Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has called on the new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to stop awarding projects to political and portfolio contractors.
While insisting that jobs should be given to competent contractors to deliver quality projects, Wike also advised them to embark on the construction of highways and bridges to link states in the region.
Wike, who appealed to the new board to do things differently, said such big-ticket projects would serve as economic corridors to ease interstate movements and promote socioeconomic integration within the region.
The governor insisted that the board should adopt a regional development approach that would holistically develop the region.
The governor spoke when the new Chairman of the NDDC board, Mrs. Lauretta Ifeanyi Onochie led other members of the board, on a visit to him at Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday.
The governor said: “I read what you said that things will be done differently. I want to believe that you’re sincere. Sometimes, I feel ashamed of where I come from. We talk about underdevelopment but look at the amount of money that has passed through NDDC, then look at the projects on the ground.
“There are what we call regional development projects that can link up two states, those are the kind of things NDDC should go for and give to competent contractors. Leave these political contractors. Leave all these portfolio contractors. Leave them alone. You have come to my state and you have seen what I have done.
“If I had used these political contractors, you wouldn’t have seen anything here. Of course, you know how expensive my contractor is. From 2019 till now, we have done 12 flyovers. You know how much we are talking about and you can replicate that. Even though they are expensive, you’ll see the value.”
Wike envisaged a situation where NDDC could devote huge sums annually to executing projects in each state of the region without distorting the existing developmental master plan.
The governor said it was shameful to see the unproductive model NDDC had operated, serving as a mere cash cow to politicians and spending about N10bn in a futile attempt to rig the 2019 elections in Rivers State.
He said: “NDDC has become a cash cow for politicians. Look at the money NDDC lost in this state just to win the election here. N10bn wasted. N10bn you could have used to construct a mega project in the State.”
Wike noted how NDDC, often, entered and awarded projects in states including Rivers without recusing itself to the existing development master plan leading to duplication of projects.
He pointed to how such practice had contributed to the wastage of the trillion of Naira that had passed through NDDC.
The governor noted how NDDC fraudulently claimed to have reconstructed the Chokocho- Igwuruta Road, and signed off the money when in actual fact, the road was reconstructed and delivered by his administration.
Wike also demanded that NDDC pay up its partnership and contractual obligation of N2.5bn, which is half of the N5bn mutually agreed between it and the state government for the reconstruction of the dualised Eastern Bypass Road leading to NDDC headquarters.
The governor said NDDC had entered into a similar agreement for the construction of the Mother and Child Hospital, collected the money paid by the Rivers State government and refused to pay up theirs.
He said his administration eventually jettisoned the agreement and footed the entire bills and completed the construction of the hospital.