The Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has hit hard on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, accusing it of poor job execution, project abandonment and distortion of the state development plan.
But the commission fired back immediately, saying Mr. Emmanuel was playing politics with serious development issues.
“We hear that NDDC is planning to open more roads (in the state). If they do that we would resist it because that would distort our development plan,” a statement issued by the Akwa Ibom Government House quoted Governor Emmanuel to have said.
The statement was widely circulated on Facebook by the governor’s media aides and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was also shared on Twitter through the governor’s handle @MrUdomEmmanuel.
Mr. Emmanuel, according to the statement, said Akwa Ibom State already has a structure and system that was “running” and that NDDC should “come under that structure so that we can anchor development together”.
He said state governors across the Niger Delta region were getting worried that NDDC was muddling up things in the various states.
“In Akwa Ibom State, for instance, we have over 100 project interventions at various levels that have not been completed by NDDC,” Mr. Emmanuel said. “Some of them are 400 meters, 500 meters and very few are up to five kilometers of roads.
“They just execute the earth works with no drainage and the roads are not completed but left (to cause) untold hardship on the people.
“So we are calling on the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government to prevail on the federal agencies and commissions to sit with the state government and plan how to utilize the money in line with the development vision of each state.”
Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of NDDC, is from Akwa Ibom.
The director, commercial and industrial development in NDDC, Anietie Usen, told PREMIUM TIMES the commission was being attacked by Mr. Emmanuel because of the rumoured 2019 governorship ambition of Mr. Ekere, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“I call it Ekerephobia,” Mr. Usen said. “This is sad. This is unthinkable, for a governor to say that he would resist NDDC. You want to resist development?”
Mr. Usen, who was a former director of Corporate Affairs in NDDC, said the commission had a platform called Partners for Sustainable Development where the states within the Niger Delta, alongside other parties like the International Oil Companies, traditional rulers, the youth, and NGOs, meet to harmonise their programmes.
The previous administrations in Akwa Ibom used to send in people to represent the government at the NDDC’s meeting with its partners, Mr. Usen said.
“If the governor does not have the structure to interface with NDDC, he can’t blame anybody for that.”
Mr. Usen, in addition, said that NDDC projects were selected through bottom-top approach – the communities select the projects they want and then forward it to the commission.
“To start with, NDDC has been run by another party for 16 years,” Mr. Usen had said two weeks ago during a radio interview with Inspiration FM, Uyo.
“As a matter of fact, that same party is running Akwa Ibom State for 18 years now. Obong Nsima Ekere has just been the MD of NDDC for six months. So, assuming there is so much problem in NDDC you cannot put it on the head of an MD that has been here for just six months.”
Samuel Eka, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Emmanuel on NDDC Matters, admitted to PREMIUM TIMES the existence of the NDDC’s Partners for Sustainable Development that Mr. Usen talked about but said that for more than one year now NDDC has not invited him to attend any meeting.
Mr. Eka said he was currently pushing for a joint meeting between the state government project team and the Commissioner representing Akwa Ibom on the NDDC board, Samuel Frank.
“Arising from there, maybe we could do a joint inspection of the projects on the ground. When we get there we can sort things out,” he said.
The NDDC director, Mr. Usen, had mentioned the Niger Delta Youth Movement, NDYM, as being among the organisations that attend the NDDC’s partners meeting. But the president of the youth group, Joe Jackson, told PREMIUM TIMES that they have not been invited to attend any meeting with the commission since Mr. Ekere became the MD.
Mr. Jackson, who is from Akwa Ibom, said NDYM and other youth groups have been kept in the dark about NDDC programmes and projects since the current NDDC leadership assumed office.
By Monday, while the bickering between the state government and the NDDC was still a hot topic around the state, Governor Emmanuel tried to douse tension by toning down his remarks.
At an event to inaugurate a health centre privately built by a non-governmental organisation and donated to a community in Onna, Mr. Emmanuel’s hometown, the governor talked about partnering with the commission to bring life-touching projects to the state.
The Akwa Ibom representative on the NDDC board, Mr. Frank, was present at the event as a representative of the Chairman of the NDDC board, Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Governor Emmanuel was said to have jokingly tell Mr. Frank, “tell NDDC to bring money, we need money to develop the state”.
Mr. Frank, in an interview later with PREMIUM TIMES disputed the governor’s claim that NDDC has been doing a poor job in the state. “I think people should try and appreciate what we (in NDDC) are doing,” he said. “We are only complementing what the state government is doing.”
The relationship between the Akwa Ibom State government and the NDDC is at its lowest ebb since the commission was established 17 years ago by President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to speed up development in the Niger Delta.
Many people see the problem here as being mostly political especially since this is the first time the leaders of the commission are of a different political party, other than the PDP.
The PDP supporters in the state are accusing Mr. Ekere of refusing to pay a visit to Governor Emmanuel since he (Mr. Ekere) was appointed NDDC MD.
The NNDC director, Mr. Usen, said such accusation was a complete falsehood.
“Obong Nsima Ekere has been exchanging text messages with the governor, even as at last week, asking the governor to give him appointment so he could visit the governor,” Mr. Usen told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday. “The governor said his diary for the month of June was completely filled up, that they could look forward to July.”
The Akwa Ibom representative in NDDC, Mr. Frank, corroborated Mr. Usen’s claim.
“I have called the governor twice, he didn’t pick my calls. I have been to his office without being able to see him. I have also met with the governor’s private secretary over this issue,” Mr. Frank told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday.
“When we were working on the NDDC budget, I tried to meet with the governor so that we could have an input from the state government, but I couldn’t have access to him.
“Even today, the MD (Nsima Ekere) told me I should try and meet with him so that NDDC could pay him a visit.”