Project Inspection: Minister Momoh’s Eye-Opening Experience in Rivers and Bayelsa States
By John Mayaki
Last week, the Minister of Niger Delta Development, Hon. Engr. Abubakar Momoh, ventured into Rivers and Bayelsa States. His mission? To witness firsthand the progress of projects undertaken by his ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an interventionist agency under his jurisdiction.
The Minister, himself, bore witness to the situation and was deeply moved. He couldn’t help but grasp the extent to which the nation had been let down by those entrusted with its development and betterment. One stark manifestation of this disappointment was the East-West Road project, an enduring endeavor that has spanned an agonizing 12 years without completion. The persistent delay in this vital infrastructure project inevitably raises questions about its underlying causes. For a road project to defy the combined efforts of successive governments, including Presidents and Ministers, both within the Ministry of Works and, at times, within the Ministry of Niger Delta, where ministers from the region have held positions, is undeniably concerning.
While Minister Momoh visited the East-West Road and aptly characterized it as an “eyesore” and a “disappointment,” it is essential to recognize that this indictment extends beyond the political class and the ministers who have presided over these projects. It encompasses the bureaucracy, which includes Permanent Secretaries and Directors, some of whom are engineers.
The Minister’s journey continued with an inspection of the Okrika-Borokiri Road, an infrastructure lifeline comprising three bridges connecting numerous communities to Port Harcourt. This collaborative endeavor between the NDDC and the State Government ideally demands meticulous supervision and adherence to stringent standards. The project remains a work in progress, and Governor Sir Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State affirmed his unwavering commitment to collaborating with the NDDC to enhance the city’s accessibility upon completion.
Moving forward, Momoh ventured to the Canalization of Onopa Canal, a significant 4km project nestled within Yenagoa Local Government Area. However, it was at a housing estate project managed by the ministry that a truly startling revelation awaited him. The requirement for sand-filling at the Housing Estate project in Odi, situated in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, was baffling. The project, constructed below water level, defied conventional practices by mandating sand-filling after completion, raising numerous questions and concerns. This apparent misallocation of resources cast a shadow over the project’s execution.
The Minister’s frustration mounted as he found himself unable to access the houses due to the waterlogged nature of the area, preventing a comprehensive examination of the project’s details.
Undeterred by adverse weather conditions, the Minister pressed on to another project. He insisted on inspecting the integrated Oil Palm Processing Plant in Adagbabiri Community, even amidst heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, flooding barred his access to the project’s premises. Expressing his disappointment, he vowed that such oversights would not recur under his watch.
The Minister’s dedication to scrutinizing projects under challenging conditions underscored the gravity of these issues and highlighted the imperative need to consider environmental factors in project planning.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that Ministers who neglect project inspections and fail to ensure compliance with specifications significantly contribute to governance malaise and the deterioration in project quality. Another alarming concern resides in ministry or agency staff members who collude with contractors to compromise project standards. Furthermore, there’s a pervasive issue of abandoned government projects, often stemming from poor planning and the absence of oversight by officials who remain confined to their offices, neglecting to verify project execution.
Numerous government projects across the Niger Delta and the entire country find themselves mired in similar issues, leading to squandered funds and incomplete or abandoned projects. It is unmistakably evident that a change in attitude is an urgent requirement to facilitate the effective conduct of government business and propel the nation towards progress.
This account is a resounding call for change, primarily directed at government officials. It advocates for heightened accountability, improved project management, and a transformative approach to governance.
In the same vein, at the heart of every community lie the end users of these projects, the citizens themselves, just as Non-Governmental Organizations, with their commitment to societal welfare, further strengthen the guardianship of development projects.
Citizens and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) must rise to the challenge and serve as vigilant guardians of progress. When it comes to infrastructure endeavors like roads, housing, processing plants, among other government projects, the role of these stakeholders is paramount in ensuring project execution, maintaining quality, and monitoring projects to completion.
For sustainable development, citizens and NGOs are the threads that weave progress into reality. Their collective actions ensure that development projects are not just constructs of brick and mortar but embodiments of accountability, quality, and citizen-centricity. Together, they stand as the guardians of a brighter future, where infrastructure projects are a testament to responsible governance and the aspirations of a nation. I, therefore, urge Nigerians and NGOs to rise to the challenge – the task is not for government alone but collective responsibility.
Undoubtedly, Minister Momoh’s project inspection tour in Rivers and Bayelsa States merits commendation, particularly for his unwavering dedication and proactive stance in addressing the pressing issues plaguing Nigeria’s development projects and governance. His willingness to personally bear witness to these projects, even under adverse weather conditions, underscores his genuine concern for the nation’s progress. His commitment serves as an exemplar of the type of leadership required to effect positive change in the country’s development landscape. Minister Momoh’s endeavors are undeniably commendable, reflecting a sincere aspiration for accountability, enhanced project management, and the adoption of transformative governance practices.