The huge sums of money invested to upgrade the once restive Niger Delta region from 2009 to date has yielded very little impact as no tangible projects, aside some recently commissioned cassava processing plants, have been completed. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that out of the N750 billion allocated to the ministry within the period under review for the execution of over 427 contracts, only a measly 12 percent impact has been achieved, indicating that the released funds were not well utilised. This is aside the counterpart funds accessed from the European Union (EU) and other international bodies. Our findings shockingly revealed that while 18 percent of the contracts were stalled, only 12 percent were completed, leaving 70 percent uncompleted.
Meanwhile, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that he inherited liabilities worth N34 billion when he assumed office, and that about N1 trillion is required to complete ongoing projects. LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that a technical audit exercise ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to access the level of intervention projects in the region revealed that most of the projects remained at the level of contract awards and practically did nothing to address the yearnings of the people in the region, contrary to the mandate of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry.
The over 427 intervention projects were meant for the nine oil producing states of Abia, Akwa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ondo, Edo, Imo, Rivers.
According to the distribution of capital projects, contracts were awarded for canalisation, electricity, food and cassava processing plants, housing schemes, land reclamation/shoreline protection, rehabilitation/remediation of oil-impacted sites, roads, skill acquisition centres and water schemes.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a technical audit of the over 400 projects that were awarded between 2009 to 2015 by the ministry.
The audit is to ensure that there is value for the over N450 billion so far released for the projects in the nine oil producing states. Findings showed that while these contracts were awarded with specific dates for completion, they were, however, not captured in subsequent appropriations, a development which further exacerbated contractors’ poor performance and inability to achieve project objectives within the stipulated time frame. Meanwhile, one project that sticks out like a sore thumb is the East-West Road which has remained under construction for 12 years (since 2006). It was first handled by the Ministry of Works until 2009 when it was handed over to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The project, worth N211 billion, according to the original agreement, was supposed to be completed by August 2010. The East-West road is the connecting link between the Niger Delta and other parts of the country. Experts believe that the tactical location of the road should ordinarily make it a prime project for execution. Apart from serving Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta states where the bulk of Nigeria’s oil wealth is got, the road transverses Ogun and Lagos, the nation’s commercial hub. But the road is virtually a death trap owing to negligence by successive governments, and commuters using the road suffer unspeakable agony, especially during the rainy season when erosion leaves craters that practically swallows up vehicles and litter the roads with broken down vehicles.
The situation is aggravated whenever flood waters overflow banks of rivers along the route. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that when former President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded the contract in late 2006 during the heat of violent agitations by the region’s youths, there was unending joy and euphoria as mending the road held great promise. It was widely believed that beyond the social and economic importance of the road, the former president conceived it as a means to douse the fire of militancy in the oil-rich region Our findings further revealed that former President Obasanjo awarded the N211 billion road contract to four construction firms: Julius Berger, SETRACTO, RCC and Gitto Construzuoli Generali (GCG).
Julius Berger was to provide a new 87km asphaltic concrete carriageway and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the existing one from Warri in Delta State to Kiama in Bayelsa State. The company was to build about 18 bridges along the road but the company left the sites, leaving the job undone until June 2009 when the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs re-awarded the Warri-Kaiama Road to SETRACO. SETRACO now handles two sections: from Warri to Kaiama worth N74 billion, and from Port-Harcourt (Eleme Junction)-Ahaoda Rivers State and Ahaoda to Kaiama worth N75 billion, totalling N149 billion.
GCG, according to the terms of the contract, was tasked with increasing existing single carriageway to dual carriageway of 2×7.3m road pavement, 2.75m outer shoulders and 1.0m inner shoulders with 4m wide median.
GCG is also to build six bridges including 398m major Eket bridge over the Qua River. RCC is handling the 99km road from Port Harcourt (Eleme Junction) to Eket in Akwa Ibom State, worth N35.6 billion. Meanwhile, immediately President Obasanjo left office in 2007, stakeholders realised that it was an empty award. The first problem discovered was that the road had no design, and experts said it was impossible to execute any engineering project without a design that would assist in estimating the cost. Surprisingly, the N211 billion projected cost for the project was not even captured in the 2007 budget.
Another hindrance to the execution of intervention projects in the region, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered, is that of duplication of functions, which manifests in the repetition of programmes and conflict of projects in the region by the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, NDDC, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) as well as state and local governments.
For instance, the committee pointed out that the construction and supervision of Omelema Agada Road in Rivers State led to a conflict between the Rivers State government and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
A similar incident was noticed in the 15kva sub-station electrification project in Khana local government, which was replicated by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Rivers State government and the National Independent Power Project (NIPP).
