By Tordue Salem, ABUJA

On August 26, 2019, the House initiated, but has since abandoned midway, an enquiry into alleged abandonment of capital projects by Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers states.

The House Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on NDDC was headed by Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta).

According to documents made available to Vanguard, the committee also summoned governors of Niger Delta states, ministries and other agencies of government, to explain their roles in the abandonment of the projects.

Summoned

The summoned entities were: Ministries of Niger Delta, Justice, Finance; NDDC, CBN, Accountant General of Federation, Auditor General, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission, ICPC;

Also, registered contractors with NDDC, traditional institutions, international donor agencies, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, community leaders in Niger Delta, governments of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Imo, Delta, Rivers and Ondo states.

Recall that the House of Representatives, before it embarked on its annual recess two years ago, had referred a motion to the ad hoc committee on allegations that the contractors absconded from several capital projects sites littered in the Niger Delta.

The probe commenced within two weeks, through a public hearing at the National Assembly, but stalled along the way.

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No funds, Committee complained

The Chairman of the Committee had complained then that it wasn’t concluded: “Because as we speak, we have not been able to summon some agencies, because there is no funding.

“We don’t even have money to do other things, and write our report. How do you expect us to function like that? It’s not possible.”

N3.4bn solar project

Besides, the House of Representatives had on the March 18, 2020, also resolved to investigate the failure of the Federal Government’s N3.4 billion solar-powered grid project in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

A year and three months after, the inquest is yet to take off.

A Vanguard source at the ad hoc committee, said: “There has not been any money for committee work, since the committee was set up last year. So we cannot even do anything yet.

“By now, we are supposed to send letters to all the stakeholders involved and do announcements in the press, but we are still waiting for funding.”

The House had mandated the Committee to investigate the abandonment of the projects by the Federal Ministry of Power since 2018 despite the huge amounts of money expended and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

These resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Aniekan Umanah (PDP/Akwa Ibom) during plenary on Tuesday, May 18, 2020.

Moving the motion, Umanah recalled that the then Federal Ministry of Power, in 2013 rolled out an Off Grid Renewable Solar Energy Project code named Operation Light up Rural Nigeria (OLRN) with a budget of N3.446 billion for four years— 2013 to 2016.

According to him, the House also recalled that the project was targeted at four communities of Durumi-Mpape, Waru, Shape in the FCT as pilot scheme with plans to expand the scope later to other states of the Federation.

He said the House: “Observed that with the coming of the present Administration in 2015, the project was rechristened Renewable Energy (Solar) Micro Utility (REMU) by the then Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and was expanded to provide additional 18 mini grids with three in each geopolitical zone.

“The sum of N1.4 billion was released in 2014 to fund the pilot projects, where N40.6 billion was earmarked for periodic maintenance in 2015, and another N40.1 billion for maintenance of each of the 18 grids.”

He also recalled that “the Durumi grid was awarded in the sum of N228.4 million in 2014; Waru grid for N228.4m and Shape grid, all in the FCT, for N218.9m, according to records at the Bureau of Public Enterprises.”

Abandoned project sites, vandalised equipment

He raised the alarm that “the sum of N382.6m was fully released in 2015 to fund the 18 mini grids while another N305.3m meant to construct a grid in Pakau, Kaduna State was also fully released.

“However, N625.5m has been expended on OLRN alone, while N687.9 has also gone into funding REMU as at 2017 according to budget records.”

He also raised concerns “that despite the huge investments on the projects, most of them were found, shortly after their commissioning in 2014, not to have been properly implemented while others were out rightly abandoned till date with some of the equipment already vandalised.”

He was further concerned that “the overall intention of government to power up the rural areas in order to create jobs and assist in the springing up of small businesses for the local populace, thereby bringing development closer to the people and checkmating rural-urban migration, has been defeated by the inefficient handling of the projects since inception.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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