Following a protest by stranded scholarship students of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) studying in diaspora, at the Nigerian High Commission in London, President Muhammadu Buhari has given directives for the immediate payment of fees and stipends of concerned students.
It was disclosed in a statement signed by the NDDC Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, that Buhari conveyed the directive to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, following the protest.
Explaining the cause of delay being the sudden death of Chief Ibanga Etang, the then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, of the Commission in May, Odili said the students would unfailingly be paid by the end of the week.
According to him: “Under the Commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the Commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
Odili said NDDC had extended an invitation to Buhari to inaugurate the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State ,which was built in conjunction with the Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC) to create a land link to the ancient city of Nembe for the first time.
Odili said that the road project, which cost N24 billion, cutting through swampy terrain to connect 14 other communities, needed 10 bridges and 99 culverts.
“To conquer the swampy terrain, the construction involved digging out four metres of clay soil and sand filling it to provide a base for the road. The road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours.
“This project is a not only a flag ship of intervention in the Niger Delta, it is also a model of development partnership between the Commission and international oil companies in the region,” he said.
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili noted that the one submitted by Senator Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the Commission.
He said the list submitted to the National Assembly was compiled by the then management of the Commission in 2018 adding that there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but were not submitted to the National Assembly.
Odili said: “The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors.”
He said prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list should not panic as the commission discovered that people used their names to secure contracts, adding that the ongoing forensic audit would uncover persons behind the contracts.
He added that the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.
Odili further said that the list did not include a case of 250 contracts, which were signed for and collected in one day by one person for members of the National Assembly.
He said the forensic audit exercise was on course and the commission positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.
Odili advised members of the public to discountenance the “avalanche of falsehood being orchestrated by mischief makers,” regretting that “more insinuations and accusations may be thrown into the public space by those opposed to the IMC.”