THE Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has said it was partnering multi-national firms and corporate organisations in the country on the execution of development projects in the oil producing areas to avoid cases of abandoned projects by contractors.
Chairman,Â Board of NDDC,Â Senator Ewa Henshaw, disclosed this on Monday when he appeared before theÂ Senate Committee on Niger Delta to defend the Commissionâ€™sÂ N322.6 billion 2014 budget.
Henshaw told Senator James-Manager led Committee that over 4, 000 uncompleted projects worth trillions of naira are scattered all over the nine mandate states of the Commission.
He said the development necessitated the decision of the board and management of the Commission to partner some reputable multi-national organizations in the country for infrastructure development, health care delivery and power generation.
He also stated that the partnership with the private firms to co-fund uncompleted projects as well as the newly contracted ones will ensure their timely completion.
Henshaw believed the latest arrangement will solve 80 per cent of the problems confronting activities of the Commission in the Niger Delta region.
He also informed that the agency has plans to abolish the 15 per cent mobilisation fund for contractors as according to him, the practice accounted for series of abandoned projects in the area.
Under the new practice, Henshaw said projects awarded would be adequately funded and completed within 24 months.
â€œWe have decided to lay an agenda for NDDC that will enable us implement flagship legacy projects within the sub-region.
â€œWhat this means is that we will tackle very important jobs and developmental projects in the areas of road, power, health sector and the environment.
â€œ We recognize the difficulty that we confront with funding but we have been careful in trying to identify the sources of funding that will finance this yearâ€™s budget.
â€œ In addition to that we have also decided to focus more on partnerships, partnerships that will help us augment funding for the development of the sub-region.
â€œFor example, on roads, we are looking at construction companies that will co-fund major projects with us so that we can leverage on what we have in terms of the available funds and then programme such to ensure that these projects are completed in a timely and businesslike manner.
â€œWe are also exploring partnerships that will facilitate power generation because we believe that if we are able to achieve substantial increase in the provision of power, then we believe that at least 50 per cent of the unemployment problem within the region will be solvedâ€, he said.
â€œWe are also looking for partnerships for intervention in the health sector that will directly affect the health care delivery system and the efficiency within that systemâ€, he said.
Henshaw drew attention of the committee to a number of challenges that the agency was facing in the way budget was being prepared.
He said, â€œThe first and perhaps most important is the issue of provision of 15 per cent in the budget. What I mean is that if you have a project, say N2bn project that can be completed within 12 or 24 months.
â€œThe current practice is that only 15 per cent which is what is required for the advance payment is provided for in the budget. Usually what happens, is that the contractor will quickly go beyond 15 per cent value of work done within 12 months but there is no further provision in the budget to continue to pay for the work that he is doing.
â€œThe result is delay and even abandonment because after the 15 per cent, the contractor now has to wait for next yearâ€™s budget.â€
Henshaw said the implication of that was that a project that can be completed within 12 to 24 months takes up to seven years to complete because of the approach in funding that is incorporated in the budget.
He said, â€œSo we need to change our approach from now, we will look at the total sum required for the completion and we will try to provide at least one-third to ensure that throughout the year beyond the 15 per cent mobilization the contractor can continue to work and he can continue get paidâ€.
Henshaw added that funds would henceforth be diverted from low performing contractors to pay those who are fast in the execution of their contracts.
Chairman of Committee, Senator James Manager, warned that Nigeria wasÂ enjoying fragile peace in the Niger Delta region and that rapid development of the area remained the only way to forestall future crisis.
He said, â€œIf the Niger Delta region is happy, Nigeria is happy. If the Niger Delta region is unhappy, Nigeria will be unhappy. You know the reasons.
â€œI believe that every other part of Nigeria is important but if there is a problem in the area, Nigeria will be in troubleâ€, Manager warned.
Source: The GuardianÂ