From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Indigenous Contractors yesterday paralysed business activities at the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, over the failure of the commission to pay their debts.
The protesters under the umbrella of NDDC Indigenous Contractors Association, had in the past six days taken over the premises of the commission in protest, grounding business activities of the office.
The contractors, who are of Niger Delta origin with placard bearing different inscriptions like, “NDDC pay us our money,’ ‘NDDC, Akwa pay Contractors please,’ ‘NDDC Contractors are dying,’ and others, noted that attempts to get their pay have proven abortive.
President of the association, Andrew Ijegbai, regretted that the contractors for over five years, have not been paid for the services they rendered to the Commission, and described the action as wickedness.
Ijegbai said it is painful that the contractors used their money to execute the projects, regretting that such projects have been commissioned and put in use whereas the money invested by the contractors have not been paid back.
He said: “We are here because we have done jobs for NDDC for the past four years. We have been waiting for our payment; but, they are giving us all kinds of excuses.
“As it stands now, we can no longer afford our children school fees. We collected most of those money from financial institutions and we used our houses as collateral. Now, the banks are now collecting our houses.
“We have pleaded, we have gone to Abuja, but to no avail. If you look at the situation, you will know that we are not working. NDDC has not been like this. Before, once you earn your IPC you will be paid. But, we don’t know what is happening since the inception of this present board.
“They have seized everything. We don’t even know where we are going to and they are not talking to us. Our wives don’t even respect us again in the house.”
He, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and all well meaning Nigerians to intervene to ensure that their money was paid.
Also, the Director of Board of Trustees of the Association, Victor Fakar, noted that if the Commission had in mind to clear the debt that they would have done so at ease, adding that NDDC was not committed to paying the debts.
He said: “If these people really want to pay us, we are not supposed to be at this gate, protesting for the past six days now. Men with wives and children at home.
“We will continue this protest. He (Akwa) feels he is everything. If he gives his words, he should hold on to it. He promised to pay in December. But, we did not get anything.
“We are still managing. This is February and we are still expecting that a small list we gave to him to pay till now has not been attended to. It is sad.
“Akwa said in Abuja, that he is not the one owing us. If a contractor signs an agreement with NDDC, that contract is binding till the next MD or board. They must pay you.”