Abandoned Hopes •How NDDC failed the Niger Delta

Ebenezer Adurokiya visited the sites of some projects handled by Niger Delta Development Commission discovering that most have become moribund.

When the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on June 5, 2000, the intention was to address the parlous state and lack of infrastructure in a region which lays the golden egg for the nation but is denied the right to have its rightful share of good life.

However, revelations from the NDDC in recent times showed that a select set of privileged individuals had mortgaged the future of the entire region to satisfy their personal greed. It is, therefore, glaring that the NDDC might have failed in its objectives.

The NDDC, going by its operational objectives, was created with the broad mission to facilitate “the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.”

The mandate of the commission thus includes, but not limited to the “formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area, conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programmes for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.”

The interventionist agency is also saddled with the responsibility of “surveying the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development, preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta region and the estimation of the member states of the commission and the implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government and the states of the commission,” among others.

But judging from its performance so far, to what extent has the commission fulfilled its mandate 20 years after its establishment? Across the Niger Delta, several projects, real and unreal, supposedly embarked on by contractors some of whom have been paid, lay scattered all over. It is believed in some quarters that some of the awarded projects did not advance beyond paper work, yet the contractors had allegedly been paid in full for jobs not done.

For instance, the Ugbodede Water Project in Delta State was reportedly awarded to Marigray Services Ltd on February 1, 2002, and listed to have been completed in NDDC’s file, according to a source. Same applies to several other projects dotting the state.

At another level, there are projects allegedly executed by oil multinationals, state governments and non-governmental organisations, but which the NDDC claimed to have executed. Often, signposts disclosing the name of the contractors and NDDC are copiously mounted on supposedly executed projects in the region.

Although the NDDC branch office in Warri was not forthcoming in providing data on the projects awarded so far or their costs and contractors, a report by the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on revenues, deductions, disbursements, and application of funds by the NDDC stated that N59.8 billion was awarded for contracts in Delta State between 2007 and 2011.

Out of this sum, N1.37 billion was supposedly spent on water projects alone within the period. The NDDC’s 2016 Appropriation Act reportedly indicated that N28 billion was approved for projects in 2015 while N25 billion was approved in 2016.

Among the projects expected to have been executed is the abandoned Koko Shoreline Protection said to have been awarded to a former senator who is now a governor but abandoned some years ago. Others are the Ayakoromo Concrete Pavement Work Phase 1 and the Ayakoromo Land Reclamation work in Burutu Local Government Area. As gathered, the former was awarded in 2016 and was executed halfway. The abandoned project was reportedly awarded at the cost N6.5 billion.

NDDC
An abandoned project in Ayetoro in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State

Another suffering project of the commission in that area is the Omosumo, Akparemogbene, Eseimogbene and Oyangbene Creek Canalisation. Sunday Tribune gathered that the project was divided into nine lots. The project, as gathered, was allegedly horridly executed in 2019, but later abandoned halfway by the contractors believed to have been substantially paid.

The Ekametagbene/Seitoru Bulou Creek canalisation work/land reclamation project in Bomadi and Burutu LGAs of the state is yet another. The project was awarded in 2014. Part of it (the canalisation work) was hurriedly executed halfway, but has been abandoned since 2015.

In Bomadi Local Government Area of the state, Akugbene Shore Protection work and Ezebri/Ogodobiri Shore Protection projects have all been abandoned. It was gathered that the abandoned Esemogbene/Amasoma/Akparemor canalisation project in Burutu LGA, was awarded at the cost of N4.5 billion in 2016. Same goes for the abandoned Azebiri/Ogodobiri Shore Protection contract in Bomadi council , which was reportedly awarded in 2016 at the cost of N4.4 billion out of which N2.9 billion was allegedly paid to the contractor.

Sunday Tribune also gathered that the abandoned canalisation creeks at Okoloba, Akugbene communities in Bomadi local council awarded at the cost of N2.89 billion while the Land Reclamation Project at Burutu LGA which has since been abandoned was reportedly awarded at N6.5 billion in 2016.

The Ekeremor Community Shore Protection project, as gathered, was awarded for N3.8 billion out of which about N1.7 billion has been paid. In addition, the abandoned Amassoma Shore Protection contract was reportedly awarded out of which N2.1 billion was paid to the contractor.

Public Relations Officer (PRO) of NDDC with its branch office in Warri, Mr Ofole, who was contacted on the issue, said he needed clearance from his director before he could speak.

But the issue of abandoned projecs is not limited to Delta State. In Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Ondo states. Sunday Tribune’s investigation unearthed many neglected projects of the commission. A shoreline protection project in Ogbolomabiri in Nembe LGA was awarded to one Genuine Construction Engineering for a sum of N7.9 billion in 2010 for a period of 36 months , but the contractor allegedly abandoned the project shortly after work commenced.

