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Edwin Clark Lauds N1.06 Trillion Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road Project, Urges Completion For Niger Delta Development

Edwin Clark has expressed pleasure over the Lagos -Calabar Coastal Road Project which he described as a landmark project.

Elder statesman and foremost leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, has described the N1.06trn Lagos -Calabar Coastal Road as a landmark project, which if completed will change the landscape of infrastructural development in Nigeria.

Clark gave the assertion in an open letter he wrote to President Bola Tinubu, copies of which were made available to journalists in Abuja on Friday.

The septuagenarian said it was particularly pleasing to note that the project was being executed as a Public Private Partnership (PPP).

He said, “This means that a substantial portion of the funding, which is over N1trillion, will be coming from the private sector. 

“I assure you that we will not only endorse this project but will fully extend our support to ensure its completion especially at the areas of the Niger Delta where it will pass through.”

Like Oliver Twist, he said, “The Niger Delta people are seriously requesting Mr. President to give priority to the very important project which will no doubt cater for the security and welfare of our people having regards to the role of the region in supporting the economy of the entire country.”

Clark said the Coastal Road, therefore, “could not be a substitution to our immediate requirement.”

He said, “It is estimated that the portion being constructed by the contractor from the Lagos end, may take at least two years to complete before moving to the second phase.  

“I, however, want to remind Your Excellency that this new coastal road from Lagos to Calabar, as welcome as it is, raises issues as to why the related coastal railway running through the same axis has been abandoned.

“This made the headlines recently and we applauded it as it will open up all the communities in the West to East axis. 

“That West-East Coastal Rail line which was supposed to have a length of 1,402 kilometres at the time when it was conceived, had a budget of $11.17 billion and was even passed by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2021 under President Muhammadu Buhari. 

“I am sure Mr. President not only me but many Nigerians will like to know what has happened to this very important coastal rail line project.  

“This is especially as we know that other rail projects including to neighbouring Niger Republic are going on very well as recently reported by the Minister of Transportation.

“I have also looked into the internet and the available information there about Lagos-Calabar Railway project is shown below. 

“Lagos-Calabar Railway also known as West-East Coastal Rail Line is a 1,400 kilometres standard-gauge coastal railway from Lagos to Calabar. Connecting Lagos State in South-west to the Southern Coastal cities in the South. “

Going down memory lane, Clark said the Lagos-Calabar Railway Line Project was conceived by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 with approval from the Federal Executive Council but that  the project never sees the light of the day.

He said, “In February 2016, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari agreed with the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China to finance part of the project.

“In April 2017, the project plans were approved and announced by the Federal Government; however, by September of the same year, the Exim Bank of China communicated its inability to fund the Lagos-Calabar rail project.

“In March 2021, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, insinuated plans (loan) for alternate funding options, leading to the Federal Government entering into a counterpart funding with Standard Chartered Bank for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail with US$11bn out of the US$14.4bn needed for the implementation of the project.

“By August 2021, the Federal Executive Council approved the ratification of the award of a contract worth US$11,174,769,721.74 for the implementation of the project.”

Clark also urged Tinubu to extend the Warrior – Itakpe – Lokoja rail project to Abuja

He said, “The services had been very successful and the most popular, secured and reliable means of transportation in Nigeria at the moment, and people are now demanding for the extension of the rail line to Abuja as a matter of urgency, particularly at this time when our roads are not only collapsed but insecure posing as death traps to commuters.

“Your Excellency, we are pleading with you to choose this extension of this rail line to Abuja as a matter of urgency and the people will be very grateful to you. ”  

The Ijaw national leader also lamented the slow pace of the East-West Road. 

He said the road which was supposedly 419 kilometres covers from the extreme west of Warri in Delta State to Oron in Akwa Ibom State. 

He said, “Unfortunately, each administration that comes into power and each minister that have been in charge of the project have vowed that they would complete the project during their time.

“As a matter of fact, both Godsday Orubebe who was Minister of Niger Delta during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and Senator Godswill Akpabio openly declared to Nigeria that the finishing of the road will become a thing of the past during their tenures.  

“Unfortunately, this turned out to be a wild dream. None of these two Ministers who are sons of the soil pay serious attention to the development and completion of the road.

“So many prominent and competent international contractors were awarded the contract including Julius Berger, Cetraco, Ghitto, RCC etc.

“The ministers in charge made no effort to deal with the insecurity of the road project leading to the pull-out of Julius Berger, and there was no replacement but the portion of the road earlier allocated to Julius Berger was again shared among the existing contractors.

“This affected the construction and completion of the road. In fact, it was during this period the Managing Director of Ghitto Construction Company, an Italian, died in the office of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs while he was discussing with the Minister in his office.

“Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is now our President of the Senate, was made Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs at a time when Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was under the portfolio of the Presidency has been transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

“Instead of Senator Godswill Akpabio to concentrate on the East-West Road, he devoted most of his time to the administration of the NDDC including the completion of the 11 storey building of the NDDC.

“He almost assumed the role of the Managing Director of the NDDC leading to the involvement of National Assembly Committee which had a long drawn battle with Senator Godswill Akpabio and the member of the interim management leading to the accusation and counter accusation involving corruption.

“As a leader, I am aware that the sum of ₦20b was made available by the federal government to repair the road between Yenagoa Junction and Kaiama where the road has not been passable.”

Sunday Aborisade

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