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NDDC: Prosecute all defaulting contractors

As part of the outcome of the forensic audit he ordered on the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), President Muhammadu Buhari has…

As part of the outcome of the forensic audit he ordered on the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the termination of  1, 301 contracts awarded by the commission  from 2000 to 2019. 

The NDDC said on its website on November 10 that the affected projects were those that the contractors had failed to mobilise to site. 

The terminated contracts range from road construction, land reclamation, renovation of classroom blocks, installation of electric transformers, renovation of hospital buildings, and rehabilitation of water projects, among others. 

The president further ordered that the affected contractors refund all the money they have collected in connection with the terminated contract. 

The forensic audit of the commission was ordered two years ago following reports of massive corruption going on. Reports have it that thousands of contracts were awarded without following due process and many contractors were paid for jobs not done. 

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The Niger Delta Development Commission was set up in 2000 to fast-track the development of the troubled Niger Delta region.  

Among others the objectives of the commission include the formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area, conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programmes for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialisation, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications and surveying the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development. 

Unfortunately, the story since its establishment has been the opposite of these objectives as despite the huge funds accruing to it, not much has been on the ground to justify it. 

Only recently, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Umana, was quoted as saying the recently sacked interim administrator of the commission would have to account for N300 billion contracts he awarded without following due process. 

 “This is clear cut impunity we cannot tolerate. Already, we are talking of indebtedness of over N3 trillion and one man will still sit alone and issue letters of another N300 billion without following due processes? And this was during the pendency of the forensic audit,’’ he said. 

To be fair, the commission has undertaken quite a number of projects in its 22 years of existence. According to its website, it has executed 2, 506 projects between 2015 to date.  

It further said it is currently undertaking 5,665 projects with 2, 701 which were recently awarded. In addition, the commission has offered a number of scholarships and undertaken skill acquisition programmes to empower the youth. 

It is sad to note that this high number of contractors have defaulted on their obligation, but more disturbing is the fact that most of the contractors are indigenes of the area.  

Another notable sad fact is that there is no synergy between the commission and the state governments where it is operating. This contributes to the abandonment of work by contractors because of lack of effective monitoring. In sync with this is the feeling among the populace who do not see projects being executed in their locality by the commission as their own. Often, it was reported that leaders of benefitting communities resist attempts to sanction defaulting contractors because of pecuniary benefits. 

We believe all these must be corrected and that it should be done with dispatch. The federal government must muster the political will to see to the implementation of all the recommendations of the forensic audit reports. This is the only way to correct the recent anomalies and ensure such does not happen again. 

All defaulting contractors must not only be made to refund all the money they have collected; they should be prosecuted for abuse of trust.  Such contractors should be blacklisted from future contracts. 

Above all, citizens of the area must buy into the projects being executed in their respective localities. They should monitor ongoing projects and ensure not only their completion, but that the work is done according to specification. We urge the commission to involve the communities, state and local government in the design and execution of all projects. 

It is imperative for the government, communities and individuals to commit themselves to the success of the commission which will ultimately impact positively on them. 

It is about time we put behind the years of failure of the commission.  And the time to do that is now.