Similarly, a shoreline protection contract was awarded in Bassambiri in Nembe LGA to one Epenal Group Nig. Ltd for a sum of N5.4 billion in 2010 for a period of 30 months but a visit to the community revealed that the concrete beams intended to be used for project was transported to site but they have been wasting away at the waterfront of the community, just as the contractor has also abandoned site.

In the same manner, a bridge in Akenfa Community in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa, awarded in 2010, was also abandoned. As a result, residents resorted to the use of canoes for transportation to ferry them across the over flowing Epie creek, but sadly, in 2012, a nursingmother, her child strapped behind her and three other persons drowned when two makeshift wooden boats collided.

In Otuasega Community in Ogbia local council, the NDDC awarded a contract to build a substation meant to provide electricity to the community, but because the project was abandoned midway, according to a community member who pleaded anonymity, thieves broke into the facility carting away all the electrical equipment worth millions of naira.

In Ayamasa community in Ekeremor LGA, the story was the same as a contractor, Ebikebina Nigeria Limited, building a Civic Centre abandoned the project, leaving the facility to rot and collapse.

Worried by this trend, the state government had in October 2017 inaugurated a seven-man NDDC Project Verification Committee to assess the level of completion of projects handled by the commission, as well as collate the number of abandoned ones in the state. However, the report of that committee was never made public.

Sunday Tribune also recalls that in 2015, Agge community residents  in Ekeremor council led by their paramount ruler, David Isiayi, demonstrated against NDDC contractors over abandoned projects in the area and what they refer to as total regard for the well-being of the people.

The protest was in respect of a community shore protection contract valued at N4bn awarded to Beks Kimse Nigeria Ltd. According to the community’s leadership, the contract was designed to sand-fill and reclaim about 2. 9 km of the land washed away by an ocean surge.

Agge is at the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean and has been under threat by water current, leading to the loss of houses and other properties belonging to the people; yet, the project remain abandoned.

 

The completed Kaiama-Sabagregia road project, Bayelsa State

Communities protest lack of infrastructure

In Akwa Ibom State, angry youths inits oil communities have resorted to protests over what they described as “complete absence of physical infrastructure” there.

One of the oil producing communities in Eastern Obolo, led by its chapter chairman of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Comrade Festus Jonah Adasi, took the protest before their traditional ruler, Harry John Etetor, in his palace at Elile.

Adasi and other local leaders, such as Comrade Ken Ukoima of Oru Obolo, a socio-cultural group and Comrade Emmanuel Paul, decried the situating saying that “such neglect of the oil bearing areas of Eastern Obolo since the creation of NDDC has brought untold hardship on the people.

“The major access road from Okoroette, the local government headquarters to Elile and Amadaka communities which you traversed to this palace is completely cut off from the rest of the communities.”

Adasi also complained that “since the inception of NDDC in 2000, no Obolo person has been named into the NDDC board,” explaining that “such officials would have influenced federal projects through NDDC to our oil ravaged communities.”

Comrades Ukoima and Paul also disclosed that the lack of functional health facilities has led to high infant and maternal mortalities as the only General Hospital established by former governor, Godswill Akpabio remains totally out of tune with modern hospitals.

“In this place, we don’t have up to six functional secondary schools and three primary schools, yet over five oil companies that contribute a percentage of their earnings to NDDC cannot address infrastructural challenges in this place that they have been exploring and exploiting for oil for years,” the youth leaders added.

The lamentation was not limited to the community leaders. Even the traditional ruler had unpleasant stories to tell. He lamented lack of access road to his palace which has forced him to relocate to Uyo, the state capital, while appealing to the state government to force the contractor, Nigerpet, to return to site “so I can return to my domain to stay with my subjects.”

The monarch also lamented that the collapse of all the internal roads in his domain has created additional difficulty for the mostly agrarian and fishermen residents to evacuate their goods to the big markets at the mainland parts of the state.

 

Another abandoned project in Ayetoro in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State

“NDDC is a curse”

Concerns about abandoned projects are also palpable in Ondo State where NDDC projects also lay comatose in several communities where community leaders, traditional rulers, youths and other stakeholders have been agitating and calling the attention of the authorities to the development.

According to a resident of the coastal community of Igbokoda, in Ilaje Local Government Area of the state, AfolabiMenukuro, more than 100 projects projects including road construction, water and electricity, hospital, schools and sea embankment projects embarked upon and awarded by the NDDC to various contractors in the area have been abandoned.

