The Niger Delta region has been a hotbed of militancy in the country owing to its alleged neglect in terms of development. Successive administration in the country had had to deal with one kind of uprising or the other from the embittered citizens of this oil rich region.
The administration of late President Umaru Yar’adua was so passionate about resolving the incessant crises from the area that he created and dedicated a whole ministry to oversee the development of the region.
This was followed by several other palliatives, including amnesty program to assuage the militants who had begun to take laws into their hands.
Before then, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had created a special development vehicle, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which replaced the scrapped Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) established in 1992. All these were meant to design and initiate developmental projects in the Niger Delta to assuage the feelings of the people exposed to environmental hazards as a fallout of oil exploration. This is notwithstanding some other interventions from the oil companies operating in the region.
All these developmental initiatives had projects initiated and financed by the federal government but the sad story remains the same.
Each intervention has always attracted uproar of dissatisfaction and dissent from the people due largely to insincerity sometimes on the part of government officials and or the contractors involved.
It is in this light that one would view the award and execution of the East-West road that seems to take eternity to complete.
Owing to its pivotal importance to the nation’s economy, as it provides the veritable link between South West (Lagos) and the South-south region, the completion of the project ought to have attracted federal priority. But like every other project in the country, politics and indiscretion on the parts of some government officials have always been the bane.
The failure to deliver on most of the projects in the beleaguered region has necessitated the latest resolve by the government to hand over roguish contractors handling its projects in that area to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation and possible prosecution if found wanting.
With the determination to right the wrongs, Minister of Niger Delta, Uguru Usani, after receiving the report on the audit and review of the East-west road and other project of its Ministry recently said that following the report from the Ministerial Technical Audit Committee on the contracts awarded from 2009 – 2015 in the Niger Delta, some projects may be terminated.
Those listed for termination included construction of OkpuhutaMbano Junction – Orie market –Lomara- Igwebulka (35km) – Abia State; Land reclamation and Erosion control project at OguduAbia Phase I, Abia State.
Others were Idoro-Eastern Itam Water Supply Scheme Akwa Ibom;
Construction of Mbak Atai-Ikot Ntu-MkpetiOkuiboku road project (13.86km) Akwa Ibom State; Ukparam Water Supply Scheme and Construction and Supervision of Omelema – Agada II Road, Rivers State. Project Length 14.415km.
According to him the projects were proposed for termination as a result of lack of capacity to complete the work as witnessed on site.
He said there were violation of contract award process, from the cycle of procurement planning to contract award and that the committee noticed inconsistencies with the provisions of vital aspects of the Procurement Act.
“Prominent among other issues of violation were indiscriminate award of contract by initiating and benefiting departments without the leading and guiding role of the procurement department,” he said.
“Awards never took cognizance of availability of funds and annual appropriation provisions.”
The minister said the structure and content of some contract agreements lack checks and balances, saying that they hardly protect the interest of the Ministry in case of disputes.
But dissent faulted the government decision to terminate these projects urging it instead to rusticate the contracts and rearward same to more competent contractors to ensure that money invested was not wasted. To them, terminating the projects would amount to throwing away the baby with the bath water.
There are however some questions begging for answers on the government resolve to terminate these contracts. What happens to failed contractors especially those who delivered below the funds made available to them? What happens to those complicit government officials who looked the other way when the contractors failed in delivering their contractual obligations? Questions and more questions.
Though the minister has said that he had compiled some names of failed contractors to be forwarded to the EFCC for investigation and possible prosecution, especially those handling the East-West road, concrete actions are yet to be seen.
The minister himself hinted that the the East-West road was programmed to fail and this has raised the suspicion of complicity from some unscrupulous government officials who either through the errors of omission or commission could be found culpable in the failure of the projects.
Already the East-west road project had gulped the sum of N300 billion since inception in 2006 without making much progress. This is also a project which certain official had been alleged to have diverted its funds and accused of receiving kick-back of about N70 million on contract awarded. Again, about N2 billion meant for its dualization was alleged to have been diverted.
On the way forward, Uguru said “I’m doing a review of the entire contract of the east-west road because without that nothing will ever happen on that road talkless of completion. If you have spent N300 billion and you are where you are then the design, negotiations, contract everything is wrong. You designed a project of that nature and give it a lifespan of seven years and then no designs in some sectors and yet you are attributing cost to it. So by what means did you have the elements of costing.”
The minister has however said that the project would be factored into the 2018 budget even as he assured that alternative avenues would be assessed to ensure its completion.
Nevertheless, all those responsible for the slow pace of projects in the Niger Delta, making it seem as if the government was insincere with the development of that region are qualified to be categorized as saboteurs. They must not only be made to return money, but must be made to face the music.
Significance of latest NEC approval of $1 billion for fight against insurgency The National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has approved the release of the sum of $1 billion (about N350 billion) from the Excess Crude Accounts (ECA) to strengthen the fight against insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country.
The ECA, belonging to the 36 states of the federation and the federal government, currently stands at $2.317 billion.
The unanimity of purpose between the states and central government in the onerous task of fighting insecurity in the North-east indicated that the nation has come to stay as one, indivisible and united country.
The injection of the funds meant to procure arms and ammunition is the beginning of the total annihilation of the already degraded Boko Haram insurgents.
It is however hoped that part of the money would be set aside for the rehabilitation of the area. Those saddled with the management of the resources should also be reminded of the need to be transparent in their dealings as all eyes are set on them owing to the fact that every Nigerian is a contributor to the fight against insurgency.