Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, said on Thursday that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is on life support due to a massive debt owed to the commission by international oil companies operating in the region.
While speaking with media in Abuja shortly after receiving the Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Tijani Muhammad-Bande, in his office, Akpabio stated that the Commission can hardly pay staff wages with the money it receives monthly due to the debt.
He estimated that the exploration firms owe the NDDC a total of $5.6 billion and N649 billion in debt.
However, the minister revealed that the Federal Government has already established a committee led by the Minister of Finance to collect the funds.
According to him, “As I speak now, the federal government has set up a committee headed by the Minister of Finance to recover monies that were owed to the NDDC, and at the last count, about $5.6 billion and about N649 billion are monies owed to the NDDC by oil companies.
“So the NDDC itself is on life support because what they get on a monthly basis is just enough to pay their salaries and maintain their offices but people are not aware”.
Senator Akpabio, who received Muhammad-Bande, said President Muhammadu Buhari will commission a 1050-bed dormitory in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, by December 30th of this year.
He also stated that the President is anticipated to commission a new 132kv substation in Ondo state, which would provide power to about five local governments that have been without power for the past 14 years.
“On the 30th of this month, the President will commission one out of numerous hostels that we are building through the NDDC and donated to the Nigerian students, one of them is a 1050 bed hostel out of which 50 units will be for students living with disabilities.
“That has been completed with 24,000 gallons of water per day, two standby 1200kva generating sets, and 5000 vehicular space for parking and amazing for both boys and girls that have been completed.
“So, on 30th of this month, we will be at the University of Uyo for the commissioning of the project by Mr President.
“Immediately after that, by January, we should be going to Ondo to commission a 132kva substation that will supply power to about 5 local governments in the state, and unfortunately, that 5 local governments have been in darkness for 14 years”, he said.
The Minister went on to say that several projects in the Niger Delta area have been finished, while others are still in the works, such as the East-West Road, which is slated to be completed by the end of next year.
“We have completed many projects also, the East-West road is on-going with about 41 bridges and we have moved it from 76 per cent complete that we met on ground to over 82 per cent as I speak now, and I believe that sections 1-4 which is a distance of 338km will be commissioned by Mr President by the End of Next year.
“So, a lot of changes are taking place in the region outside human capital development, we are also involved in skills acquisition, we have built skills acquisition centres in all the 9 states of the Niger Delta, and many of them have been completed”, he said.
Sen. Akpabio went on to say that the Federal Government is cleaning up Ogoni with the help of the IOCs and the international community and that he has asked the UN to intervene in other regions of the region where oil exploration has resulted in oil spills.
Prof. Tijjani Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, remarked in his statement that Nigeria is a great country and that what occurs in the Niger Delta area reflects what occurs throughout the country.
He stated that regional concerns are critical and that the region should be given proper health facilities, schools, and youth empowerment programs, as well as environmental damage caused by oil drilling.
He emphasized that empowering teenagers is part of long-term planning since it offers them hope and reduces insecurity.