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EKPO: NDDC contractors yet to mobilise to site, get certificates for abandoned projects

Special Adviser to the Cross River State Governor on NDDC, Victor Effiom Ekpo

Cross River State plays home to dozens of projects initiated by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Sadly, about 80 per cent of them are abandoned, some of which the contractors have been fully paid up and issued certificate of completion by the commission. Expectedly, the state government is not happy with the development, as revealed in this interview with the Special Adviser to the Governor on NDDC, Victor Effiom Ekpo, by Deputy South South Bureau Chief, ANIETIE AKPAN.

How are NDDC projects in Cross River State faring?
The state of NDDC projects in Cross River state is very poor. When I got the document on performance of the projects, I saw that some of the jobs were 60 to 70 per cent completed. That prompted me to visit the project sites, where I discovered that some of them had been abandoned for over one year.

Some traditional rulers even came out to say that for the past one year, they have not seen contractors handling the jobs in their domain. Some communities went a step further by approaching the contractors, who claimed they abandoned the projects owing to paucity of funds.

How many of these projects are abandoned and how much is involved?
About 80 per cent of NDDC projects in Cross River State are abandoned. And in the last two years, the projects amount to 72, and the total amount appropriated for NDDC projects in the state for 2015 and 2016 is over N40 billion. The problem is that some contractors mobilised to site, while some did not at all. Another set of contractors even collected some money and later got certificate of completion, without even mobilising to site at all. This kind of situation, where the NDDC and contractors use Cross River State as a place to make money from without doing anything or giving commensurate service is very worrisome because these projects are supposed to better the lives of Cross Riverians, through NDDC as the intervention agency. So, let it be known that some contractors, who were awarded contracts in Cross River State do not even mobilise to site, but will find their way around NDDC, obtain their certificate of completion, get their full payment and walk away.

List some of these projects and their locations
One of the affected projects is the Palace Road in Akamkpa Okoyong. The road leads to the king’s palace. That road, the contractor has gotten the certificate of completion, and NDDC has made almost 100 per cent payment. There is another one, a road project at Heritage Estate. That one also the NDDC has almost finished paying the contractor but the contractor just did very little part of the drainage and left. There is also Edem Odo Street in the Bogobiri area of Calabar Municipal Council. The contractor has already been paid by the NDDC, yet the road is so bad. One of the major problems we have with NDDC is that when it says it is going to work on Road A in Calabar, it will award the contract to a Port Harcourt-based contractor. When the contractor arrives Calabar from Port Harcourt, the Calabar Office of NDDC will divert it to another place and the road will disappear and full payment will be made.

How can this fraudulent arrangement be checked? 
This current board should address this situation immediately because these projects belong to the people of the state. For a contractor to defraud the people through NDDC by walking away with the money, which work he/she has not done is abhorrent. Something is definitely wrong when the NDDC sits somewhere and pays out plenty money for projects it assumes have been carried out, and the contractors walk away, it is the people that have been cheated. I don’t know how the NDDC from its headquarters assigns contracts without follow-ups and without the knowledge of the state government. Part of the reason I keep talking about partnership with the NDDC, is because there is no way that the agency can succeed without partnering with state governments. For instance, the NDDC cannot build schools or hospitals and employ teachers and doctors because it is the states that will manage such facilities. So there is need for partnership. Some weeks ago, we had a stakeholders meeting here and participants from every other state got N20, 000, but those from the state got N15, 000. So, we do not understand our position again in the NDDC. Or is it that Cross River State is a second-class NDDC state? On this score, I think the Federal Government should redefine our position in the NDDC because we are not benefitting. But I still have faith in this government that something holistic would be done so that we would be carried along. We are not witch-hunting any contractor, but let them go back to site so that the people will benefit.

Having said this, let me add that the idea of job diversion in NDDC should stop. If a contractor is given an award letter to work on Road A, let the NDDC ensure that the contractor works on that road. And if he fails, NDDC should terminate the job. If you go to Adiabo Efut, there is another road there that has been abandoned. Not long ago, the community came to my office crying and appealing to NDDC to come and complete the road. This road has been abandoned for many years. The disadvantage of these things is that when NDDC captures a project in its budget, the state government will forget about working on that road again to avoid duplication.

Do you suspect any form of politicking taking place in the NDDC regarding projects meant for the state?
Yes I do. The level of politics in NDDC is so high and frustrating. NDDC was established to intervene and assist communities in the region, but there is a big problem-we are not feeling the impact of NDDC. There is a serious cartel in the NDDC and members of the cartel are playing politics. There appears to be a sort of political arrangement that ensures that if you are not in, there is nothing for you. When the PDP was in charge, maybe they did the same thing. In addition to that, nearly all Niger Delta states were under the PDP. But now why we are raising the alarm is that a different party is in charge at the centre, which explains why governors of PDP-controlled states have the created Office of Special Assistant/Special Adviser to the Governor on NDDC Affairs. This has made it possible for us to go in and behold the very high level of fraud that is going on in the NDDC. So, I am calling for a thorough investigation of the NDDC and its activities by the Presidency.



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