FG replies Atiku, promises to disclose details of Lagos-Calabar highway project

In a bid to address concerns raised by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the Federal Government has promised to disclose to the public the total cost and breakdown of the ongoing Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project on Friday.

The Minister of Works, David Umahi, said this in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Orji Uchenna, on Tuesday in Abuja, explaining 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.

The minister’s assurance comes against the backdrop of serious contentions in recent days over the costs and bidding process of the 700km coastal highway project

Atiku, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had on Tuesday challenged President Bola Tinubu to disclose the complete expenses associated with the project.

The former Vice President said the Tinubu administration cannot 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.

Atiku, through his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, questioned the Tinubu administration’s decision to award the contract to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech without a competitive bidding.

He had also wondered why the Tinubu administration released N1.06tn for the pilot phase or 6% of the project, which begins at Eko Atlantic and is expected to terminate at the Lekki Deep Sea Port.

Atiku questioned how the administration got the design and the right of way in seven months, since it claimed the past administrations of Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari never touched the project.

The minister who responded in a statement described Atiku’s analysis as a “gross misrepresentation of facts, and figures and a ploy to mislead Nigerians by darkening counsel without knowledge”.

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“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 on-going 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 10th April 2024 to 12th April 2024,” the minister was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesman, Uchenna Orji.

On the economic importance of the coastal highway, Umahi said: “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.”

Also, presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement, said Atiku “made false allusions, in his futile attempt, to denigrate and find faults in the audacious and transformational Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway project, which was recently inaugurated as one of the signature projects of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration.”

“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.

“Contrary to the claims in Atiku’s endorsed press statement, at no time did the administrations of former Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan award contracts for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway to any company at any varied and revised amount. So the question of costs comparison does not arise.

“The contract that was awarded was that of Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail. The rail was designed as part of the standard guage national rail network. The contract was awarded on August 4, 2021 by the Federal Executive Council presided over by former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN at the cost of $11.17billion. The contract was to be completed in six years. The project didn’t take off.

“The Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail project has always been on the card. It was another testament of the failure of the previous PDP-led government that it could not get it off the ground in 16 years it held sway.

“The Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway and Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail are two distinct projects. It is unfortunate that the former Vice President is confused about the two projects.

“President Tinubu should be praised for having the courage to embark on this transformative project and not vilified as Atiku Abubakar unsuccessfully sought to do.”

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