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Atiku lambasts Tinubu over Lagos-Calabar highway project

....says contract details shrouded in secrecy

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Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election, has berated president Bola Tinubu for re-awarding the 700km Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project to Hitech Construction Company Limited without any record of competitive bidding.

Hitech Construction Company Limited belongs to President Tinubu’s strong ally, Mr Gibert Chagoury, a Nigerian-Lebanese developer.

The former Vice president in a statement signed by his spokesman, Mr Paul Ibe, alleged that the award was shrouded in secrecy as the Minister of Works, Engineer Dave Umahi has refused to reveal the contractual amount involved in the project.

Atiku noted that the project has further exposed President Tinubu administration’s penchant for dubious and shady deals.

The statement partly reads, “This project returned to public discourse at the twilight of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in November 2014, wherein it was announced President Jonathan had signed the 10-state, 22-station project with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, at a cost of $11.97 billion.

“However, former President Jonathan could not begin the project before he lost the election. But his successor, former President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his intention to begin it and announced in 2016 that the project had been renegotiated downward by $800m to $11.1bn and that it would be ready within three years. But it continued to stall.

“In August 2021, while Buhari was on vacation, it was announced by then Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, that the FEC had “approved the memo for the ratification of the president’s approval for the award” of the $11.1 billion project, and that it would be completed in six years. But nothing was done.”

“in September 2023, barely weeks after being appointed by Tinubu, Works Minister, Engr. Dave Umahi announced that the project had been awarded to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech Construction Company Limited (Hitech) without any record of a competitive bidding or a decision by FEC”.

“Umahi refused to reveal how much the project would cost. He only explained that it would run through nine states and would have a railroad running through the middle. Most importantly, the works minister said the project would come at zero cost to Nigeria, which is currently facing an all-time high level of debt.”

Also, the statement quoted the Minister of Works as saying that the contract is under a public-private partnership, adding that, “the Hitech group are going to look for the money. They have already found the money, and that is the good news because we don’t waste our time talking and holding meetings and wasting resources.”

He said the idea of the project was build, operate, and transfer, meaning that Hitech Construction Company Limited would construct the road, operate it for some years and finally recoup its money through toll gates before handing it back to the Nigerian government.

“Umahi returned to FEC with a memo in March 2024 seeking the approval of N1.06 trillion that would be paid to Chagoury’s firm for the first phase of the project, which is wholly in Lagos.

“This pilot phase was to begin from the edge of Chagoury’s Eko Atlantic City on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, and terminate at the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Ibeju-Lekki, a distance of 47.47km. Till date, the Tinubu administration has refused to reveal how much the project will cost in total.

“But if 47.47km costs about N1.06tn, it means each kilometre is being built at N22.5 billion or $18 million. For a project that is going to be 700km, it means the total cost could be N15.7 trillion or $12.56 billion, which is higher than previous estimates,” he added.

Speaking further in the statement, Atiku said, “Worse still, it is expected to lead to job losses like the demolition of Landmark Beach Resort in Oniru, which will lead to the loss of over 12,000 direct and indirect jobs and over $200m in investments, according to its management.

“More curious is the fact that the entire pilot phase of this project begins and ends in Lagos, especially within the axis of Bola Tinubu’s business interests. It is no secret that both Tinubu and Chagoury are business partners.

“This same Hitech, owned by Chagoury, was unable to complete the 50km Lekki-Epe Expressway.”

 

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