Former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections, Atiku Abubukar has expressed concerns over the proposed Lagos-Calabar Coastal road, questioning it sincerity.

Infinity Tyres

According to Atiku, in a statement by his spokesman, Paul Ibe, the 700-kilometre Lagos-Calabar coastal highway plan should have commenced from Calabar if it were genuine.

He said “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 $11.97bn.“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.”

Alleging a hidden agenda, Atiku said the Minister refused to reveal how much the project would cost, “He only explained that it would run through nine states and would have a rail road 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.”

Atiku also stated that Umahi said- “Let me announce that it is under public-private partnership. 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.”The former vice president explained that the concept of the project was “build, operate and transfer”, meaning that Hitech would construct the road, operate it for some years, and recoup its money through tollgates before handing it back to the Nigerian government.

He stressed, “Because the project did not require public funds, it did not go through approval from the National Assembly, which holds the power of appropriation.“

He said also that the project only went through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) with no record of a competitive bidding since Chagoury’s firm was to fund the project 100%.

“However, to the shock of many Nigerians, 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. Umahi, who even came on Channels Television recently, evaded questions as to the total cost of the project.”

The former PDP presidential candidate added, “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.

“It is curious that the terms of such an audacious project continues to be shrouded in secrecy. 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.”Atiku further stated.