From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that, henceforth, fraudulent practices and violations of the procurement laws will be met with appropriate sanctions as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act.

This was even as the president mandated the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Olufunso Adebiyi, to carry out a comprehensive staff audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to ensure that the right staffing and proper placement are achieved.

Buhari gave the warning at the opening ceremony of the management retreat organised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for its directorate staff and those of the NDDC.

Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, said the expanded retreat, which has the governors of oil-producing states, chairmen of the relevant committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives, oil companies, ministries, departments and agencies in attendance, was a veritable platform to take major decisions towards effective collaboration to derive value for money in the developmental initiatives by all these stakeholders in the Niger Delta region.

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“It is imperative to state that this retreat could not have come at a better time, post Forensic Audit of the NDDC, when all efforts are on board to reposition the commission for better service delivery in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Rules, the Financial Regulations and the Public Procurement Act.

“Accordingly, I would like to reiterate that, henceforth, fraudulent practices and violation of the procurement laws will be meted with appropriate sanctions as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act,” Buhari said.

Buhari further said he believed that the forum will address issues that will enhance effective synergy between the Ministry and the NDDC, which is expected to translate into improved development of the Niger Delta Region.

“It is pertinent to emphasize that the NDDC at the point of the establishment was placed under the supervision and control of the Presidency (Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation) because, as at that time, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was not in existence. Accordingly, when the Ministry was established, it became expedient at some point in the life of this administration to reposition NDDC appropriately to function effectively, with adequate supervision and control under the Ministry.

“The essence of this retreat is to sensitize and educate the Management of the Ministry and NDDC on how to function collaboratively to achieve their respective mandates targeted at improving the living conditions of the Niger Deltans. This has to be done with regard to the established guidelines on the relationship of ministries and agencies/parastatals in order to work harmoniously towards effective service delivery for the people of Niger Delta. Today’s gathering provides a unique opportunity to correct whatever irregularities that existed in the past and thereby attain an effective and prosperous working relationship. I enjoin all of you to take advantage of this unusual opportunity of this expanded gathering for the best interest of the region, and the nation at large.

“Undoubtedly, the Federal Government has made huge commitments to the Niger Delta Region in furtherance of its desire to give the people a new lease of life. This Administration has been proactive in response to issues of the Region, we are adopting and implementing more prudent policies and programmes that will bring about a better Niger Delta Region.

“It is gladdening to note that, the Ministry has prioritised the repositioning of the NDDC to ensure they deliver on their objectives and mandate. This is evidenced by its efforts that led to the completion and commissioning of the Commission’s Headquarter Building Complex in March 2021, providing the Commission with a conducive base to operate.

“In pursuance of our determination to curb corruption and in response to the call of the Governors of South-South for a Forensic Audit of NDDC, I undertook some critical reforms and requested a Forensic Audit of NDDC from inception to 2019. The Report of the Audit has been submitted and implementation of its recommendations has commenced in phases. This process will soon usher in a new Management and Board for the Commission.

“It is important to state that, the Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP), a framework that focuses on the strategic objectives raised in the Federal Government’s 20-point Agenda and the Pan Niger Delta Forum’s (PANDEF) 16-point Agenda will be strengthened to provide the strategic framework for the coordination of development initiatives in the Niger Delta Region to achieve maximum impact at this critical time.

“Furthermore, to strengthen the internal structure of the NDDC, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is hereby mandated to carry out a comprehensive Staff Audit of the Commission, ensuring that, Right Staffing and Proper Placement is achieved,” the president directed.

Buhari also noted that the Ministry has prioritised the implementation of the Harmonisation of all Developmental Plans of all Agencies and Development Partners operating in the Niger Delta Region into a Single Integrated Regional Development Plan, as a roadmap to accelerated development of the Region.

“Work is already at an advanced stage toward its completion. I urge the Ministry to fast-track the completion of this harmonisation in order to provide a good strategy on which to function in the course of the development of the region.

“These efforts are geared towards repositioning the Commission for optimal performance in the provision of the needed Infrastructural and Socio-Economic development for the people of the Niger Delta Region. Accordingly, I urge all well-meaning Nigerians, especially the Niger Deltans, to exercise restraint and ensure a conducive and secured environment for the implementation of the several developmental Projects and Programmes in the Region.

“The ongoing East-West Road Project is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Nigeria, and it is very strategic, connecting the Country’s busiest and foremost Commercial Cities, in the Region. Its completion is a priority to this Administration and this, I assure you will be completed before the end of this Administration. Accordingly, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited and its subsidiaries should step in, to fix Section 4 of the East-West Road (Eleme Roundabout to Onne junction) through the Tax credit Scheme. This should be expeditiously addressed considering the importance of the road to our national economy,” Buhari stated.

Earlier, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, said the retreat was an eloquent testimony of the unflinching commitment of the Federal Government to redressing the underdevelopment, unemployment and inequalities pervasive in the region due to the lack of collaboration, synergy and coordination among the agencies, development partners and stakeholders participating in the development and transformation of the Niger Delta Region.

Umana stated that his vision is to utilize the few months left in the life of the current administration to make a huge impact on the development of the Niger Delta Region, hence his desire that the Ministry and NDDC are able to robustly collaborate and synergize with a view to bequeathing a more prosperous Niger Delta Region.

“This Retreat is aimed at fostering better understanding, synergy and collaboration between the Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). At the end of this Retreat, it is my hope that the Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) shall come out better positioned to work harmoniously to drive the Federal Government’s strategic mandates in the region through the formulation, implementation and coordination of all policies and programmes geared towards the overall rapid and sustainable development of the region.

“There is an urgent need to constantly adapt to new strategies to help President Muhammadu Buhari reposition the Niger Delta Development Commission to achieve the desired objectives of his administration for the Region. This entails shifting our approaches; modifying our institutions and systems to deliver better infrastructural and socio-economic development for the good people of the Niger Delta Region,” Umana said.

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Source: news