By Sunday Bassey
The Federal Government is said to be owing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) the sum of N1.8 trillion since its inception 17 years ago.
Mr Ibitoye Abosede, Head, Media and Public Affairs, NDDC disclosed this in Uyo at a one-day Media Capacity Building Workshop for members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom Council.
He lamented that non-remittance of the backlog of statutory allocations had hampered accelerated development in the region.
He said the federal government had mandated the Ministries of Niger Delta Affairs, Budget and National Planning to sit with the Board of NDDC with a view to ascertaining exactly how much was owed the commission.
“The federal government has set up a committee to ascertain the exact money owed the commission,” he said.
According to him, this is the first time that a sitting President will demonstrate this kind of political will towards ensuring sustainable development of the region.
Abosede, represented by Mr Chijoke Amu-Nnadi of the department, explained that aside the arrears from the commission’s statutory allocations, other associated funds for ecology, oil and gas, among others, had not been remitted.
“These problems of funding and the challenges of the terrain in Niger Delta, which prides itself as the third largest wetland in the world, have hindered development in the region,” he said.
He said that several projects worth N200 billion were cancelled across all the nine states of the region due to the challenge.
He noted that the present federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to addressing the challenges of funding in the commission.
Abosede said the current NDDC Board led by Mr Nsima Ekere had been doing its best to sustain the tempo of development in the region.
He recalled that due to discontents that translated to arm struggle in the region, the setting up of the NDDC became necessary for sustainable development, economic and socio-political stability of the region.
Abosede said that the NDDC had intervened in no fewer than 64 roads projects, with about 50 per cent already completed in Akwa Ibom.
“Because of funding challenge, it is difficult for the commission to complete some major projects in the region,” he said.
He enjoined other development partners to work in tandem with the agency for sustainable development to thrive in the region.
He explained that the commission was heavily complementing the state government administration’s development plans for the people.
Also speaking, Mr Samuel Frank, NDDC Commissioner, Akwa Ibom, said that the commission was not at war with the Akwa Ibom Government.
He said that the commission was focusing on providing infrastructure to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Frank said that NDDC had done well in the state by rehabilitating roads in rural and urban centres of the state.
He solicited more cooperation with the media to foster development in the region.