No fewer than 4,000 projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) worth trillions of naira scattered across the region have been abandoned, the commission’s chairman, Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw disclosed yesterday.
Ewa-Henshaw, who made this known while defending the N322.6 billion 2014 budget before the Senate Committee on Niger Delta in the National Assembly, blamed the trend on the provision of only 15 per cent mobilisation in NDDC’s annual budget.
According to him, there was a need to review this provision in a way that a contractor can obtain at least one-third of the entire contract’s cost so that he can have enough fund to work throughout the year.
He further argued that this 15 per cent mobilisation has been exploited by contractors as the excuse to abandon projects, saying all they do is to ensure that the projects are 15 per cent completed in a year and afterwards leave the sites.
Furthermore, he said some projects which ordinarily should be completed within 12 or 24 months now stretch for as long as seven years.
Against this backdrop, he said the commission had concluded arrangements to partner some multi-national firms and corporate organisations with a view to fostering infrastructural development, health care delivery and power generation, among others, in the region.
He also explained that through this partnership, the firms would co-fund the uncompleted projects as well as the newly introduced ones, thereby ensuring their timely completion.
He expressed hope that this arrangement would solve 80 percent of the problems confronting the commission, adding that the agency had also planned to abolish the 15 per cent mobilisation for contractors.
Under this new arrangement, the chairman said projects awarded would be well funded and consequently completed within 24 months.
“We have decided to lay an agenda for NDDC that will enable us implement flagship legacy projects within the sub-region. What this means is that we will tackle very important jobs and developmental projects in the areas of road, power, health sector and the environment. “We recognise the difficulty that we confront with funding but we have been careful in trying to identify the sources of funding that will finance this year’s budget. In addition to that, we have also decided to focus more on partnerships, partnerships that will help us augment funding for the development of the sub-region.
“For example, on roads, we are looking at construction companies that will co-fund major projects with us so that we can leverage on what we have in terms of the available funds and then programme to ensure that these projects are completed in a timely and business like manner.
“We are also exploring partnerships that will facilitate power generation because we believe that if we are able to achieve substantial increase in the provision of power, then we believe that at least 50 per cent of the unemployment problem within the region will be solved.
“We are also looking for partnerships for intervention in the health sector that will directly affect the health care delivery system and the efficiency within that system.”
He added: “The first and perhaps most important is the issue of provision of 15 per cent in the budget. What I mean is that if you have a project, say N2 billion project that can be completed within 12 or 24 months, the current practice is that only 15 per cent which is what is required for the advance payment is provided for in the budget.
“Usually what happens, is that the contractor will quickly go beyond 15 per cent value of work done within 12 months but there is no further provision in the budget to continue to pay for the work that he is doing. The result is delay and even abandonment because after the 15 per cent, the contractor now has to wait for next year’s budget.
“So we need to change our approach. From now, we will look at the total sum required for the completion and we will try to provide at least one-third to ensure that throughout the year, beyond the 15 per cent mobilisation, the contractor can continue to work and he can continue to get paid.”
Responding, chairman of the committee, Senator James Manager, called for rapid development of the Niger Delta, saying doing so would help to avert future crisis in the region.
According to him, the fragile peace in the region at the moment needs to be consolidated through a complimentary developmental initiative.