Also in Eleme, there was a duplication of an electricity transformer contract by the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC.
I Inherited N34bn Liabilities, Need N1trn to Complete projects – Minister
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani hinted that the ministry would require a whooping N1 trillion to complete ongoing and abandoned projects scattered all over the region.
The minister also alleged a massive fraud to the tune of N423billion, which were uncovered in projects handled by contractors in the Niger Delta region between 2009 and 2015.
He revealed at a media briefing that over N300 billion had been spent on the 337 kilometre road.
On the ministry’s flagship project, the East-West road dualisation project, the minister explained that upon completion of the work of audit committee, which audited all projects awarded by the ministry in the region, the ministry had mobilised the contractors handling the four sections of the highways to the project sites.
Explaining how the ministry under him inherited outstanding liabilities of N34 billion on projects implemented by the previous government, he said that, henceforth, payment to contractors for any certificate for project execution would be strictly determined by the use of the audit report.
According to him, “It is difficult to say the exact amount required for project execution because the introduction of projects into our implementation plan is, of course, more sacrosanct. “But I am sure for East West road alone, Section 5 for instance, which is costing over N270 billion, that is just section 5; and for others, what we have as outstanding on sections one to four again is more than N200 billion, and that’s not talking of other projects. That is enormous. So to conclude all we have in the ministry, we will be talking towards N800 billion to N1 trillion. That is my calculative imagination.”
The minister, however, said works on section 5 of the East West road dualisation project cannot take off now due to some identified technical flaws arising from the design of the project.
He added that apart from the faulty alignment on the design, while the project cost was negotiated in naira, the contract was signed in US Dollars, hence making the entire transaction questionable. Usani stated that the ministry on his watch had remobilised contractors to their various project sites after a payment of N4 billion to them, promising that more funds would be made available to them as the ministry still expects more funds accruing to it from subsequent budgetary allocations. He, however, said he was doing a review of the entire contract, noting that without that “nothing will ever happen on that road not to talk of completion. “If you have spent N300 billion and you are where you are, then the design, negotiations, contracts and everything are wrong. “You design a project of that nature and give it a lifespan of seven years and then no designs in some sectors and yet you are attributing cost to it. So by what means did you have the elements of costing? These are verifiable facts at any time.”
Mr. Usani said he had concluded plans to send about 30 contractors working for the NDDC to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation and prosecution. “I have got a minimum of 30 contractors that I am sending to EFCC. On the East-West road I have taken a private consultant to review the whole cost, so some contractors will obviously refund money for which the present cost will be discounted. “The revealing content of the audit report carried out to ascertain the level of intervention work carried out in the region showed that over N423 billion was expended by the ministry alone, not other intervening agencies, between 2009 to 2015.” According to the minister, the report indicated that about 60 per cent of the N700 billion appropriated for contracts in the region had been paid out to the contractors, but that delivery on the jobs had been low.
Usani also assured that the ministry will put in more effort to see to the training of more non-militant youth in the region in the areas of ICT, agriculture, fishery, and to ensure the completion of all the skill acquisition centres across the zone.
He disclosed that seven cassava processing plants have been completed and handed over to communities in the region. The communities are Okweketa Umuekwune in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area, Imo State; Ibeku Vilage, Umuahia, in Abia State; Wanakom in Yala Local Government Area, Cross River State; Gbarantoro, Epeiama in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and Bah Lueku, Nyokalena Village in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
He said one million non-militant youth and women have been trained in various fields of human endeavours, while seven cassava processing plants were being established in the region to make life easy for the citizens.
He added that the ministry had facilitated the required 30 per cent counterpart funding to access European Union (EU) N2.4 billion grant for a water project in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Akwa Ibom under the Niger/Delta Support Programme. Mr. Usani said that 130 youths were earlier trained in Israel in poultry, aquaculture and crop production and were given N1 million each to begin a life of productivity, stating that the funds were disbursed through the Bank of Agriculture and the Nigerian Agriculture Insurance Corporation
The minister, who has been severally condemned for prioritising the building of a new office for the NDDC instead of completing the East-West road considered important, explained that the road requires N30 billion to be completed. He argued that the N16 billion proposed for the NDDC headquarters is not enough to complete it. He said, “When you talk of N16 billion as if it is so relevant in completing the East-West road, I wish to tell you that the outstanding certificate on the East-West road amounts to N30 billion.” A Niger Delta activist, Ekenwa Johnson has said that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has failed to achieve the essence for which it was established. Johnson said the number of abandoned projects speaks of the failure of the ministry.
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