He said though the NDDC recently inaugurated a 132/33KV substation designed to provide electricity for over 2,000 communities in the area, residents are not enjoying the outcome as they have remained in darkness.

He recalls the Aboto water project which was supposed to supply water to some communities in the local government area which has been abandoned years back.

“We live on water but have no good water to drink. All our [sources of] water have been polluted with the exploration and exploitation of oil in the riverine area,” he said.

Also speaking about the activities of NDDC in the area, leader of a youth group, Juliet Ehinmowo, decried the high number of projects abandoned by the NDDC in the coastal community, noting that it has hampered development. She emphasised the need for the Federal Government to probe the activities of NDDC in Ilaje communities.

“The NDDC has been a curse to the people of Ilaje, not a blessing, as our communities are on the brink of extinction because of the persistence of the sea incursions.

“What the NDCC only does in Ilaje is to erect signposts with the inscription of multiple billions of naira contracts and they have turned Ilaje into a dungeon by littering our land with so many ghost projects.

“So many abandoned projects everywhere… When you see documentaries in the media, you would notice that Ilaje community is nowhere to be found on the list of completed projects. NDDC has not done any meaningful project in Ilaje land for years and our people are suffering,” he said.

Also adding his voice to the debate, a community leader in Ilaje, Taiwo Omojuwa, said the last time the people of the community carried out an independent assessment in about 15 communities in the area, no fewer than 60 developmental projects were discovered to have either been abandoned or not executed after collection of mobilisation fees between 2002 and 2012.

He said it was discovered that some traditional rulers, community leaders, prominent politicians and members of the National Assembly were the contractors who handled the failed projects for which funds had been released by the sponsoring authorities.

Another project abandoned by the NDDC is the dredging/reclamation of West-East Araromi-Oghoye canal (Etugbo-Ayetoro section) in Ilaje which was not executed but rather terminated without a refund of mobilisation.

A resident of the Ayetoro community, Isaiah Memuletiwon, disclosed that almost 15 years after the shoreline protection contract in Ayetoro was awarded and with more than N3 billion already paid as mobilisation fees to contractors, the project is yet to be completed.

He noted that the non-completion of the project has foisted hardship on the people as it has impacted negatively on their economic and social lives, saying: “the contract was to stop the ocean from coming into the community. Since it has not been done, water from the Atlantic Ocean is coming in.

“We have to abandon fishing or farming because of coastal storm. Buildings are collapsing because of the coastal erosion and the town is going into extinction as water continues to cover the town and we can’t move around.”

He pointed the finger at a former two-term senator in the area who failed to execute the project after being paid billions of naira. He, however, said the project was re-awarded to another contractor who only mobilised to site but failed to execute the project.

“We lose property worth millions of naira here every year, especially during the rainy season. All we labour for during the dry season are oftentimes washed into the sea during ocean surge. Apart from destroying our property, some of us are forced to relocate from our houses for some time,” Memuletiwon said.

Another resident of the community, Mr. Emmanuel Aralu, who also deplored the collateral damage done by the incursion, added that many residents of Ayetoro have either been rendered homeless, displaced or stranded due to the ocean surge that has taken place this year.

According to him, the Federal Government awarded the Ayetoro embankment project worth billions of naira through NDDC, but the project never saw the light of day, alleging embezzlement by the contractor.

“The sea embankment contract was re-awarded over 12 years ago, yet nothing has been done to avert this ever-present danger and continuous distraction,” he said, alleging that the two contractors that handled the projects at different times embezzled the funds.

Attempts to speak with the head of NDDC operation in Igbokoda, Chief AsogbonAbamiyo, were unsuccessful as he declined comments on some of the abandoned projects in the state, and why they were abandoned; the current state of the projects, the cost of such projects and contractors handling such projects.

He directed our correspondent to the headquarters of the Commission in Port Harcourt, saying “I am not empowered to do such.”

 

The abandoned Otuasega power substation project, Bayelsa State

Stakeholders speak

Meanwhile, some civil rights organisations in the state, which spoke with Sunday Tribune, corroborated what is already known about the abandoned projects.

Comrade Ozobo Austin, National President of the Ijaw People’s Development Initiative (IPDI), corroborated some of the listed abandoned projects, but called on President Muhammadu Buhari to, not only revoke the contracts, but also arrest the contractors.

“These fraudulent contractors should be investigated and made to face the wrath of the law. All the money paid to them should be recovered.  The contracts should be revoked and re-awarded to other competent companies.

“The fraudulent contractors, who siphoned the contract sums, should be jailed. Niger Delta stakeholders, pressure groups and concerned citizens should rise against this injustice. We can’t continue like this. Niger Delta is underdeveloped because of these characters. Our communities should rise against it. Our students and youths must rise against it.

