By Mike Odiegwu
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Umana Umana has ordered the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to resume the commission’s scholarship scheme suspended some years ago.
It was gathered that Umana gave the directive during a two-day retreat for senior staff of the NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry, which ended in Abuja at the weekend.
An official of the ministry, who spoke in confidence, said Umana vehemently kicked against suggestions to scrap the scheme and insisted that it would be sustained, expanded and reviewed to eliminate all forms of corruption in the system.
The source said Umana wanted a scholarship scheme that would be home driven with a special focus on Nigerian universities.
“The idea is to retain the scheme and make it home-based instead of the usual practice of sending beneficiaries abroad to study courses offered in Nigerian universities.
“Foreign scholarship scheme will not be totally removed. But it will be de-emphasised. Niger Delta students will no longer be sent abroad to study courses offered in Nigerian universities.
“The commission can only sponsor interested scholars overseas
to study only special courses that are not found in our universities. Therefore, Umana has ordered the commission to review and relaunch the scholarship scheme.”
The source said other far-reaching decisions were taken at the retreat to reposition the NDDC in harmony with the recommendations of the forensic audit report.
He said it was resolved that NDDC would henceforth streamline its projects against the current practice of awarding many jobs in one fiscal year.
“Henceforth, the NDDC will work closely with the National Assembly to ensure that projects are streamlined. Projects that had been completed would be inaugurated and the commission will also stop issuing emergency contracts”, he said.
He said there was also hope for the contractors, who had finished their jobs but had yet to receive their money as a decision was reached that the commission should focus on clearing its debts.
The source said: “It was also agreed the NDDC should cancel all projects that had been awarded but the contractors refused to mobilise to their sites. The money for such projects will now be used to complete other abandoned projects.
“The forensic audit report is being implemented in phases. The area that concerned the National Assembly had been sent to the lawmakers. The areas that concern the anti-graft agency have also been directed to them.
“A staff audit has also been ordered to ensure proper placement of workers and retirement of those directors due for retirement. The Niger Delta stakeholders should expect a new NDDC that responds to their yearnings under the current minister”, he said.