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Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘Your Figures On Lagos-Calabar Coastal Project All Lies, Scandalous’ — Atiku Slams Umahi

Dave Umahi
Dave Umahi

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

The 2023 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate also faulted the minister for his statement that the coastal highway project will tentatively cost N15.6 trillion.

Recall that Umahi, said the project would cost N15.6 trillion ($13bn at an exchange rate of N1,200/$1) while the rail, which will pass through the road will be summed up separately.

The former Governor of Ebonyi State also said the project would not be a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), but the Federal Government would provide 15%- 30% counterpart financing.

Responding to Umahi’s comments in a Friday statement by his media office, Atiku said the tentative cost of the project would be more than N15.6 trillion, and that the cost was the equivalent of the total budget of all 36 States of the Federation combined.

According to him, the project was included in the 2024 budget as the Lagos-Port Harcourt coastal highway and cost N500m, adding that the amount announced by Umahi did not include the cost of the railway component.

Atiku who wondered how much the project would cost if the railway component was included also blamed Umahi for altering the project’s initial plan after Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech was awarded the contract without any competitive bidding.

“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.

READ ALSO: Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway: You’re Building Castles Without Knowledge — FG Replies Atiku On Project Cost

“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 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,” Atiku said.

He also slammed the Minister for admitting that the project was given to Hitech construction company without competitive bidding.

“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,” he added.

While accusing the Works Minister of attempting to deceive Nigerians as regards the appropriation for the project, he called on National Assembly members to be alive to their responsibilities.

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 further criticized Umahi for claiming that no money had been released to Hitech yet, which he described as another lie.

“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 queried.

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