Traditional rulers, elders, women groups, youth groups, and a peace advocacy group in the South-South known as the Movement for Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta, MSDND, has called on President MuhammaduBuhari and the National Assembly to hearken to the agitations of the people of the region to lift restrictions and allow the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to urgently commence payment to hundreds of NDDC contractors across the region as floods ravages communities with hundreds dead, while millions of persons are displaced.
According to the MSDND, though the National Assembly through the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on NDDC, Dr. OlubunmiTunji-Ojo, is on the right track to question the legality of payment due to the delay in the defence of the commission’s budget, however, the urgent commencement of payment to contractors will ameliorate the hardship and sufferings of the people across the region amidst the crushing effects of flood devastation and hunger in the region.
The group requested that the management of the NDDC should be cleared to urgently commence contractual payments to hundreds of NDDC contractors, and for the President, the Minister, and the House Committee Chairman to work in synergy with the Federal Ministry of Finance to release the over N200 billion of NDDC fund that has been withheld by the Federal Ministry of Finance within the past years, in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people in Niger Delta and for the sustainable development of the region.
The group in a statement via electronic mail and signed by its National Coordinator, Chief Ayibatekena Olodin, said: “In spite of the support for the National Assembly committee to ensure proper corporate governance, accountability and probity at the NDDC, there is the need to urgently commence payment to contractors while the perfection of the NDDC budget defence is ongoing.”
Olodin called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Umana, and the management team of the NDDC to urgently seek presidential approval for the previously approved N46 billion in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for emergency procurement of housing facilities, food and medical assistance for millions of displaced families across Niger Delta states.
The group said: “We are calling on President Buhari, the National Assembly committee on NDDC to urgently work to end the sufferings of Niger Delta contractors, who have lost so much as many of their businesses and property have been confiscated by banks for failure to repay the loans they took to fund their NDDC jobs.
The House Committee should lift payment restrictions and allow the management of the NDDC to pay hundreds of suffering contractors for the contracts executed for the commission.
“The Niger Delta stakeholders will continue to request that the NDDC pay for services rendered by competent and performing contractors of the NDDC. However, we are saddened by a situation where contractors will not be mobilised by the NDDC to execute projects, instead, contractors will use their personal property as collateral to borrow money from banks at high interest rates to execute projects, yet they will be owed by the commission for five years and more without payment.”