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*Nigeria: NDDC And The Challenge of Abandoned Projects
By Ifeatu Agbu
Not too long ago, the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC) set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into cases of abandoned federal government projects released figures that could best be described as shocking. Their report showed that an alarming eleven thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six (11,886) abandoned projects are begging for completion in different parts of the country. “One of the challenges we met when we came on board was the multiplicity of uncompleted and ongoing projects across the region [Niger Delta]. We are aware of stakeholders’ concerns and are committed to ensuring the completion of as many of such projects as possible within the limit of available time and resources.” That was how Dr. Chris Oboh, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, explained the direction of his new Board. To give effect to the board’s dominant goal, the Managing Director is personally driving the process. He told members of the Presidential Monitoring Committee on the Niger Delta who visited the commission recently that “the 2012 budget would target completion of existing projects and they have all been placed on priority list. A lot of projects have been awarded since the establishment of the NDDC; we intend to focus on the completion of the projects.” True to the declaration of the NDDC boss, the board members undertook an extensive audit of all on-going projects across the oil-producing region. Dr. Oboh described the audit as a demonstration of the commitment of the board to the completion of projects awarded since the inception of the NDDC in December 2000. The monitoring committees constituted by the board have criss-crossed the nine NDDC states to see things for themselves. One of such committees has just concluded its inspection of projects in Delta, Edo and Ondo states. The monitoring groups made up of representatives of the various states on the board of the NDDC had inspected projects in all the states. The projects include roads, bridges, land reclamation and shore protection, flood control and channelization projects, as well as university hostel projects spread across the region. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing its composite 8 states.
Members of the first monitoring group visited Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom and they were led by Barrister Edi Orubo, representing Bayelsa State. Others were Prof. Ibitamuno Aminigo, representing Rivers State and Engineer Imaobong Inyang, representing Akwa ibom State. According to Orubo, their task was to assess what was on the ground and recommend measures that would facilitate the completion of projects placed on fast-track by the commission. The team leader said that the new board of the NDDC was poised to make appreciable impact on the lives of the people of the Niger Delta as quickly as possible. “The project monitoring team will work closely with the contractors to ensure that they deliver quality infrastructure and on time too,” he said. He said that some of the problems that had previously slowed down the pace of work on NDDC projects had been addressed, noting that “the process of payment has been streamlined and fine-tuned such that contractors are now paid as soon as they present their Interim Payment Certificates[IPC].” The team assessed the level of work done at the site of the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe road, which the commission is building in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC]. This road with 10 long bridges and 99 culverts is described as one of the very challenging projects of the commission because of its very difficult terrain. For over 35 years when it was first proposed for construction, successive administrations could not muster the political will to execute it until SPDC and NDDC decided to take the bull by the horns. From Bayelsa State, the board members moved over to Rivers State where they inspected the hostel projects at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology [RUST] and the University of Port Harcourt. After that they moved to Buguma. Here, they inspected the Buguma-Edo-Abalama-Abonema road as well as the Buguma shore-protection and the reclamation of 150 hectares of land in Ogu-Bolo, all in Rivers State. While they expressed satisfaction with the massive land reclaimed at Ogu-Bolo, they were sorely disappointed at the poor performance of the contractor at Buguma. In Akwa Ibom, the board members inspected the hostel at the University of Uyo Permanent site and the one at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. They also looked at some on-going NDDC roads and bridges in the state. The roads visited were the 30 kilometre Nsasak Junction-Okon Essien Udim road; the 33.5 kilometre Ikot-Akpan-Udoh road; Iko-Atabrikang-Opolom-Iwuo Achang road with a 600-metre bridge in Ibeno and the Uquo-Odoro Nkit-Ntak-Inyang road. According to Engineer Samuel Inyang, the contractor handling the Nsasak-Okon Road, NDDC’s new approach to project execution was commendable as it was result-oriented. “Since we started work on this road the support of the NDDC has been unprecedented,” Inyang who was a member of the pioneer board, representing the oil companies, said. The second monitoring group from the NDDC board took off from Abia State. The three-man team of board members, led by Barrister Alloysius Nwagboso, representing Abia State, included Barr.Peter Ezeobi, representing Imo State and Hon. Dominic Edem, representing Cross River State. Barr. Nwagboso said that the inspection exercise was aimed at ensuring that on-going projects of the commission were completed on schedule. He said: “If the NDDC is not on ground, building roads and bridges as well as other key infrastructure, we won’t be on this assignment,” he said. He charged all NDDC contractors to fulfil their obligations to the commission by working expeditiously to deliver the various projects on schedule and to specification. He warned; “Contractors that are not on site or fail to keep to specifications will have themselves to blame because the board will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to bring them to book.” According to him, “gone are the days when contractors collect money and abandon projects or go on an endless voyage seeking variations”, since as he puts it “the Commission is determined to handover erring contractors to anti-graft agencies”. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
