Atiku Accuses Umahi Of Lying About Cost Of Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway Project

Adoga Stephen By Adoga Stephen - Editor-In-Chief
6 Min Read

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has accused Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, of lying about the cost of the 700km Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project.

Atiku, who is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate for the 2023 election, criticized the minister for claiming that the coastal highway project would cost around N15.6 trillion.

Umahi made these statements during appearances on various television stations, stating that the project’s cost would be N15.6 trillion ($13 billion at an exchange rate of N1,200/$1), with the rail project being a separate cost.

The former Governor of Ebonyi State also clarified that the project would not be a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), but rather that the federal government would provide 15%–30% of the financing as counterpart funding.

In response to Umahi’s comments, Atiku released a statement on Friday through his media office. He stated that the estimated cost of the project would exceed N15.6 trillion, which is equivalent to the total budget of all 36 states in Nigeria combined.

Atiku pointed out that the project was initially included in the 2024 budget as the Lagos-Port Harcourt coastal highway, with a cost of N500 million. He mentioned that Umahi’s announcement did not factor in the expenses for the railway component of the project.

Atiku questioned the total cost of the project if the railway component was taken into account. He also criticized Umahi for changing the project’s original plan after awarding the contract to Gilbert Chagoury‘s Hitech without a competitive bidding process.

He said: “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 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 subnationals 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 federal government’s counterpart funding component!

“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 organization, 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%?

“Although the National Assembly approved N500 million 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.”

The former vice president criticized Umahi for admitting that the project was awarded to Hitech construction company without competitive bidding.

Atiku urged Umahi to stop trying to mislead Nigerians by saying that only Hitech was capable of handling the project, questioning if it is the same company facing challenges with its projects 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.

“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.”

Atiku also accused the works minister of trying to mislead Nigerians about the funding for the project and called on members of the National Assembly to fulfill their duties instead of acting like an extension of the presidency.

He said, “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.”

The former vice president also condemned Umahi for stating that no funds had been given to Hitech yet, which he called another falsehood.

“On March 31, 2024, Umahi came on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme where he pointedly said that money that the sum of N1.06tn was released to Hitech. Only for him to say on TVC on April 11 that the same money had not been released. Which one is true, and which one is false?” he asked.

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By Adoga Stephen Editor-In-Chief
Stephen studied Mass Communication at the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu (now Lagos State University of Science and Technology), where he acquired requisite training for the practice of journalism. He loves the media, and his interest mostly lies in print medium, where his creative writing skill makes him a perfect fit.