The invitation by the Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to President Muhammadu Buhari for the commissioning of the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe highway in Bayelsa State has elicited mixed reactions against the backdrop that the interventionist agency is being investigated by the National Assembly for alleged financial misconduct.
The lawmakers are unraveling how N81.5 billion was spent by the organisation in seven months. But tongues are however wagging that the proposed road commissioning is a bait to allegedly divert attention from the ongoing inquiry, even as stakeholders, yesterday, demanded the immediate resignation of the management.
Coming 14 years after its award amid claims that it was being projected to draw more resources, some stakeholders have insisted that the ‘hasty’ inauguration of the road is a ploy to ‘sweep’ the probe under the carpet.
Indeed, The Guardian learnt that the project, which cuts across 14 communities, was completed in 2014 prior to Buhari’s emergence as President and when the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akbaio, was serving out his second term in office as governor of Akwa Ibom State.
The partnership infrastructure, awarded in 2006, was co-funded on a 70/30 (SPDC/NDDC) financing basis, information further revealed.The commission had, in statement signed by its Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, and entitled ‘NDDC Invites President Buhari To Commission Signature Project’, said the road was built in conjunction with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to create a land link between Yenagoa and the ancient city of Nembe for the first time.
The spokesman had noted: “To conquer the swampy terrain, the construction involved digging out four metres of clay soil and sand filling to provide a base for the road. It cuts the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours.”
On further promptings, Odili said: “It’s a commendable initiative for the commission to champion a collaboration with Shell for the construction of the 25-koilometre road. The IMC is pushing for an official flag-off to give closure to a beautiful effort.”
While NDDC reportedly did not partake in key roles, especially procurement, award, construction and completion, Pondei admitted that they have not awarded any road contract since the coming on board of the IMC last November.
A member of the NEITI National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG), Faith Nwadishi, who hails from the region, alleged plot to compromise the investigation.
The Executive Director of Transparency Advocacy, stated: “The probe has died down. In other country, it would have led to revolution, demand for accountability and people resigning. But people are in their offices. The President has not sacked anyone.”
The Head, Directorate of Research and Programmes, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, Johnson Kolawole, insisted that there were “many antics being deployed by the present management of the commission to divert attention from the probe and the unprecedented looting of resources.”
However, the Founding Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Gabriel Domale Limited, a management consulting firm, Dr. Leesi Gabriel Gborogbosi, is more concerned on how to immediately restructure the agency to tackle the challenges affecting the area.