April 16, 2024

Coastal highway: Need for accountability

Coastal highway: Need for accountability

The Lagos – Calabar coastal highway, initiated by the President Bola Tinubu administration, was practically sprung on Nigerians as a surprise. The 700-kilometre mega expressway, according to official records released by the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, will cost N4bn per kilometre, making a total of N2.8trn.

Even this figure was a mystery until former Vice President Atiku Abubakar called out the president, demanding full disclosure of facts about the project which will span nine states – Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.

Another issue worthy of note is that the project, which is reportedly being executed on the Public, Private, Partnership, PPP, model, was awarded to Hitech Construction owned by the  Chagoury group. The Chagouri family is responsible for the signature project in Lagos, Eko Atlantic City, which is transforming the Bar Beach into a global-scale posh estate and tourist attraction.

Despite controversies, the Chagoury group has proved capable of doing marvels when given a chance. Few Nigerians doubt their ability to fund and deliver this project in due time. Worries are however being expressed in some quarters that the road project which will be heavily tolled for about 15 years is a federal copy of the controversial Lekki-Epe PPP project awarded to Lekki Concession Company, LCC, which the people later rejected.

There is no evidence that the National Assembly played any role in the approval of the project, nor is there any known record of competitive bidding whereby Hitech was adjudged the most qualified and cost-effective to handle it. It is most regrettable that the project, which will easily stand out as the most ambitious Nigeria has ever undertaken given the terrain of the Niger Delta, will not be thoroughly subjected to the due process.

We are dismayed that the National Assembly has not made enough effort to assert its constitutional mandate over this project as the representatives of the people. The federal parliament must wade into this project and ensure that the laws of the land are followed, and that the interests of the people whose lands, properties and business will be affected will be accommodated.

We are, however, pleased to hear from Minister Umahi that huge investments lying in the right of way of the project will be protected and not demolished, and that compensations will be expeditiously paid to people affected.

We acknowledge the strategic importance of this project to the development of the coastal zone which is the nation’s cash cow, and Nigeria as a whole. We are delighted with the concrete technology with steel underlay which will enable it serve the nation for a long time.

While the issues of accountability are sorted out, the project should be pursued to an expeditious, logical conclusion.