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May 8, 2024

Tinubu’s coastal pet, by Ochereoma Nnanna

Tinubu’s coastal pet, by Ochereoma Nnanna

Ochereome Nnanna

ONE of the biggest infrastructural projects that Muhammadu Buhari (easily the most backward leader Nigeria ever produced) did was the controversial railway project from Kano to his father’s village, Maradi in Niger Republic.

Technically, Buhari is an alien, but despite his obvious inadequacies, Nigerians, including some celebrated professors, gave him their support to lead. Buhari spent $1.86 billion of Nigerian taxpayers’ money to execute this project without the approval of the National Assembly as demanded by the Constitution. This was possible because Buhari had his lapdog, Ahmed Lawan, as the President of the Senate and Bola Tinubu’s political flunkey, Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. They asked no questions.

And so, when Tinubu finally achieved his presidential ambition, he launched his own pet project – the so-called Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway. Emi l’okan in action. Also, this project, which will cost anything between N14 trillion and N20 trillion in eight years, was sprung as a surprise on all of us, and without the input of the National Assembly presided over by Tinubu’s hand-pick, Godswill Akpabio. This is easily the most expensive infrastructural project ever undertaken in the history of Nigeria. Yet, the National Assembly was not given its constitutional prerogative of examining, approving and appropriating funds for it. Worse still, the National Assembly does not care.

The little the public has been allowed to know about the project is a fallout of the persistent efforts of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who has raised several public posers. We now know that the contractor is Hitech Construction Company, which belongs to Gilbert Chagoury, a man with a shadowy international reputation. He is a close friend of President Bola Tinubu.

To their credit, the Chagoury conglomerate performed an uncommon feat of transforming the troublesome Bar Beach into a tourist-level ocean side real estate masterpiece. The personal and business relationship that had flourished for over 20 years between the duo has continued with Tinubu as president. What we now know is that Tinubu practically awarded the Coastal Highway project to himself.

Any wonder why he evaded the National Assembly? Had due process been followed, Tinubu would have been reminded that the law forbids him to award contracts to a company in which a family member has interest. The problem we have on our hands here is far more complex than mere conflict of interests. There is an emerging pattern in Tinubu’s approach to governance where his family members and business partners are part of his government and his government is part of his business interests.

For instance, we saw how his children, Seyi and Yinka, topped the list of Nigeria’s delegation to the business forum between Nigeria and Qatar in Doha earlier this year. Gilbert Chagoury was also listed as Tinubu’s “confidant” in the Nigerian delegation to the Committee of Parties, COP28, meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates in December 2023.

Seyi Tinubu walks in and out of government meetings, including the Federal Executive Council meeting. 

Before the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway issue suddenly jumped into view, Nigeria had been grappling with other more important transportation projects without being able to complete any of them. Many of these projects are of higher priority grades than a coastal highway that will pass through some of the most difficult terrains in the world. It is estimated, for instance, that the highway will need the construction of nothing less than 200 bridges of various sizes.

One of the reasons that the East-West Road, which was commenced during the Olusegun Obasanjo era, has failed till date, is the difficult terrain. Also, the numerous bridges it requires have proved beyond the capacity of our corrupt leaders to handle. We have the Warri-Benin-Okene-Abuja highway which collapses at one end as we do the other end. The same applies to the Lagos-Shagamu-Benin-Asaba-Onitsha-Owerri-Aba-Uyo-Calabar federal highway. These routes pass through the busiest population and economic centres in the country, which bespeak their premium viability.

These are far more viable than the Coastal Highway which will pass through sparsely-populated, mangrove terrain. This ill-conceived project has the paw-marks of failure all over it. I know that nothing we say will make Tinubu reconsider this project and re-priositise the spending of the N14 trillion to projects that will benefit almost every Nigerian.

Let Tinubu know, however, that having put his family and business where the Nigerian people’s government and money are, we are watching everything.

Abia State: The war foretold

A war foretold does not consume the cripple. Governor Alex Otti, the people of Abia State and South-Easterners in general must take the rumour of an imminent invasion of the state by armed Fulani militias, to “avenge” the sanitisation of the Lokpanta Cattle Market, seriously. Excuses will not be accepted. Be mindful of what they are doing elsewhere. Be vigilant, be ready!