Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state has called on the Federal Government to adequately fund the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in conformity with the provisions of the Act establishing the Commission.
Dickson made the call in Yenagoa when a delegation of the Board led by its chairman, Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw paid him a courtesy visit in Government House.
He urged the Federal Government to accord states in the region special attention, especially Bayelsa, given its challenging terrain that requires huge funds and efforts to develop.
Dickson said: “the poor funding of the Commission has limited its ability to execute critical infrastructure projects, such as the airport, major roads and bridges that would impact on the well being of the people, rather than award contracts for the construction of classroom blocks.
“The Niger Delta is an endangered region, even the colonial masters before they granted independence to Nigeria, recognized the existence of this region as a special area and designated it so. And they were aware that the developmental challenges of this area are more than that of the challenges of most other parts of the country.
“The Niger Delta’s challenges are ecological and environmental and that realization should affect the release of funds by the federal authorities. I think that the governors will meet to see how we can work with you to ensure that the provisions of the NDDC Act are enforced.
“The purpose of establishing the NDDC will be defeated if it is not in a position to undertake critical development projects in the Niger Delta; its purpose will be meaningless, if it will only award contracts for construction of classroom blocks and other jobs that may not have the capacity to impact the development of the area,” he warned.
Governor Dickson expressed displeasure over the non-completion of a number of NDDC projects in the state, noting that a committee, empaneled by the state government has the mandate of collating and monitoring the progress of all on-going NDDC projects in the state.
Dickson solicited the collaboration of the governors of the NDDC states towards embarking on regional projects to expand the scope of development in the region.
Earlier, Chairman, Board of the NDDC, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw highlighted some of the challenges bedeviling the Commission, which include, inadequate release of budgeted funds contrary to section 14, sub-section 2a and c of the Act establishing the NDDC.
He explained that the Act requires the Federal Government to provide 15% of monies paid from the federation account, pointing out that the Commission has never got its fair share in terms of funding from inception.
Senator Henshaw said the current board inherited over 7,000 projects alongside huge liabilities in excess of N1 trillion, stressing that, in the past one year, the interventionist agency had been striving to complete on-going projects.
“The funding for NDDC remains a major challenge and obstacle to the progress that we could have made. For example, since 2001, funds held back by the Federal Government is now in excess of N800 billion under-payment.”
The Board Chairman intimated Dickson of the purpose of the visit, noting that the leadership of the NDDC was in the state to seek advice on the way forward, in terms of providing strategic interventions in the areas of power, roads, rail, education and creation of business opportunities for the people.