Considering its pre-eminent status as the highest oil-producing state in the country, Akwa Ibom State, many think would have been spared the menace of abandoned Federal Government projects, but that is not the case.
In fact, matters are made worse by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has become the main culprit in the large-scale abandonment of projects across the state, one of them being the multi-million naira rice processing plant in Mbiabet-Ikpe.
Only recently, the commission’s claim to successfully completing several projects in many communities across the state was promptly punctured by the state government, a number of non-governmental groups, and a cross section of the citizens.
Curiously, some of the projects the commission laid claims to were either shabbily done hence substandard, or were abandoned, while some were mere phanthoms. The condemnation by the state government and others, which was in the wake of the publication in some national dailies by the commission, of a list of projects purportedly executed in the state, also succeeded in causing a rift between supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
The state Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, who made the state’s position known, expressed concern that apart from some of the commission’s projects being substandard, roads, executed by the state government were appropriated by the commission.
Consequently, the state government also went ahead with a counter publication as a way of setting the record straight concerning the state of NDDC projects, pointing out that even some projects listed by the agency as being completed were, in actual fact, abandoned.
Some of such are the 600-metre Nnung Ukim Road in Ikono Local Council; Ukpana-Akpabom-Ikwe Road in Onna, an embankment by one of the bridges in Eket-Ibeno – Ikot Akpatek Road; a bridge at Onna and a female hostel at the permanent site of the University of Uyo, just to mention a few.
Some projects completed by the state government, which NDDC claimed include, the Idiaba Nda Nsit-Nnung Udoe road linking Nsit Atai, Ibesikpo Local Council; 14 kilometre Ikpe Ikot Nkon-Obotme-Arochukwu road and Mkpok-Okat road in Onna.
Shortly after the state government kicked, a group, Akwa Ibom Integrity Group, in a statement, not only corroborated the state government’s claim, but also published over 300 projects abandoned at different stages.
Led by Chief Okon Jim, the group alleged that the commission abandoned a total of 121 rural roads, 75 classroom blocks, 69 rural water schemes, 43 mini-electrification projects among others across the state.
On a visit to the state last month, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, who faulted the evaluation of projects done by the commission, however, reassured the government and people of the state that every abandoned project would be looked into for appropriate action.
A senior lecturer in the University of Uyo, Dr. Aniekan Brown, is of the view that slow release of funds to the commission plays a key role in the abundance of abandoned projects in the state.
According to him, “The much I know is that some projects are abandoned for several reasons, particularly lack of funds. So, if budgetary allocation to NDDC is not released to a ‘pass mark level,’ it is bound to take its toll on projects handled by the commission.
“For me, I would have thought once you propose a budget for the commission, funds should be released on time so that the projects are carried out. Having said that, let me add that when NDDC abandons a project, it is not necessarily because they don’t have the interest in the project anymore, or they lack the capacity to continue with such project,” he said.
He said the establishment of the commission has contributed its quota to the development of the region, especially in the areas of intervening in universities, roads and others.
For one-time Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Uyo Branch, Ekanem Ekanem, the issue of abandoned projects remains an albatross that the commission will have to grapple with for a long time.
He stressed that any project not completed amounts to money wasted, as the people do not derive the benefits for which such projects were meant to give.“The (NDDC) has not lived up to expectations when it comes to timely completion of projects and this is not good enough. If a project is not completed, its aim has not been achieved.”
State chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Clifford Thomas, on his part regretted the commission’s inability to put the rice processing mill to good use, even though he lauded its decision to establish the plant.
According to him, the decision to look beyond road construction and rehabilitation was a right step in the right direction.“If we understand the initial reason why the NDDC went into this project (whether the intention was good or not), we would know that food sufficiency is one of the indicators of national power because if a nation cannot feed its people, it is not fit to be so called.
“So, if NDDC as a development agency with interventionist propensity chooses to run a farm, I think it is a good thing, but we must look into
the whole package, so that it dose not become a white elephant project.