Nigerian Community Suffers As Contractor Abandons 1.1 Billion Naira NDDC Road Project In Abia After Payment Since 2016

Nigerian Community Suffers As Contractor Abandons 1.1 Billion Naira NDDC Road Project In Abia After Payment Since 2016

Emeka (not real name) had taken his wife to the health centre in Umuoyoro-Ngwa community that fateful evening. She had fallen into labour and like every other woman in the community, the health centre was the only place to go. He had prepared to welcome a baby but had not planned for what would happen next.

His wife did deliver a baby girl but then developed complications and had to be transferred to a bigger hospital on another side of town. He would have done that but the road to the community cannot be assessed at that time of the night so, he had to wait till morning to find a way to get her into town. Sadly, his wife could not wait that long. She passed leaving her new baby and husband behind.

Emeka’s encounter is one of the horror stories of the people of Umuoyoro Ngwa community in the Osisioma Ngwa local government area in Abia State. According to a native, Hon. Prince Chukwuemeka Izimah, the largely agrarian community needs a road to connect it to markets for its produce but since 2013, after several promises and appropriation, it endures disconnection from other parts.

“Our children cannot go to school outside the community; our traders find it difficult to go to the market, our farmers cannot get their produce to the market. We are the worst hit of this project and we need urgent intervention,” said the former Leader of Osisioma Ngwa LGA Legislative Council.

The abandoned road project

After three years of dilly-dallying, the Niger Delta Development Commission appropriated for the construction of the road linking Omuma, Umuoyoro Ngwa and Mbutu Umuojima in 2016. According to the NDDC appropriation act for 2016, the road construction of Umuojima- Omuma Link Road project between Abia State and Rivers State spans about 41 kilometres and would cost N1.16 billion.

The road is expected to extend from Umuojima Ogbu in Abia State, passing through Umuojima Okereke, Umuoyoro Ngwa, Amaoji in Rivers State and crisscross through Umuonyia, Omuma LGA in Rivers State back to Amapu-ife to Abayi-Ariaria/Faulks Road in Abia State.

The project (marked in yellow) appeared clearly on number 212 on the list of projects marked by the NDDC in 2016.

The contract had been awarded to a company named El Badu and Associates listed as a private company based in Port Harcourt without any known sector.

“The road project has been abandoned to date, meaning that the contractor ate (embezzled) the money. I wish the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission) and EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) can fish out the perpetrators of this evil act on the people of the area,” said Kingsley Izimah, another native of Umuoyoro-Ngwa community.

Since 2016, Izimah, a lawyer, had sent several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the NDDC to explain why the road project and other projects in the area were abandoned by the contractors after payment to which they responded that the commission does not have budgetary allocations.

Response to the first FOI request in 2016.

He sent another letter in February 2019 but did not get any response. The ensuing court summons had also been sent to the commission and the supervising Ministry of the Niger Delta to which none got a response.

Court summons since April 2021

In July 2020, the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio accused the legislators of being part of the corruption in the NDDC. During an Investigative hearing at the National Assembly, Akpabio said the legislators were responsible for 60% of NDDC contracts. Although he later recanted, the message is not lost on Nigerians.

The only hope for Umuoyoro-Ngwa to get the project completed is through,

Honourable Solomon Ezinwa Adaelu, Deputy Chairman House Committee on ICT and member representing Obingwa/Osisioma/Ugwunagbor federal constituency. Despite several overtures, nothing has been done. Interestingly, citizen engagement platform Tracka reached out to him in July to explain N199m constituency projects which had not been done even though 50% of the funds had been released to the MDAs.

Since its formation, the Niger Delta Development Commission has been embroiled in several controversies. Over N6trn has been invested to help improve the environmental and living conditions in the states that make up the oil-rich Niger Delta.

“The NDDC is riddled with massive corruption and has fleeced this country of billions of Naira. Almost all the time monies allocated for projects find their way into private pockets and no one ever gets prosecuted,” says Botti Isaac, Programs Manager, Social Development Integrated Centre.

Social Action is a civil rights organisation monitoring NDDC projects. In its 2022 report titled Ponds of Crocodiles, the group revealed massive corruption and the failure of the federal agency to deliver on its mandate.

The report which focused on monitoring NDDC 2019-approved projects in 5 states revealed that 22% of the tracked projects are abandoned, while over 47% are non-existent. So far, the NDDC is only able to complete 26% of its projects while 4% are ongoing.

“A lot of sanity is required in the commission. The internal audit report needs to be acted upon and all indicted officials should be made to face the law,” Botti claimed.

Efforts to reach the NDDC and the supervising Ministry of Niger Delta have proved abortive thus far. Amidst the calls to sanitise the commission, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari sacked the NDDC Chairman on October 20th, 2022. As the 2023 election approaches, it remains to be seen what other steps will be taken to ensure the people of Umuoyoro-Ngwa and its environs get the development they need to improve their lives.

“These politicians have fooled us for quite a long time, the day of reckoning is here for them to give an account of their stewardship. They are heartless and should not be spared at all. Not even for a moment, especially with forthcoming elections,” stated Izimah.

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