by Anayo Onukwugha
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has advised the new Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to do things differently.
He maintained that such difference should be the adoption of a regional development approach that will strictly commit to the holistic development of Niger Delta States without distorting the masterplan of any State.
Wike spoke on Friday when the new NDDC Board members, led by the chairman, Ms. Lauretta Ifeanyi Onochie, paid a courtesy visit to the Governor at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor urged the Onochie-led Board to embrace the conceptualisation 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 inter-state movements and promotion of socioeconomic integration within the Niger Delta region.
Wike said: “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 ground.”
The 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.
He added: “There is what we call regional development projects that can link up two States, those are the kind of things NDDC should go for and give it 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 and had used these political contractors, you won’t have seen anything here. Of course, you know how expensive Julius Berger 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, but you’ll see the value.”
Wike said he envisaged a situation where NDDC could devote huge sums of money annually to executing projects in each State of the region without distorting existing development masterplan.
The governor said it was shameful to see the unproductive model NDDC had operated, serving as mere cashcow to politicians and allegedly spending about N10billion on futile attempts to rig the 2019 elections in Rivers State.
He said: “NDDC has become a cashcow for politicians. Look, part of the money NDDC lost in this State just to win election here. N10billion wasted. N10billion you could have used to construct a mega project in the State.”
Wike narrated how NDDC often award projects in States including Rivers without recourse to existing development masterplanof the State, pointing out that what is seen eventually, was duplication of projects.
The governor pointed out 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 requisite competence to deliver quality projects.
This, Wike said has led the NDDC to accepting all kinds of projects nominated to it that included the construction of roads that terminate at the gates of residences 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.
He also demanded that NDDC pay up its partnership and contractual obligation of N2.5billion, which is half of the N5 billion mutually agreed between it and the Rivers State government for the reconstruction of the dualised Eastern By-pass Road leading to NDDC Headquarters.
Wike said NDDC had entered into 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 its part.
The governor said his administration eventually jettisoned the agreement and footed the entire bills and completed the construction of the hospital.
In her address, the new chairman of NDDC Board, Ms. Lauretta Ifeanyi Onochie, said the Board visited the governor to formally introduce themselves to him as the governor of their host State.
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 recognise anywhere else. The development that has taken place in Port Harcourt, let me speak about the one I have seen, it’s amazing and it’s brilliant and I want to thank you.”
The NDDC chairman said they came to ask for guidance and seek Wike’s 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.
Onochie added: “We are here to ask for your guidance. You have said and know, and you have spoken about the poor services that NDDC have 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.” (Leadership)