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Reveal cost of Lagos-Calabar highway project, Atiku challenges Tinubu

…Umahi promises to provide cost Friday

 

President Bola Tinubu has been challenged to disclose the full cost of the Lagos-Calabar highway project.

 

In a statement signed on Tuesday in Abuja by the Special Assistant to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 general election, Atiku Abubakar, submitted that the Tinubu administration could not continue to keep silent on how much public funds would be spent on the project at a time when Nigeria was still facing dire economic challenges.

Recall, the Federal Government recently announced the start of construction on the 700km Lagos-Calabar coastal highway through the Minister of Works, David Umahi, who revealed in a statement last week by his Special Adviser on Media, Orji Uchenna, in Abuja.

However, querying the contractor, the former vice president, through his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, questioned the Tinubu administration’s decision to award the contract to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech without competitive bidding.

He also wondered why the Tinubu administration released N1.06tn for the pilot phase, or six percent of the project, which begins at Eko Atlantic and is expected to terminate at the Lekki Deep Sea Port.

The statement read in part, “The Tinubu administration cannot continue to respond to the public inquiry with insults. They must come clean on this project because Nigerians deserve to know the truth. I, therefore, present six posers to the administration.

“1. How much is the total cost of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway?

2. Why is the project being funded by the Nigerian government despite being a PPP?

3. Why is the project taking off from Chagoury’s Eko Atlantic?

4. Why is N1.06tn being spent on the pilot phase, which is just 47km?

“5. Why did the N1.06tn not get the approval of the National Assembly?

6. Why wasn’t there a competitive bidding for the project?

7. Finally, how did the Tinubu administration get the design as well as the right of way in just 7 months, since it claims the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari never touched the project?”

Atiku further charged the Tinubu administration to, in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, respond to the questions line by line instead of taking the mundane and jejune route of “insulting their way out of every inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Works, David Umahi, has said the total cost and breakdown of the ongoing Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project will be made available to the public on Friday.

In a statement signed by the minister’s Special Adviser on Media, Orji Uchenna, on Tuesday in Abuja, Umahi also explained that despite the soaring costs of materials in the construction industry due to commodity price inflation and supply chain disruptions, the ministry is committed to prudence, cost-effectiveness, promptness, and quality delivery of road projects remains unmatched.

Reacting to the issues during his inspection visit to the ongoing rehabilitation of the Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway, the works minister described the analysis made on the coastal road project figures and the economic importance of the all-important coastal highway project as a gross misrepresentation of facts, and figures and a ploy to mislead Nigerians by darkening counsel without knowledge.

Umahi said, “He (Atiku Abubakar) doesn’t understand figures. I am going to run figures for him to understand, and he will understand how prudent the administration of President Tinubu has been. He will understand how prudency is taking centre stage in this administration. The President has once queried me on the cost of ongoing projects nationwide. I had to analyse every basic rate of construction materials to arrive at our unit rates. I showed it to Mr. President. He still thinks I should bring down the cost of projects.

“At the same time, the contractors are crying that I am oppressing them so much by reviewing the costs of their projects downwards. They lamented that what they were getting before, they are no longer getting it now. They cried out. But when I run the figures, Nigerians will see what this present administration is doing.

“So, I’m not here to run the figures now. I will do that in a press conference on my visit to Lagos from April 10, 2024 to April 12, 2024.”

On the economic importance of the coastal highway, he stated, “I will tell you the economic benefits of the project and how the coastal road is tying the entire country together. It’s not tying just South-South and South-West. It is tying the North and South together. We are starting a project from Badagry to Sokoto, and we have a spur on this coastal route to that route and the African Trans Sahara Road that is passing from Enugu to Abakaliki to Ogoja to Cameroon which has a spur to the North”.

“His Excellency, former Vice President Akitu Abubakar, may not know that the third section of the project is starting in Calabar by July 2024.”

The minister further commended the pace and quality of work on the projects he visited but harped on the need for the contractors to heed the project delivery timeline.

On the progress of work at the East-West Road Section III, he said, “The reinforcement is very good, the concrete is very good, the speed is not very good, so they have to increase their speed. If RCC doesn’t increase their pace, I will take out a portion of this road and give it to another contractor. We will not want contractors to stay on a job like this 15 km dualisation for two years or more.”

The statement further added that the former Ebonyi governor also visited the construction of a 23-span flyover bridge project at Eke-Obinagu Junction (NNPC Depot), along Enugu Abakaliki Road, Enugu State handled by Reinforced Global Resources Ltd, the rehabilitation work at the collapsed bridge site at the New Artisan Bridge near NNPC mega fillings station Enugu Capital City, Enugu State handled by CCECC, the rehabilitation of Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway Section 3, Enugu- Lokpanta handled by CGC, the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway section 2 (Umuahia Tower-Aba Township Rail/ Road) in Abia State, handled by the Arab Contractors and the reconstruction of the dualized 15km section of the East-West road section III: (Eleme Junction- Onne Port in Rivers State being executed on the reinforced concrete pavement like the coastal road) handled by RCC.

The President’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, had, in a statement, told Atiku to get his facts right about the project.

“In his desperation to always want to hug the headlines as a self-appointed opposition leader, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has allowed himself to be led into a blind alley again by his poorly informed aides,” the statement read.

Onanuga said Abubakar made “false allusions” about the project in his “futile attempt to denigrate and find faults in the audacious and transformational” road construction initiative.

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