From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to listen to the agitations of the people of the region, lift restrictions and allow the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to urgently commence payment to hundreds of contractors across the region to prevent humanitarian crisis as flood ravages Niger Delta communities.
The stakeholders under the auspices of the Movement for Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta (MSDND) while noting that the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC has the right to question the legality of payment due to the delay in the defence of the commission’s budget, however stated that urgent commencement of payment to contractors will ameliorate the biting hardship and sufferings of the people across the region amidst the crushing effects of flood devastation and hunger in the region.
The group in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Chief Ayibatekena Olodin requested that the Presidency and the National Assembly work in synergy with the Ministry of Finance to release the over ₦200billion of NDDC funds withheld by it over the years to enable the Commission urgently commence contractual payments to hundreds of NDDC contractors in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the Niger Delta and for the sustainable development of the region.
According to Olodin, in-spite of the support for the National Assembly committee to ensure proper corporate governance, accountability and probity at the NDDC, there is the need to urgently commence payment to contractors while the perfection of the NDDC budget defence is ongoing.
Chief Olodin called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana O. Umana and the management team of the NDDC to urgently seek Presidential approval for the previously approved₦46billion so that it can partner with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for emergency procurement of housing facilities, food and medical assistance for millions of displaced families across the Niger Delta states.
The statement read in part, “We are calling on President Buhari, the National Assembly committee on NDDC to urgently work to end the sufferings of Niger Delta contractors who have lost so much as many of their businesses and properties have been confiscated by banks for failure to repay the loans they took to fund their NDDC jobs. The House Committee should lift payment restrictions and allow the management of the NDDC to pay hundreds of suffering contractors for the contracts executed for the commission.
“The Niger Delta stakeholders will continue to request that the NDDC pay for services rendered by competent and performing contractors of the NDDC. However, we are saddened by a situation where contractors will not be mobilised by the NDDC to execute projects, instead, contractors will use their personal properties as collateral to borrow money from banks at high interest rates to execute projects, yet they will be owed by the commission for five years and more without payment.”