The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, says the Commission distributed sophisticated medical equipment as part of its contributions to the fight against the Corona Virus, COVID-19, pandemic.
Speaking during an audience with the leadership of the Niger Delta Youth Council at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Port Harcourt, Prof Pondei explained that the intervention of the NDDC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic came in three parts; namely: supply of medical equipment, provision of palliatives and public enlightenment.
He stated: “Before the COVID-19 lockdown, we had applied for approval through the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for COVID-19 intervention. The major part of it was medical equipment, then the second part was palliatives (food items) the third part involved publicity.
“Approval was given by the Federal Executive Council, and the approval letter asked us to inform the Federal Bureau of Public Procurement, since it was an emergency. It clearly stated in the letter to expeditiously do that at the end of all this. We have distributed the medical equipment to all the nine states in the Niger Delta region.
“The medical equipment included ventilators, mobile x-ray machines and PCR machines which are the only things that have not been distributed due to the fact that we are trying to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC to increase the testing capacity in the Niger Delta region.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the NCDC was supposed to calibrate and deploy the 54 PCR machines and mobile x-rays, which, he said were not available in many hospitals in the region.
Pondei stated that the frequent changes of management was effecting the performance of the NDDC, noting that on account of the changes, payment to contractors were often delayed even when they have achieved agreed milestones. “Frequent change of management cannot bring the kind of development we are looking for in the Niger Delta,” he said.
The NDDC boss stated that the Interim Management Committee, IMC, had not awarded any other contracts apart from the ones with Presidential approval, explaining: “What we met was historical debts. The first payments we made for contracts were the ones the National Assembly asked us to pay. And most of these debts were historic debts. We have not done any illegal payments. We have paid people who were owed.”
Pondei conceded that the National Assembly had the constitutional right to investigate the operations of the NDDC. He, however, appealed to the lawmakers to also extend their oversight function to helping the NDDC to get the oil companies to meet their statutory obligations to the Commission.
Addressing the issue of payments for the NDDC Permanent headquarters, Pondei noted that the building was started by the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, and in 2010 the board of the NDDC decided to terminate the contract. To make this possible, N500 million was approved by the Federal Executive Council to buy off the previous contractor.
He explained: “Somewhere along the line in 2016, the board of the Commission under Nsima Ekere, awarded the contract to RODNAP. I can assure you that we did not award any contract to RODNAP. We met them working there, and payments were done even before we came.
“On the issue of certificate of completion, the building is not complete. We have only moved there to fast track the work because we want that building commissioned. The President in his democracy day speech said that the NDDC building will soon be commissioned and to me, it is a charge to go and get that place ready for completion and commissioning.”
Speaking earlier, the leader of the Niger Delta Youth Council, Mr. Samuel Ebiesuwa, said that they needed clarifications on the allegations being made against the NDDC in the mass media. He said: “We have met members of the National Assembly and stakeholders in the Niger Delta, so we deem it fit to hear from the NDDC. We see the resources of the Niger Delta as our commonwealth and will not allow the NDDC to be used as conduit pipe to syphon money that belongs to the entire region.
“There is an allegation that a contract was awarded during the COVID-19 lockdown to Osmoserve Global Ltd on April 20, 2020, for the emergency supply and deliver of medical equipment to the tune of N729, 203,137.50. We want to get NDDC’s response to this and other allegations.”