NDDC Boss, Nsima Ekere talks on cancelled projects worth N200bn

Meet Engineer Nsima Ekere, the Managing-Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). He spoke with Dailytrust on Sunday on the projects that were cancelled, challenges facing the commission, among other issues.
Read what he wrote here:
How has it been manning the NDDC?

Without disparaging the efforts and contributions of past management and board, we want to acknowledge their contributions in laying a solid foundation for the takeoff of the NDDC. But we also found out that a whole lot of things needed to be done. One of the things that bothered me and my team when we came in was the Oronsaye Panel that was set up to restructure the commission. Another was the report of Bureau of Public Service Reforms which was aimed at restructuring the NDDC and getting it set to deliver efficient services. In the conclusion of that report, it was stated that when they look into the commission, they found out that virtually everything that could be wrong with other organizations was wrong with the NDDC. So, based on that, we came up with the very ambitious and well-articulated reform programme we tagged ‘4R’ strategy that was aimed at reforming the NDDC and getting at delivering efficient services in the region and we said that we agreed that we must first of all reform how the organization is run.
Stakeholders are worried about huge sums spent on projects that were never executed…

The NDDC balance sheet was over-bloated. We have content liability in the excess of N1.3trillion and there is need to look at the resources of the commission in terms of whatever that comes in monthly and yearly. One of the steps we took was the approval of the cancellation of 600 projects. We discovered that some of those projects and contracts were either not properly procured or contractors were not on site.
Some of these contracts were procured in 2002. Surprisingly, some of the contractors have already collected advanced payments and were not on site. The contracts were worth N200billion. That was the first phase of reforming the balance sheet. The second phase was going to involve projects that were between zero and 5 per cent completion.  Some of the contractors mobilized to site but they achieved very little and in some cases the work differs from the engineering drawing. Some of the contractors have not been on site for upwards five to seven years and have achieved a little. We must restore the commission to its core mandate.
The NDDC was set up for rapid socio-economic and integrated development of Niger-Delta and so we want to ensure that the project that we do are geared towards achieving the core mandate. You will see that some of the projects we did were politically motivated. Some of them were done to satisfy one person or another and we are saying that this is not good enough.

Are you implying that so many things were distorted?

We believe that if you have a masterplan, if you have a design to achieve a certain milestone within a certain time, work towards achieving it. So, we looked at the masterplan and some of them were about 10 years old because they could have been accomplished within 15 years and we have  spent 10 years already and nothing have not been achieved. So we want to go back to the NDDC masterplan. I would like to emphasis that Niger Delta Regional Development masterplan is not only an NDDC plan. It is a plan that articulated and clearly spelt out the policies and programmes that must be collectively executed by all the development agencies. This comprises the Federal Government, the NDDC, international oil companies, state governments, the Niger Delta Region and the local governments. These are independent sectors but the masterplan was supposed to integrate all of these development partners to achieve an integrated development for the entire region. So we want to go back to the core mandate.
The days of competing with local government councils on who would buy chalk must come to an end. We want to do less of the smaller projects and do more regional bigger projects that would ultimately impact on the socio-economic life and development of the entire region.
We must reform the way we run the NDDC, we must agree on the procedures. Generally, we are also working on staff mindset. We would do everything that would be on track towards achieving the rapid agenda of the Niger Delta.

What steps are you taking to prevent contractors from defrauding the commission?

I want to acknowledge the efforts of the past board and management of the NDDC, conscious of the fact that some contractors are still insisting on coming to collect money and run away because we make advance payments.  What is the guarantee of making advance payments on projects? The advance payment is good and bad at the same time. We are determined to go after contractors who have collected money and abandoned their projects. We have set up a committee that will ensure that all the NDDC funds that are with contractors who have not delivered their projects are recovered.

We leant that your scholarship scheme will be stopped. What is the true position?

Let me say that the NDDC does not have the intention and will never abandon any of its scholarship schemes. When we came in, we discovered that there were a lot of discrepancies in the way it was administered. When you award scholarship, it is for studies abroad.  You find out that more was paid to people who are in Nigeria and we didn’t see why that should happen. There are cases of people getting admission for certain courses in a certain university and are awarded scholarships. After being paid, some of them will go to another university for a different programme. These are the issues that we have discovered and have set up a committee into the matter. What we are appealing for is understanding because a lot of people have abused the scheme because the money is paid in dollars. So this is why it is taking time. But the assurance I want to give to all genuine students on scholarship is that there will be disbursement. It might take some time but we are doing everything possible to make sure we resolve this issue.

We heard that the NDDC has pulled out from its partnership with the Rivers State government in some projects jointly executed?

The NDDC did not pull out of partnership with Rivers State. But because of the programme they wanted to do for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the state, they did us a letter that they wanted to pull out of the partnership of the project and there is nothing we could do about it.

The Rivers State government is one of our partners and we have a robust relationship with Rivers State just like all the nine states that make up the Niger-Delta region.
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