“The only way the region can develop is when we rise against fraudulent contractors and leaders. We have written several letters and petitions to concerned authorities, but nothing has been done about it. We urge the National Assembly and the presidency to sack any government officials responsible for frauds in NDDC. Our people are our greatest enemies. And we have decided to rise against them,” he stated.

The Publicity Secretary of the Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (CHURAC), Oyinkedi Fuofegha, also called on President Buhari to probe as well as sack the Supervising Minister to the NDDC and the Interim Management Committee (IMC).

“The situation in NDDC is such a horrible matter. We are facing a two-way dimensional scam. The supervising minister to the NDDC and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) on one side needed to be probed by the presidency in the same manner it did to the former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, so as to unearth the mysteries behind the allegations against them, while the accusers, the National Assembly ad hoc or standing committees on Niger Delta, should be investigated properly by the anti-graft agencies,” he posited.

According to him, “the NDDC is swimming in a pool of corruption. Indeed, the purpose for its establishment has been defeated. Though we supported the IMC because of the way and manner Buhari disobeyed the NDDC enabling Act in constituting that botched substantive board, we didn’t support them to be soiled in the looting spree.

“Our appeal, therefore, is that Buhari should disband the IMC immediately. He should just appoint substantive board while the forensic audit goes on. The Commission should be removed from Akpabio’s coordination in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and be given back to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“The forensic audit should also cover the periods Senate Godswill Akpabio as the coordinating Minister to NDDC and the IMC are holding sway at the commission. Buhari should leave no stone unturned if he is actually fighting corruption,” Mr Fuofegha pleaded.

A concerned Bayelsan and a civil engineer, Mr. Ayibakuro Samuel, put  the whole blame of abandoned projects on insecurity in the region, explaining that some contractors and members of the public had been at the mercy of kidnappers and pirates.

He further revealed that “you will recall that the kidnap of two expatriate staff and killing of two soldiers attached to Setraco Construction forced the firm to abandon the Ogbia-Nembe road project at one point.

“This had been the fate of some contractors in the past. Sometimes, because 60 per cent of Bayelsa is not connected by road, transporting equipment and materials to site is a challenge because of activities of kidnappers and pirates who kidnap for ransom or rob people of their valuables. We have cases where contractors use part of the money for the contract to pay these elements and abandon the project.

“If we are truly willing to tackle this issue of abandonment of NDDC projects across the Niger Delta region, we must also consider solving the security challenges bedeviling us as a people. We must also discourage the tradition of communities demanding money from contractors before they are allowed to enter the community to carry out projects.”

However, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bayelsa State Council, Mr. Samuel Numonengi, who hails from Nembe, has a different view. According to him, the NDDC has recorded some achievements which have transformed the lives of the people despite insecurity.

Numonengi said NDDC’s poor collaboration with communities in project monitoring is responsible for the many abandoned roads and human capacity development projects in the past 20 years.

“Take the Ogbia-Nembe road for example,” he said, “that project today is a huge success and it is transforming the lives of the people of Nembe in many ways. From what I gathered, it was in 1978 that the idea of constructing that road was conceived, but for a long time the road was on the drawing board without any progress.

“A few years ago, NDDC decided to pay part of its contribution for the construction of the Ogbia/Nembe road. And today, the Nembe people can drive to their community from Yenagoa and back within three hours: a journey that used to be about three hour for a one way trip from Yenagoa to Nembe.

“When the construction started, many youths abandoned crime and opted to use motorcycles to transport commuters because it was impassable for a majority of cabs and busses. Through this many youths have been able to raise money to support their families.

“And when the road was completed, land transportation business that was once dominated by Ogbia youths, is now dominated by Nembe youths. You can now see youths that were involved in political thuggery are now self-employed and responsible to society.

“The completion of the road has also changed the architectural face of Nembe. In the past, houses were built close to each other but today because there is road, people are now building house with plenty space for parking. Because of this road, the people of Nembe no longer have to worry about sea pirates attack along waterways.

“But in spite of this, the NDDC has also failed in the area of proper monitoring of their projects and that is why we have many abandoned project of the commission across the Niger Delta region. The problem is that the NDDC had poor community relations in the past, a situation that led to many setbacks.

“How can any institution monitor the progress of its projects without support from the community where the project is sited? Even when the NDDC is absent from project site, if the people are engaged in the monitoring of projects, it would be hard for a contractor to abscond and make the community turn back to blame you. So I would advise that the NDDC invest more time in monitoring projects it awarded, so that we can see the end of abandoned projects.”

  • Additional reports by Hakeem Gbadamosi, Ebiowei Lawal and Iniobong Ekponta

 

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