Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, has expressed shock over the number of projects said to be embarked upon in the state by the Niger Delta Development Commission.
He said he was unaware of their existence.
He spoke on Friday during a courtesy visit on him at the Governor’s office in Calabar by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio as part of the minister’s tour of projects in the state.
Akpabio had listed some of the ongoing projects in the state to include “Atimbo-Akpabuyo road, Skill Training Institute at Akpabuyo, 40 housing units at Bakassi complete with internal roads and a fantastic water project, Calabar urban road projects, Akim I road project, Ogoja road projects, Ogoja water projects, Electrification project at Biakpan, ultra-modern customary court at Ibil in Ogoja, Community hall at the University of Calabar, Youth Development centre in Ogoja, Oil Palm Processing plant at Nko in Yakurr as well as an on-going procurement process for the East West Road which will terminate in Calabar.”
Reacting, Ayade said, “I am shocked when I hear you reel out all the programmes, activities and projects that you said are ongoing in Cross River State and as governor I don’t know about them. I am not aware of these projects. This is to tell you how isolated the NDDC is from the state governments.
“These projects are not known to us and in other words, I as governor under the provisions of the constitution, could deny the ministry access to my state. But because you understand the sociology of power, so you must create a new lacuna that will block off every single thing that isolates the ministry from the states.”
Ayade, however, commended the Ministry of Niger Delta for its intervention projects in the state and called for more partnerships between the NDDC and governors in the region.
He said the NDDC spends billions of naira on amnesty, adding that not a single indigene of the state ‘‘is part of it despite the fact that militants surrendered their arms.’’
Akpabio had earlier told the governor that President Buhari was not playing politics with the development of the Niger Delta region of the country.
He added that the forensic audit ordered by the president was a courageous act, saying ‘‘the government is committed to righting the wrongs in the region.’’
On the forensic audit, he said the NDDC had been what he called a cesspool of corruption over the years. He said this was known to everyone, including the workers, contractors.
The former governor of Akwa Ibom State added the agency deviated from its original mandate of ameliorating the sufferings of the people over the years.
He alleged that between 2017 and 2019, N468bn was expended on emergency jobs particularly road projects that did not have drainages; N4.3bn cash grants given to NGOs, 90 per cent of which he alleged were not registered.
The minister wondered how they (the NGOs) were able to open accounts with banks.
He assured the people of the state that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs will collaborate with the state particularly in the area of agriculture to ensure that the Niger Delta becomes the hub for the production of rice in the West African sub-region.