A forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has uncovered an abandoned N70 million per unit cottage hospital project undertaken by the interventionist agency over ten years ago across the Niger Delta.
LEADERSHIP revealed that several years ago, the NDDC awarded a contract for the construction of cottage hospitals to check disese prevalence and high mortality rate in oil-producing Niger Delta communities.
The NDDC has so far received about N1.534 trillion since its inception in 2001 to execute infrastructural and development projects in the oil producing states, but there is little to show for all the money disbursed to the agency.
The abandonment of the cottage hospitals project undertaken by the NDDC came to the fore shortly after the inauguration and subsequent deployment of field forensic auditors to the nine states of the NDDC to ascertain the status of all NDDC projects.
The project verification exercise by field forensic auditors is a crucial phase of the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC.
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, whose ministry supervises the commission, raised the alarm in 2019 that about 12,000 projects were abandoned in the region by the interventionist agency.
LEADERSHIP further revealed that despite the fact that the NDDC had received funds , complaints of abandoned and substandard projects still echo in the region.
Observers and members of benefiting communities have, however, concluded that the fact that it took 25 years under 17 chief executive officers/managing directors CEOs/MDs for the N16 billion thirteen floor twin tower headquarter building of the commission to be completed underscores it failure as several abandoned projects initiated by it are spread across communities in the nine oil-producing states.
Between 2007 and 2011, the commission received N593.961 billion. It spent N459.237 billion on recurrent and capital-related projects.
According to a report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), N36.2 billion worth of contracts was released for a total 95 contracts between 2007 – 2011 in Imo State alone. Of the 95 projects, the NEITI document revealed that only 14 of those projects were completed while the remaining 81 projects are either abandoned or ongoing.
Further investigation reveals that while most of the cottage hospitals have been built, they have not yet been equipped to become functional. It was further gathered that most of the projects were stalled by several factors ranging from delayed payment of contract sum to contractors and lack of proper needs reassessment at the time of the award of the projects.
Unfortunately, the cottage hospitals built to provide primary healthcare services to most communities across the Niger Delta now serve sundry needs that were never contemplated by the NDDC.
In Tai local government area of Rivers State, a cottage hospital built by the NDDC has been turned into a poultry farm while another of its kind built at Isoko South LGA of Delta State has been taken over by weeds and reptiles. The story is the same in Sagbama LGA in Bayelsa State where the projects site is presently occupied by internally displaced persons and hoodlums.
Mr Ekenwa Akubo, a resident of Sagbama, explained that the contractor of the building completed it but it was not taken over, nor commissioned by the NDDC. Consequently, people moved into the building particularly because of a flood disaster.
When our correspondent visited the cottage hospital projects in Imo, cited in Oguama community in Ahiazu-Mbaise local government area , she observed that the project was in a horrible state.
A respondent, Mr Ikechukwu Chimmakpa said, ‘” As you can see, the supposed health centre provided by the NDDC in the community has been taken over by hedges as tall as the lintel of the building. The walls, blackened, are covered with the luscious green of spirogyra.
‘’In 2014, the commission began the construction of a ‘Comprehensive Health Centre’, which was awarded for N70 million. The project, which had a 12-month duration for completion, was abandoned at the lintel level,” he explained.
“There is no other health centre in the community,” said Gilbert Okpara, the traditional ruler of Oguama community. ‘’We go to private hospitals or travel to FMC (Federal Medical Centre), Owerri, for medical attention.”
Jesse Ajaonu, the spokesperson of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, said many of the brought-in-dead (BID) cases in the hospital are due to inadequate health facilities in rural communities.
“Because of the distance of bringing victims from the village, we have several cases of BID-(brought-in-dead). These issues could have been taken care of in their rural areas,” he said.
She said the FMC is the only fully functional government hospital in the state, hence , the large influx of people from rural communities.
When our correspondent visited the NDDC office yesterday morning in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, to confirm the claim of the forensic auditors, a security personnel, who refused him entry, claimed that top management officers of the commission were not on ground to give the needed information.
In Mkpat Enin local government area of Akwa Ibom State, the cottage hospital which has now been taken over by tall grasses, weeds and even rodents was said to have been abandoned by the contractor.
When our correspondent visited the NDDC office at Ewet Housing Estate in Uyo, no official was ready to speak on the state of the projects.
Efforts to get the director, Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Dr. Ibitoye Abosade, to speak on the state of the cottage hospital in Tai local government area of Rivers State was fruitless as his two phone lines were switched off.
But a senior staff member of the Commission who pleaded for anonymity told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the hospital project was completed in 2012 but has been illegally occupied by a prominent politician from the area.
A worker at the commission in Benin City, Edo State, Mrs Mary Nweke, when contacted on telephone, said she was not in the position to speak on the matter. She, however, promised to send the contact to the directorate of Corporate Affairs.
“You know we are government agency and we have people who can make statements on behalf of the agency. NDDC is more centralised at the headquarters,” she said.
The ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019 to identify factors militating against the efficient running and effective service delivery by the NDDC as well as to strengthen it to begin to deliver on its mandate as an intervention agency.
Although the audit exercise met initial challenges of documentation and budget releases, it is now at its conclusion stage.
According to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, which supervises the NDDC, the final report on forensic audit will be submitted to the president sometime in July this year.
Upon receiving the final report of the audit, the president is expected to constitute and inaugurate a board with the mandate to bring about a paradigm shift in piloting the affairs of the NDDC.
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