDC scholarship collect their emoluments.”
Addressing the issue of stalled projects, the NDDC boss said that contrary to the story that NDDC projects were usually abandoned or uncompleted; the Commission had executed over 8,300 projects, with 40 per cent of them completed and commissioned. He said that in the current NDDC budget, 70 per cent of the revenue was dedicated to completing on-going projects.
He remarked that successive boards and managements of the NDDC had committed the interventionist agency to many projects because of the resources they were expecting based on the Act establishing the Commission. Unfortunately, he said, most of the funds were not paid as expected.
He lamented: “As at today, we still have about N1.7 trillion that we have not been able to collect from the Federal Government. So, because we have not been receiving these resources as should have been, most of the projects that the Commission went into have not been completed. We have about N1.4- N1.5 trillion contingent liabilities to on-going projects. It is a huge challenge.”
On the issue of the tenure of the current NDDC board, Ekere said that members of the board and management were serving at the pleasure of the President, adding that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, had given clarification on this to the effect that the current board had a fresh tenure of four years. “The issue is just being politicized,” he said.