A South-South group under the aegis of Movement for Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta (MSDND) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to hearken to the agitations of the people of the region to lift restrictions and allow the management of the NDDC to commence payment to hundreds of NDDC contractors across the region.
According to the group made up of traditional rulers, youths, women and peace advocates, though the National Assembly through the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, is on the right track to question the legality of payment due to the delay in the defence of the commission’s budget, the urgent commencement of payment to contractors will ameliorate the biting hardship and sufferings of the people across 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 Hon. Minister, and the House Committee Chairman to work in synergy with the Federal Ministry of Finance to release the over ₦200billion of NDDC funds that has been withheld by the Federal Ministry of Finance within the past years, in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the Niger Delta and for the sustainable development of the region.
The traditional rulers, elders, women groups, and youth groups, under the auspices of the MSDND in a statement issued 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.”
Chief Olodin called on the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana O. Umana and the management team of the NDDC to urgently seek Presidential approval for the previously approved ₦46billion 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 the Niger Delta states.
“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 properties 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. We are saddened by a situation where contractors will not be mobilised by the NDDC to execute projects, instead, contractors will use their personal properties 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,” they added.
“These debts have accumulated over a period of eight years. Many of these contractors took bank loans to implement their projects. Many of them have died due to health related complications developed during the agitations for the payment of debts owed them. Their widows, dependents and families are now being sacked by the raging flood in the region.”
“President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana O. Umana, and the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Hon. Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo should as a matter of urgency hearken to the agitations of the people in the region to lift payment restrictions to contractors and expedite the commission’s budgetary process. They should work in synergy to make emergency funds available, because millions of your constituents are suffering as hunger and diseases loom from raging floods.”