Atiku Doubles Down on Lagos-Calabar Highway Project, Wants Tinubu to Reveal Cost

•Queries how administration got the design, right of way in 7 months 

•Umahi: former VP doesn’t understand figures, misrepresenting facts

Chuks Okocha, Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Blessing Ibunge in Part Harcourt

The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, doubled down on his criticism of the Lagos-Calabar coastal road project yesterday, as he challenged President Bola Tinubu to disclose the full cost of the highway project.

Atiku, in a statement, maintained that the Tinubu administration could not continue to keep silent on how much of public funds would be spent on the project at a time Nigeria was still facing dire economic challenges.

However, Minister of Works, David Umahi, yesterday, took a swipe at Atiku, accusing him of not understanding the figures attached to the 700-kilometre Lagos-Calabar coastal highway before his criticism of the project.

The former vice president had through his media adviser, Paul Ibe, questioned the Tinubu administration’s decision to award the coastal road contract to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech without competitive bidding.

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

However, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, had in response said Atiku allowed himself to be led into a blind alley by his “poorly informed aides” in his desperation to make the headlines.

Onanuga said contrary to Atiku’s suggestions, the coastal road project had been praised for how it would improve the quality of life of Nigerians and the economy of the nine coastal states it will pass through, particularly in the areas of agriculture and tourism.

Onanuga had alleged, “Seeking to be a kill-joy, Atiku Abubakar engaged in red-herring by raising ill-thought-out allegations that only exposed his inadequacies and those of his team in getting the basic facts on an issue he badly seeks to nail the government.”

But the latest statement by Atiku read in part, “The Tinubu administration cannot continue to respond to 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.

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

“Why is the project being funded by the Nigerian government despite being a PPP? Why is the project taking off from Chagoury’s Eko Atlantic?

“Why is N1.06 trillion being spent on the pilot phase, which is just 47 kilometres?

“Why did the N1.06 trillion not get the approval of the National Assembly? Why wasn’t there a competitive bidding for the project?

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

Atiku asked 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 route of “insulting their way out of every inquiry”.

Atiku Doesn’t Understand Figures, Misrepresenting Facts, Says Umahi

Umahi, yesterday took a swipe at Atiku, accusing him of not understanding the figures attached to the 700km Lagos-Calabar coastal highway before his criticism of the project.

In a statement signed by his spokesman, Uchenna Orji, Umahi said despite the skyrocketing cost of materials in the construction industry caused by the dynamics of inflation and supply chain disruptions, the current government had remained “unmatched” in prudence, cost effectiveness, speedy and quality delivery of road projects.

According to the release, Umahi made the comment during his inspection visit to the ongoing rehabilitation of Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway, section 4, handled by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd (CCECC).

The minister described the analysis Atiku made on the coastal road project figures and the economic importance of the coastal highway project as gross misrepresentation of facts, and figures and a ploy to mislead Nigerians by “darkening” counsel without knowledge.

Umahi alleged regarding Atiku, “He 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 the 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 were 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, Umahi stated. that the coastal road ‘is tying the entire country together’, and not just South-south and South- west”.

The minister explained that the federal government was starting a project from Badagry to Sokoto, and had a spur on the coastal route to the planned route and to the African Trans Sahara Road that is passing from Enugu to Abakaliki to Ogoja to Cameroon which has a spur to the North.

“The former vice president may not know that the third section of the project is starting in Calabar by July 2024,” he added.

Umahi 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 Limited as well as the rehabilitation work at the collapsed bridge site at the New Artisan Bridge near NNPC mega fillings station  by CCECC.

Also toured were the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway Section 3, Enugu- Lokpanta handled by CGC and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway section 2 (Umuahia Tower-Aba Township Rail/ Road) in Abia State, handled by Arab Contractors.

He also visited the reconstruction of the dualised 15km section of the East-West road section III: (Eleme Junction- Onne Port in Rivers State being executed on reinforced concrete pavement like the coastal road) handled by RCC.

The minister said the administration of Tinubu was committed to a diversified and sustainable economic future of Nigeria, and this he was doing in the works sector through aggressive  infrastructure  development.

He added that this would provide access to trade, tourism, industrialisation and safety, especially along the local economic corridors.

He commended the pace and quality of work on the projects he visited but harped on the need for the contractors to stick to the project delivery timelines.

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