By Chris Ochayi and Fortune Eromosele
The Federal Government, Thursday night, described as wasteful the over N200 million being spent annually on rent for headquarter of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, saying the Commission cannot afford to operate from rented property.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who disclosed this during the inauguration of the Presidential Monitoring Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, regretted why the head office building started since 1996 could not be completed till date.
The minister also expressed concerns that after 19 years, the head office of the NDDC in Port-Harcourt requires only N26 million for it to be connected to the national grid, but yet not connected to the national grid.
According to Akpabio, who was the immediate Governor of Akwa Ibom State, “The head office is on rent, they are paying over N200million a year on rent. And yet they have a permanent head office building that they started construction in 1996.
“And 23 years after they are still in rented property that is not yet connected to the national grid, because if you connect it to the national grid it means somebody will no longer supply diesel.”
The immediate past Minority Leader at the rd Chamber added that, “On the assumption of office in August last year, I embarked on an inspection tour of the Commission’s Headquarters which has been under construction since the past thirty years without being completed whereas, huge sum is paid in annual rent on the current office accommodation.
“While on the site, I directed that work must be completed and the structure made ready for commissioning in April this year. The commission is committed to this outcome as Mr. President is desirous to commission the project as scheduled. This committee will have to support this effort.”
Akpabio urged the committee to monitor the supposedly 12,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.
He said “The monitoring committee you have a lot of work to do, if what we are hearing is true, the NDDC is saying that they have 9,000 projects that have not been completed.
It means you have to monitor those projects and visit many of them. If what we are hearing is true that in relative that we have over 12000 abandoned projects, then we have to look at all of this.”
The Minister drew the attention of the committee to when the Federal Executive Council recently approved the Lead Forensic Consultant to audit the NDDC from year 2010 to September 2019.
However, he assured that very reputable local and International Audit Firms would be engaged as Consultants to work with the Lead Forensic Consultant to carry out the assignment.
He maintained that the exercise is not meant to witch hunt anyone or organization, but to ensure value for the huge commitment made so far in the Niger Delta Region through the NDDC.
According to him, “As a ministry, we are conscious of Mr. President’s desire for accelerated development of the Niger Delta Region as contained in the 2019-2023 Ministerial Mandate and scope of responsibilities assigned to be achieved by the present management of the ministry.
“In specific terms, the ministry is committed to harmonize and coordinate the implementations of the Niger Delta Action Plan, Supervise and control the activities of the NDDC by the Minister, prioritize the monitoring of all ongoing infrastructure projects under the ministry’s supervision, develop and manage high impact programs for empowerment and mass employment of youth and women in the region, develop a security framework for participatory incident reporting and strengthening of rural and urban security in the Region.”