The House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has appealed to the Federal Government to pay all outstanding debts to the Commission within a reasonable time.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon Nicholas Mutu, made the appeal on Tuesday when he led his colleagues to NDDC Managing Director Nsima Ekere, at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He told the NDDC Chief Executive Officer, that the Committee’s visit was part of its oversight function to inspect project sites, look at the books of the Commission and evaluate its performance.
He re-stated the Committee’s displeasure with the debts owed the NDDC by the Federal Government and other agencies that contribute to its funding and called for a change of attitude. He said: “In future, we expect that all statutory obligations to the NDDC would be paid as and when due. The delay in the release of funds has created a situation whereby the Commission is unable to meet its financial obligations to contractors and stakeholders.
Hon Mutu advised the NDDC to set up a mechanism to leverage resources outside the statutory sources of funds by working out partnerships and joint venture arrangements.
To address the challenge of high rate of project abandonment, which according to him was put at over 3,000, the committee had directed the NDDC to commence the immediate audit of performing and non-performing projects “with a view to determine non-performing contracts and give impetus to NDDC to put in place a mechanism that will help it to mitigate the abandoned project syndrome currently bedeviling the region.”
He added: “Going forward, the NDDC should award contracts to only contractors with capacity and focus more on completing on-going projects as an additional measure to mitigate contract failure and enhance value added service to the Niger Delta region.”
The Committee Chairman charged the NDDC to commit 50 per cent of its funds to completing existing projects while devoting 30 per cent to new projects. “Other available funds should be used to pay contractors with outstanding Interim Payment Certificates, IPCs, to facilitate the completion of existing projects,” he said.
Ekere commended the committees of both chambers of the National Assembly for being supportive. “They have given us the backings that will enable us deliver on the mandate that we were given by the President and the people of the Niger Delta region.”.
The MD said the NDDC under him, articulated a new a reform strategy christened the 4-R initiative. He stated: “We articulated the 4-R initiative to add value to the process of the NDDC. The new initiative will structure our processes and make them transparent. It involves restructuring the balance sheet, reforming the governance protocols, restoring the Commission’s core mandate and reaffirming its commitment to doing what is right and proper.”
Accordingly, he said: “We agreed that to move forward, we must find a way to restructure the balance sheet of NDDC and that has led to the cancellation of the first 633 projects worth about 20 billion naira and then a further cancellation of 432 projects worth a little over 90 billion last week.”