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‘You Lied About Cost Of Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway Project’ – Atiku Fires Umahi

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It Would Lead To Job Losses - Atiku Criticizes Tinubu On Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway Project

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said the Minister of Works, Works, Dave Umahi, lied about the cost of the 700km Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 election also faulted the minister for his statement that the coastal highway project will tentatively cost N15.6 trillion.

Naija News reports that Umahi, during an appearance on some Television stations on Thursday, said the project would cost N15.6 trillion ($13bn at an exchange rate of ₦1,200/$1) while the rail, which will pass through the road will be cost separately.

The former Governor of Ebonyi State also said the project would not be a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), but the federal government would provide 15%- 30% counterpart financing.

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Responding to Umahi’s comments in a statement on Friday by his media office, Atiku said the tentative cost of the project would be more than N15.6 trillion, and the cost was the equivalent of the total budget of all 36 states of the federation combined.

The former vice president noted that the project was included in the 2024 budget as the Lagos-Port Harcourt coastal highway and cost N500m, adding that the amount announced by Umahi did not include the cost of the railway component.

Atiku wondered how much the project would cost if the railway component was included. He also blamed Umahi for altering the project’s initial plan after Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech was awarded the contract without any competitive bidding.

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He said: “If N15.6 trillion is for the road component alone, then the total cost could be far higher when the railway is included. We want to know the cost of the railway.

“The total budget of all 36 states of the federation for 2024 stands at about N14 trillion. If you add that of the FCT, the entire budget of all subnationals is N15.91 trillion. This is scandalous. Worse still, they have already awarded the contract but are still not sure of the level of the federal government’s counterpart funding component!

“Umahi had said in September 2023 that Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech had the money to construct the highway and that it would be PPP. Hitech was to build, operate, and transfer it back to the Nigerian government after years of tolling.

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“It was reported by every media organization, including those owned by Tinubu. It was on the basis of this proposal that Hitech was picked. Why did Umahi then turn around to claim that it was not to be a PPP but that the government would pay 15%-30%?

“Although the National Assembly approved N500m for the project this year, the Tinubu administration has released N1.06tn. That is more than 200 times what is in the Appropriation Act. This is what happens when the National Assembly fails in its duties.”

The former vice president also lambasted Umahi for admitting that the project was given to Hitech construction company without competitive bidding.

Atiku asked Umahi to stop trying to deceive Nigerians with the claim that only Hitech was competent enough to do the project, wondering if it is the same that has been grappling with the execution of its projects in Lagos.

He stated, “The essence of competitive bidding is so that Nigerians can get the best value for money. It is so that you can compare prices and pick the company that can afford the project. It is wrong for him to have concluded that only Hitech could handle this project when such a project has been done by other reputable firms in the United States, China and South Africa.

“He claims he didn’t know there was a business relationship between Gilbert Chagoury and Tinubu, but this is another lie because Tinubu has publicly acknowledged this fact.”

Atiku also accused the works minister of attempting to deceive Nigerians as regards the appropriation for the project and called on members of the National Assembly to be alive to their responsibilities instead of acting like an annexe of the presidency.

He said, “Until I exposed the dubious nature of this project, no member of the National Assembly thought it wise to investigate. The total cost was never made known until now. The fact that there was no bidding was never made known until I blew the whistle.

The former vice president also criticized Umahi for claiming that no money had been released to Hitech yet, which he described as another lie.

On March 31, 2024, Umahi came on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme where he pointedly said that money that the sum of N1.06tn was released to Hitech. Only for him to say on TVC on April 11 that the same money had not been released. Which one is true, and which one is false?” he queried.

Ige Olugbenga is a fine-grained journalist. He loves the smell of a good lead and has a penchant for finding out something nobody else knows.