Politicisation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is denying Nigerians, especially those in the region after which it is named, an annual infrastructure investment of over N250 billion. Industry watchers say this situation has turned an otherwise development institution to a rent seeking centre for politicians and their acolytes.
Stakeholders of the commission are protesting the percieved politicisation of the the intervention agency. They say the way it is run is questionable. They also question the selection process for the position of chief executive (managing director) and claim that the body hardly fulfils the function for which it was set up.
They allege excessive interference from politicians, who prime themselves to take up contracts from the agency, which never execute. They say they political meddlers include very highly placed public office holders and their hangers-on who milk the NDDC dry.
They say a first time visitor to the region would find an amazing lack of correlation between the real situation and claims of accomplishments published in the media. Their claims incude that hundreds of kilometres of road are yet to be paved, that water projects are abandoned and that squalor is pervasive.
With an annual budget of over N250 billion and hundreds of contracts lined up to be awarded, governors, senators, representatives and hangers-on in the name of elder statesmen, see the position of the chief executive of the commission as a huge political asset, from which they can seek rent, according to the complainants.
Because of the intended patronage, the nine states of the region have ensured that the position of the chief executive of the establishment is rotated among them, with little consideration for competence. The process of selecting the CEO always involves two names being recommended by the governor of the state that is given the chance to produce the helmsman, to the president who takes one as the eventual candidate to be sent to the Senate for ratification. This they say attracts high political patronage by the CEO, including loyalty, as against capability.
Currently, the national assembly has begun the consideration of the candidates put forward for the position, with stakeholders calling for the legislators to sieze the moment to pick a candidate for the job Investigations by various federal government panels over the years, especially the Orosaye panel confirmed a littering of the oil region with hundreds of uncompleted projects that would require at least N1.4 trillion to complete. This is excluding the N1.8 trillion needed to start the much-touted Niger Delta coastal highway, which was designed in 2011 by the Ugwoha management, to run from Odukpani in Cross River State to Lekki in Lagos State.
The position of managing director first went to Delta State, then Rivers State, and now Akwa Ibom State, while the slot of chairman began with Abia State to Delta State. Some power brokers in Akwa Ibom State are said to now be involved in a dog fight to produce the new chief executive.
According to BusinessDay sources, the governor has nominated not less than five names, one of them being Bassey Dan-Abia of Esit Eket local council who was once the executive director projects and the acting chairman of the discredited board of the Commission.
There is Etido Inyang, special adviser on technical matters to the governor, and Loveday Ekoyork from Eastern Obolo.
While subdued jubilation is rife in Akwa Ibom that Ekoyork is as good as through, other Akwa Ibom State indigenes and friends in a part of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, are excited that Imabon Inyang would be the special one.
BusinessDay team which sniffed around Inyang’s quarters during the week found many indirect congratulatory messages heading to his area from those who felt so sure of his making it.
The heavily politicised selection method is said to have beclouded issues of merit and capability.
“Loyalty, that is evidence of
someone ready to do the biddings of the powers that be, are what matter,” a well informed source said.
The rot that has become the norm in the NDDC is grave. BusinessDay learnt that over the years, wives of presidents often picked grade ‘A’ contracts, while aides of the top political leaders place calls to the CEO to demand contracts for their principals, including governors, ministers, and national assembly members who screen the appointees and approve the commission’s annual budgets. This category gets grade ‘A’ or ‘B’ contracts.
Ex-war lords are also seen to besiege the NDDC headquarters with all manner of notes asking for juicy contracts.
Another problem was about directors in the commission who would insist on a 30 per cent cut or nothing, for grade ‘B’ jobs. Often, those who won this class of jobs do not have the capacity to execute them and so need to sell them off, it was alleged.
“By the time they discount the 30 per cent and the 15 per cent the contractor needed to make, the final executor would find it difficult to do any meaningful job with the remaining 55 per cent”, a female human resources expert closely associated with sourcing financing for the NDDC contactors disclosed.
Also some directors are said to collaborate with contractors to deliver sub-standard jobs.
More headaches await whoever emerges as managing director because of professional protesters and placard carriers around the region who daily accuse the chief executive and mount demonstrations, ostensibly to get financial allocations to remain quiet.
“Those confusing and confounding the managing directors are legion; from Abuja to the host communities. Whoever wants to succeed as managing director must learn a delicate balancing act. You must treat some of the demands from above, but you must also listen to the cries of the ordinary people for your name’s sake.”
What may be difficult is where to strike the balance, between the inordinate demands of the political leaders and godfathers that select the NDDC chief executive and the needs of the over 41 million indigenes of the oil region that aspire for life-changing projects.
Information from Business Day was used in this report.