The inspection team was disappointed when they visited the site of the 25-kilometre Uzoukwu-Owaza Iguruta Road and bridge project. Barr. Nwagboso lamented that the bridge which would link Abia and Rivers states was being delayed by the contractor who was not on site to explain why the work on the bridge appeared abandoned. It was also a sad story at the site of the 132 KVA transmission line and substation at Ukwa-West local Government Area of Abia State. The N1.6 billion power line project, meant to serve Abia, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, appeared stalled as the premises of the substation was overgrown with weeds. “It is sad,” was Nwagboso lamentation. The legislator representing Ukwa-West in the House of Representative, Hon. Uzoma Abonta promised to assist the NDDC in holding contractors accountable. “it is in our interest to see that projects sited in our constituencies are not abandoned,” he said. The NDDC board members were, however, delighted with what they saw at Nsidung and Idebe communities in new Bakassi/Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State. Hon. Akwaedem commended the contractor for “doing a good job” on the 12-kilometre road with a short spam bridge and culverts. Commenting specifically on the hostel projects, Barr. Nwagboso said the progress of work at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri[FUTO] and Imo State University was encouraging. He, however, charged the contractors to keep up the pace to ensure that they were completed on schedule. Engr. Henry Onouha, the site manager for the FUTO hostel project, assured the board members that the complex would be ready for commissioning before the end of the year. The contractors at the other hostels in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states gave similar assurances. The 176-room proto-type hostels are being built in 18 universities and polytechnics in the nine Niger Delta states. Barrister Orubo said that members of his committee were impressed with what they saw at the project sites. He said they would continue to monitor the progress of work on the hostels to ensure that they were not only delivered on schedule but done according to specified standards. He appealed to all the contractors to be on their toes because board members would visit their sites henceforth without prior notice. The last leg of the inspection took members to Delta, Edo and Ondo states. The team was led by Chief Solomon Ogba, the representative of Delta State on the board. He stated that cases of agitations would be reduced when the numerous projects being executed by the commission were completed and handed over to the people. He, therefore, charged the contractors working for the NDDC to buckle up as “the board will not entertain excuses for non-performance.” Chief Ogba said the board and management of the commission have a mandate to key into the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan by increasing the tempo of infrastructure development in the oil-producing states. To this end, he said, “the commission is now paying contractors as soon as they achieved specified milestones. We have also placed some key projects on fast-track to ensure that they are completed in the shortest possible time.” The inspection team, which included Barr. Henry Okhuarobo, representing Edo State and Mr. Omogbemi Oladele, representing Ondo State, expressed satisfaction with the pace of work at the site of an extensive flood control project in Ughelli. It has 29.6 kilometres of drain channels and nine boxed culverts criss-crossing Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. The board members said they were happy with the level of work at one of the university hostel projects in Abraka. According to the contractor, the hostel would be ready by December this year. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the second hostel which appears to have been abandoned by the contractor”, Ogba lamented. The NDDC team also inspected the Obozogbe – Abudu 24-Kilometre Road in Edo State, which is almost ready for commissioning. According to Mr. Oladele, “this road is a testimony to the fact that some local contractors can deliver quality jobs. The contractor has done a good job on this road and it is marvellous in our sight”. In Ondo state, the NDDC board members expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and pace of work at the shore protection and land reclamation work in Ayetoro. Mr. Oladele regretted that the project which was supposed to save several communities threatened by high waves from the Atlantic Ocean was being treated with levity. “The endangered Ayetoro community remains endangered because the contractor is not living up to expectation”, he said.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( email@example.com ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
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