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Umahi Criticises Atiku’s Stance On Lagos-Calabar Highway Project, Accuses Him Of Political Calculations


Umahi Criticises Atiku’s Stance On Lagos-Calabar Highway Project, Accuses Him Of Political Calculations

Works Minister Umahi has alleged that the owners of Landmark are being manipulated by politicians.

The Minister of Works, David Umahi, has again attacked a former Vice President of Nigeria, Abubakar Atiku, over the former Nigerian leader’s position on the controversial Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, describing him as misguided.

In a long treatise signed by Umahi’s spokesman, Uchenna Orji, on Tuesday, the minister alleged that Atiku’s thoughts on the 753-kilometre road, which the Bola Tinubu administration says will connect the South to the North, were mostly driven by political calculations.

The former vice president had on more than two occasions raised questions over the opacity surrounding the project, the alleged flouting of the procurement law and the conflict of interest in the award of the multi-trillion naira project to a company owned by a friend of the president.

On May 6, Atiku doubled down on his criticism of the highway, revealing that Seyi,  the president’s son, is actually a member of the board of CDK Integrated Industries, a subsidiary of the Chagoury Group, which owns Hitech Construction, the company handling the project.

“Such viewpoints  are false analogies, conceived by the fertile imaginations of the former vice president and which are clearly superficial, hypocritical, diversionary, and undoubtedly motivated by ambitious political calculations.

“These accusations or rather, viewpoints, are, to say the least, intrinsically superficial, baseless, self-serving and politically motivated to imprint malice in the minds of unsuspecting members  of the public, especially the gullible,” Umahi insisted.

He highlighted that the argument by Atiku and other ‘desperate persons’ were thoroughly trashed when he (Umahi) gave insights into the award process, the unit cost comparisons, the project  review dimensions, the demolition notices and compensation plans as well as those affected by the demolition

“For the avoidance  of doubt, the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project complied 100 percent with the provisions  of the Procurement  Act and was  awarded based on the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPC+F) procurement process, that is to say, the project is an unsolicited bid done on EPC+F.

“Under this model of procurement, the investor provides all the designs, part of the financing and construction, while the federal government pays counterpart funds. The bid of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project came through  this process.

“The ministry received the bid, worked on it, and sent the same to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). The BPP worked on it in accordance  with the stipulations of the Procurement Act and came up with a  competitive price slightly lower than the  ministry’s price  and even lower than the cost of similar projects awarded five years ago, including  the Bodo-Bonny project awarded  to Julius  Berger Nigeria Plc.

“The BPP issued a certificate of ‘No Objection’  on the project to the Federal Ministry of Works as required  by the Procurement Act. Consequently,  the Federal Ministry of Works took the certificate of No Objection to the  Federal Executive Council (FEC), and the FEC deliberated  on and approved the same,” Umahi stated.

Umahi recalled that the FEC had first approved the project model on EPC+F before the process of procurement even started, emphasising that it was a testament that the section 1 of the project followed  due process.

He insisted that the claim of the former vice president  that the son of the president has interest in CDK Integrated Industries Ltd was not tenable as the company  that did bid for the project was Hitech Construction  Company Nigeria Ltd which  has a full legal personality.

“Again, this claim is nothing  but a  digression showing  absolute  frustration of a false accuser who is bereaved  of facts to substantiate  his claims,” Umahi maintained.

The statement said that Umahi has within the shortest  period in office, saved billions of Naira in the review, redesign  and award of contracts, stressing that the former vice president  and others who share in his ‘misguided  views’ can testify to it.

It stated that Umahi had come up with  a new and higher dimension of the project of which the design, dimension  and concept were reviewed  upward by the ministry and yet the cost was drastically  reduced downwards.

“The project, which  was by the analysis  of the former vice president put at a cost of about N8.552 billion per km of  standard  gauge, was meticulously  and judiciously  reduced  to about N4.329 billion per kilometre gauge by the  minister  under the new design and concept.

“The old concept  and design relied upon by the former Vice President has a 52-metre corridor with asphalt, whereas the new concept as reviewed by the  minister has a 100-metre corridor with a total concrete pavement of 59.2 metres and increased  size of 10 lanes and a provision for 25 metres for train track,” it added.

He argued that the road standard used by the former vice president  in his analysis  cannot stand the test  of time because  of the  high water table  at the coastal  area, noting that the quality of road design and construction by the current administration for the coastal  road is such that it will last for 50 to 100 years.

“In this regard  therefore,  it will not be immodest  to state that the former  vice president displayed the highest  level of hypocrisy and was out to mislead and brainwash the unsuspecting members of the public, especially  the gullible, for selfish political reasons,” the minister added.

On the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), he stated that there was a preliminary approval issued in December 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Environment and the same renewed in January 2024.

“ESIA certification is progressive with the project’s progress and final certificate issued when all issues are resolved. This means that the Federal Ministry of Works has a certified ESIA to start the project.

“ Even the Federal Ministry of Environment has confirmed  this  position  in their  recent press release, whereof  they stated, among others, that Preliminary Impact Assessment certification was issued for site clearance and scoping  for compensation,” he added.

 He added that the process of ESIA involves constant stakeholders’ engagement, with Umahi even participating in two of the meetings in Lagos which were broadcast live “to buttress his sense of transparency, openness, probity and accountability”.

Umahi accused the owners of Landmark Beach of allowing themselves to be manipulated by politicians, after he allegedly acknowledged the efforts of the minister.

“It need not be over-emphasised  that the relevant notices were issued  and this led to a seamless compensation  process achieved without  rancour, except  in the case of the owner of Landmark whose  psyche was manipulated by politicians moments after he appreciated the efforts of the minister  in ensuring  minimum  damage to properties on the right of way for which he acknowledged that he had no valid  title in favour thereof,” the statement noted.

He stated that although the project  was conceptualised partly  at the time by Atiku  when he was the vice president of the country,  successive administrations  failed to execute  it because  of lack of political  will.

“This super  highway  will trigger economic boom, raise the GDP, create greater  tourism  potential, create wealth and job opportunities, attract  wider Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), boost coastal businesses, trade and market  development, and promote industrialisation, especially along  the coastal  corridors with far-reaching impact on the  social-economic activities and safety along the feeder routes and spurs,” he argued.

Emmanuel Addeh

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