N15.6trn Lagos-Calabar project is highway to fraud – Atiku

The 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, on Thursday, insisted that the award of the Lagos-Calabar Highway Project did not meet the minimum threshold of due process.

Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, announced the start of construction on the 700km road after obtaining approval from the Federal Executive Council.

Atiku and the Presidency have engaged in a war of words regarding the project’s cost and history.

While the former Vice President asserted that the project regained public attention during the final phases of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in November 2014, the Presidency labelled Atiku’s assertion a “misrepresentation of facts”, contending that the project was initiated by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.

Responding, Atiku challenged the Federal Government to disclose the total cost of the Lagos-Calabar highway project.

The Minister, while speaking as a guest on a TV programme on Thursday, disclosed that the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway would cost N4 billion per kilometre, contradicting the former Vice President’s claim of N8 billion per km.

Reacting, Atiku, in a statement by his media office, on Thursday lambasted Umahi for allegedly modifying the original project plan after Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech was awarded the contract without undergoing competitive bidding.

“The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, has described as wasteful and a highway to fraud the claim by Works Minister, Dave Umahi, that the 700km Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway will tentatively cost N15.6 trillion.

“Umahi had announced that the project would be fully funded by Hitech, and based on this, there was no competitive bidding. He (Umahi) then turned around to say that Hitech could only raise just 6% of the money for the pilot phase. This smacks of deceit.

“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 sub-nationals 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 counterpart funding component of the Federal Government”, the statement read.

The former Vice President observed that in the 2024 budget, the project was identified as the Lagos-Port Harcourt coastal highway and was allocated a budget of N500 million.

Atiku’s statement added, “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.

“It was curious that the N15.91 trillion announced by Umahi did not include the cost of the railway component. He therefore wondered how much the project would cost if the railway component was included.

“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 PDP presidential candidate also lambasted Umahi for admitting that the project was given to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech construction company without a competitive bidding.”

Atiku urged Umahi to refrain from attempting to mislead Nigerians by asserting that only Hitech was capable of executing the project, questioning whether it’s the same company that has been struggling with project execution 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.”

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