Peter Obi Urges Tinubu to Halt Lagos-Calabar Highway Project to Prevent Job Losses

Mr. Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has called on President Bola Tinubu to halt the ongoing Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project, citing concerns over potential job losses for Nigerians.

Obi asserted that the project represents a misplaced priority by the Federal Government and could exacerbate the country’s unemployment crisis.

The Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project, spearheaded by the Minister of Works, Engr David Umahi, has been met with criticism from various quarters due to its significant financial investment and potential socio-economic implications.

Umahi recently revealed that the government is allocating a staggering N4 billion per kilometer for the construction, amounting to a total project cost of N2.8 trillion for the 700-kilometer stretch.

As part of the project’s implementation, the Federal Government has initiated the demolition of structures located within the designated right-of-way for the highway. The demolition exercise commenced at the Mani Chula Beach, Oniru Waterfront, prompting concerns about the fate of businesses and investments along the proposed route.

Expressing his dismay over the project, Obi, through his X handle, emphasized that the Federal Government’s decision to prioritize the construction of the Lagos-Calabar highway disregards the livelihoods of countless Nigerians who stand to be affected by the displacement of businesses and properties. He called attention to the need for a more considered approach to infrastructure development that takes into account the welfare and economic well-being of citizens.

Obi wrote, “Contrary to reason and the necessity for compassion in public policy, the federal government has commenced the controversial Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project.

“The outcry against this project has been overwhelming due to the current situation in the country. However, reports as of yesterday indicate that demolition of businesses and residences in the designated right of way for the project has commenced from the Lagos end.

“The sight of this insensitive demolition is heart-wrenching. Livelihoods are being wiped away, lifetime investments are being wasted, and jobs are disappearing as bulldozers roar through. The homes of the elderly are being overturned by the power of bulldozers.

“This hasty flag-off defies the widespread outcry by the public, especially business and property owners directly affected by the project. Nobody knows the outcry that will accompany this project as it progresses towards poor rural landscapes.

“Thousands of jobs are about to be lost, with investments above $200 million at risk. Over 100,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector face imminent extinction, along with 80 small businesses and their 4000 mostly youth employees.

“At a time of rampant unemployment, the government is embarking on a job-losing project. The economic losses currently observed are primarily limited to the initial kilometers in the Lagos area.

“However, the 700 km stretch of this road will pass through rural regions where affected individuals lack the voice, power, or influence to assert their rights. Significant sections of the public have questioned the process preceding the project’s approval, yet the government remains deaf to reason and caution.

“While acknowledging the economic value of the road, its conception dating back to Tafewa Balewa’s time, several parameters have changed. Insecurity and poverty are rampant, placing this project lower on today’s national priorities.

“It’s time to question the rationale and timing of this and similar projects. The nation is in its worst economic state in history, with poverty and hunger spreading. The basic necessities of life are beyond reach for most Nigerians.

“This is a moment when a committed government cannot embark on non-essential projects. Existing highways urgently need maintenance, and insecurity makes travel unsafe.

“Just a few days ago, many lives were lost, and over 70 vehicles were burned in a fuel tanker explosion that occurred on the East-West road in Rivers State. This tragic accident was primarily caused by the extremely poor condition of the road, which has been neglected for years and urgently needs attention. Our economy is struggling, and our health institutions are ill-equipped. Why embark on an expensive new highway project when there are close to 50 abandoned federal highway projects across the country?

“The urgent necessities are nationwide security, poverty eradication, healthcare, and education, especially for the poor and underprivileged. It’s not too late to discontinue the Lagos-Calabar highway project.

“We cannot afford another expensive abandoned project. Nigeria’s urgent development needs are more real and essential. We do not need landscape decoration escapades.”

Obi’s remarks underscore the growing opposition to the highway project and highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive assessment of its potential impact on local communities and businesses.

As calls for greater transparency and accountability in government projects persist, stakeholders continue to advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritize sustainable development and inclusive growth.

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