Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, NDDC Boss

Some of the sophisticated medical equipment ordered by the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC for the states in the region is entangled in bureaucracy bottlenecks and has not been distributed to the beneficiaries state several months after it was acquired.

The Acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, said at the weekend, however, that despite this the Commission distributed sophisticated medical equipment to Niger Delta states as part of its contributions to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pondei, however, said that 54 PCR machines and mobile x-ray were yet to be distributed because of the need to partner with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in calibrating them.

A statement signed by the commission’s Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said Pondei spoke during an audience with the leadership of the Niger Delta Youth Council (NDYC) in Port Harcourt.

Pondei explained that the COVID-19 intervention of the NDDC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic came in three parts of supply of medical equipment, provision of palliatives, and public enlightenment.

He said: “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.”

Pondei hinted that the frequent changes of management were affecting the performance of the NDDC lamenting that payment to contractors was often delayed following such changes.

“Frequent change of management cannot bring the kind of development we are looking for in the Niger Delta,” he said.

He explained that the IMC had not awarded any other contracts apart from the ones with Presidential approval.

“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”, he said.

Pondei acknowledged that the National Assembly had the constitutional right to investigate the operations of the NDDC.

A  Mechanical Ventilator

He, however, appealed to the lawmakers to also extend their oversight function to helping the NDDC get the oil companies to meet their statutory obligations to the commission.

On 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).

He explained that in 2010 the board of the NDDC decided to terminate the contract explaining that N500million was approved by the Federal Executive Council to buy off the previous contractor.

He said: “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 the 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.”