Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has advised the new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to do things differently.
Such difference, governor Wike maintained should be the adoption of a regional development approach that will strictly commit to the holistic development of Niger Delta States
Governor Wike gave the charge when the new chairman of the NDDC board, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie led other members of the board, on a courtesy visit to him at Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday.
The governor urged the Mrs. Onochie-led board to embrace the conceptualization and implementation of projects like the construction of highways with bridges to link States.
Such projects, he opined, will serve as economic corridors to ease interstate movements and promotion of socioeconomic integration within the region.
In his own words, “I read what you said that things will be done differently. I want to believe that you’re sincere. Sometimes, I feel ashamed of where I come from. We talk about underdevelopment, but look at the amount of money that has passed through NDDC, then look at the projects on the ground.”
The Rivers State governor said when projects are awarded, they should not be given to portfolio or political contractors, but to competent ones who will stick to delivering quality and enduring projects.
In his own words, “There are what we call regional development projects that can link up two states, those are the kind of things NDDC should go for and give to competent contractors. Leave these political contractors. Leave all these portfolio contractors. Leave them alone. You have come to my state and you have seen what I have done. If I didn’t use Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and had used these political contractors, you won’t have seen anything here. Of course, you know how expensive Julius Berger Plc is.
From 2019 till now, we have done 12 Flyovers by Julius Berger. You know how much we are talking about and you can replicate that. Even though they are expensive, you’ll see the value.”
Governor Wike envisaged a situation where NDDC could devote huge sums annually, for example, to executing projects in each State of the region without distorting existing development master plan”.
The governor said it is shameful to see the unproductive model NDDC had operated, serving as a mere cash cow to politicians and spending about N10 billion in a futile attempt to rig the 2019 elections in Rivers State
He said, “NDDC has become a cash cow for politicians. Look, part of the money NDDC lost in this state just to win the election here. N10B wasted. N10B you could have used to construct a mega project in the State.”
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Governor Wike noted how NDDC, often, enters and awards projects in States including Rivers State without recusing to existing development master plan. According to him, what is seen eventually, is duplication of projects. He pointed to how such practice had contributed to the wastage of the trillion of Naira that has passed through NDDC. He also faulted the use of political contractors who do not have the required competence to deliver quality projects. This, he regretted seeing the NDDC accepting all kinds of projects nominated to it that include the construction of roads that terminate at the gates of residencies of politicians.
The governor noted how NDDC fraudulently claimed to have reconstructed the Chokocho- Igwuruta Road and signed off the money when in actual fact, the road was reconstructed and delivered by his administration. Governor Wike also demanded that NDDC pay up its partnership and contractual obligation of N2.5 billion, which is half of the N5 billion mutually agreed between it and the Rivers State government for the reconstruction of the dualized Eastern By-pass Road leading to NDDC Headquarters.
The governor said NDDC had entered into a similar agreement for the construction of the Mother and Child Hospital, collected the money paid by the Rivers State government, and refused to pay up theirs. He said his administration eventually jettisoned the agreement and footed the entire bill and completed the construction of the hospital.
In her address, the new Chairman of the NDDC board, Mrs. Lauretta Ifeanyi Onochie said they visited to formally introduced themselves to him as the governor of their landlord State.
Mrs. Onochie noted the remarkable quality of infrastructure delivered by the administration of Governor Wike that has transformed the entire landscape of Rivers State.
She said, “It has been an exciting moment for all of us here, and particularly myself being that I lived briefly in Port Harcourt before my youth service and I wedded in Port Harcourt. Then, thereafter, I kept coming back and Port Harcourt was still Port Harcourt.
“But, I have come back now and I cannot believe my eyes. I can’t recognize it anywhere else. The development that has taken place in Port Harcourt, let me speak about the one I have seen, is amazing and it’s brilliant. And I want to thank you.”
She said they came to ask for guidance and seek his advice on how best the new board could break away from the provision of poor services and projects known of NDDC and replicate his quality project-delivering mantra across the region.
In her own words, “We are here to ask for your guidance. You have said and known, and you have spoken about the poor services that NDDC has been known for. Trillions of Naira have been pumped into this commission and we have little or nothing to show for it. We are here now, very determined to do things differently.”