Amgbare Ekaunkumo, Yenagoa
Traditional Rulers and Youth groups from the nine states of the Niger Delta region have urged the Federal Government and the multinational oil and gas companies operating in the region to release the accumulated monies owed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to allow the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana to reposition and implement the newly developed roadmap for the Commission.
According to the stakeholders, though at the last count under the failed tenure of Former Minister, Godswill Obot Akpabio, the NDDC is owed about $5.6 billion and about N649 billion by the multinational oil companies. The newly developed roadmap by the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana to achieve the commission’s core mandates may not work if the NDDC is not removed from its life support approach, because what the commission receives on a monthly basis is just enough to pay employees’ salaries and office maintenance.
The Stakeholders, made up of traditional rulers, Chiefs, Women and Youth leaders, in a statement issued by its Secretary-General, Chief Anthony Loveday, noted that the call on the Federal Government and Oil Companies was necessitated by the short time available to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the worrisome reality that the roadmap developed by the Honourable Minister, Umana Okon Umana may not be implemented without proper funding.
The stakeholders also restated their support for the expected rebranding of the commission, that it would enable it to serve as a vehicle to drive the socio-economic development of the region, “the leadership must understand that time is of the essence, as millions of people across the region are languishing in abject poverty. Therefore, the Federal Government should match its words with action and release the funds owed to the NDDC and also direct the multinational oil and gas companies to release the monies owed the commission.”
“We support the new policy directions and the expected rebranding of the commission under the Ministerial leadership of Mr. Umana O. Umana. We are waiting on the FG to release the funds for the expected reforms to commence. We expect the reforms to lead to sound decisions on various issues affecting the people of the region, including the completion of the East-West road, and the review of various infrastructural development projects across the region.
“The Presidency should as a matter of urgency grant the NDDC new contracts awarding powers to enable the NDDC provide communities across the nine states in the region with empowerment and entrepreneurship training programmes in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the region, and to ensure payments of verified and completed contracts before the expiration of the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The stakeholders applauded the Honourable Minister, Mr. Umana O. Umana and the management team at the NDDC for prioritizing project execution and payments that deliver up the most impact for the region, and their new focus in project executions in “security, health, education, water and road infrastructures.” The stakeholders welcomed the Minister’s directive that “all further award of contracts on water hyacinths in the Niger Delta should be suspended while all such ongoing projects be reviewed.”