Umahi deceiving Nigerians over Lagos-Calabar highway project budget – Atiku

Umahi deceiving Nigerians over Lagos-Calabar highway project budget – Atiku

Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, says the Lagos-Calabar coastal project is scandalous. Abubakar spoke in a statement signed by his media office

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Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, says the Lagos-Calabar coastal project is scandalous.

Abubakar spoke in a statement signed by his media office in Abuja on Thursday.

On April 7, the politician had said the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project could cost the federal government “N15.7 trillion” — putting the approximation of each kilometre being built at N22.5 billion.

He said the estimate is based on the N1.06 trillion earmarked for 47.47 kilometres (km) (pilot phase) of the coastal highway by Umahi.

But in a recent interview, Dave Umahi, minister of works, said the road project would cost N15.6 trillion, while the rail — which will pass through the road — would have a separate cost.

The minister also said the project would not be under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement, as the government would be providing 15 percent to 30 percent counterpart financing.

Replying the minister, Abubakar said the tentative cost is the equivalent of the total budget of all the 36 states of the federation combined.

“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,” he said.

“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!

“Umahi had said in September 2023 that Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech had the money to construct the highway and that it would be PPP. Hitech was to build, operate and transfer it back to the Nigerian government after years of tolling.

“It was reported by every media organisation, including those owned by Tinubu. It was on the basis of this proposal that Hitech was picked. Why did Umahi then turn around to claim that it was not to be a PPP but that the government would pay 15%-30%?”

Abubakar also said in the 2024 budget, the project was captured as the Lagos-Port Harcourt coastal highway and was put at a cost of N500 million.

“Although the national assembly approved N500m for the project this year, the Tinubu administration has released N1.06tn,” he added.

“That is more than 200 times what is in the Appropriation Act. This is what happens when the national assembly fails in its duties.”

He said it is curious that the N15.91 trillion announced by Umahi did not include the cost of the railway component.

“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,” he said.

Abubakar asked Umahi to stop trying to deceive Nigerians with the claim that only Hitech was competent enough to do the project.

“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,” he said.

“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.

“He claims he didn’t know there was a business relationship between Gilbert Chagoury and Tinubu, but this is another lie because Tinubu has publicly acknowledged this fact.

“Until I exposed the dubious nature of this project, no member of the National Assembly thought it wise to investigate. The total cost was never made known until now. The fact that there was no bidding was never made known until I blew the whistle.”

Atiku also accused Umahi of attempting to deceive Nigerians as regards the appropriation for the project.

He called on members of the national assembly “to be alive to their responsibilities instead of acting like an annex of the presidency”.