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Lagos-Calabar Highway: Nigeria To Commence Construction in Cross River, Akwa Ibom ‘Immediately’

Tinubu says construction should commence at the Calabar axis of Nigeria’s coastal highway; Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa to benefit.

In a significant infrastructure update during the 3rd stakeholders meeting of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project on Thursday, Nigeria’s Minister of Works Dave Umahi announced that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed the immediate commencement of sections three and four of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project. 

This directive will see construction begin from Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, as the federal government moves forward with the project’s procurement process.

Umahi said, “Let me announce that Mr. President has directed that section 3 that is starting from Calabar and section 4 starting from Akwa Ibom, should commence immediately and we’re in the process of concluding the procurement. 

“For those who have been saying why not start this road in Calabar? One, the zero point is Lagos and what wrong has Lagos done to such people? However, an impartial president of the federal republic of Nigeria, Senator Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed that section 3 and 4 be started from the end of the project. So while this (Lagos end) is moving, the other one will be moving.”

Umahi added that subsequent sections, such as 5 and 6, are expected to begin in locations like Port Harcourt and Bayelsa. “I’m sure that sections five and six will start in places like Port Harcourt and Bayelsa. You may be critical about these projects and the section they are starting. Don’t forget that section 1 is 47.7. That is an ambitious project for any state or interstate road,” he said.

This announcement follows recent changes to the highway’s alignment to avoid ancestral lands and protect critical infrastructure, including submarine cables in Lagos State.

 During the meeting, Umahi revealed that the highway would be diverted away from the shoreline for 9 kilometres, before reverting to its original route. This adjustment aims to safeguard vital installations like the 2Africa submarine cable and a 50-megawatt power plant, which are crucial for national security and the internet gateway.

Spanning a staggering 700 kilometres, the coastal road aims to link Lagos and Calabar, two major economic hubs, while traversing through key cities and states along the Nigerian coastline. The project’s scope encompasses multiple sections, each meticulously designed to optimise efficiency and address the diverse needs of the communities it serves.

At the heart of the project lies a commitment to excellence and innovation. Section one, totaling 47.47 kilometers, has undergone a comprehensive redesign, with an alignment that prioritises both functionality and aesthetics, according to the Minister of Works.

He highlighted,“We have fully redesigned section 1, which is 47.47km, ending at Lekki, ending at that road at Eleko in Lekki. That has been fully awarded and procured and we can say that we’ve done everything possible to put human face in the alignment and realignment as Mr. President directed. We’ve taken hard decisions and we’re happy that our decisions have human face.”

According to Umahi, although he has been met with significant challenges, the design of section 2 has also been concluded. “We have also concluded the design and we have awarded section 2, which is starting from Lekki deep sea port and is ending at the border of Ogun State and Ondo State. 

“We have redesigned a number of sections there and we have a couple of challenges because we are looking at… ‘how is our train coming from Ahmadu Bello way?’

“It’s going to intercept the train that we are proposing that will take things from the port. It means that more than three height levels will be involved. We’ve isolated about three or four sections there, to critically look at it, but we’re going to be getting the train tracks and the flyovers and the road in three different levels. 

“Our design team will isolate and make four different proposals to us and we get all the stakeholders and we take decisions by the second week of June.

“It will be a thing of beauty, the decision we have made to pass through the deep sea port, it’s a beautiful place with a number of flyovers,” the minister said.

With construction underway, the project heralds a new era of infrastructure development in Nigeria, as well as prospective tourism destinations.

The minister assured that the coastal highway will have “befitting” tourism centres along its corridors up until the 700th kilometre, ushering in a wave of prosperity for the region. 

He said, “Let me also say that the new corridor is going to have befitting tourism centres and the lands are going to be made available by the relevant departments of government and Nigerians will be opportuned to leverage on that and then plan the tourism of this country. and it’s not just stopping in Lagos it’s also going to go up to the 700th kilometre.”

Furthermore, Umahi said that Return On Investment will begin immediately the first section of the highway is completed. 

“The moment we finish this road, we are going to deploy it by way of making available the land we are going to have along the corridor so that people will also buy. And It’s going to be a beautiful place just like coastal roads of other nations. 

“So, we are not waiting. The Return On Investment will start immediately we complete this first section.”

Crucially, the project’s environmental impact has been carefully considered according to the minister, and he made it known that multiple certifications have been obtained to safeguard the project’s integrity and address stakeholders’ concerns.

Addressing criticisms head-on, the Minister of Works reaffirmed the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability in the project’s execution. He emphasised that there was adherence to procurement regulations and dispelled misconceptions surrounding the project’s bidding process.

“There have been a lot of questions. People talk about ESIA.  People talk about it’s not in the budget. People talk about all kinds of stuff. But one thing that I’m happy they have not talked about is when I hand in the numbers of the cost of the project, that this project as complicated as it is, is at 4 billion (naira) per kilometre and that is Section 1.

“Section 2 has eighteen bridges… And then 10 pedestrian bridges and the cost is 5.16 billion per kilometre.  

“The project is procured under EPC+F and people say if external funding is going to come, why are you awarding with local currency? It is because this project, Engineering Procurement Construction plus Finance, 70% of the cost is going to come from external funding and each time a nation has inflation, you have to spend in infrastructure to get yourself out of inflation and we believe strongly that when the funding components of it from outside comes, it’s going to reduce our inflation and it’s going to also help the naira to be strengthened and so the partnership of federal government is 30% commitment and we have not exceeded that in terms of the local commitment funding of the federal government.”

He also restated the plans to have two spurs linking to the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, which are the Sokoto-Badagry highway and Enugu-Cameroon highway.

“This road has two spurs. We intend to link this road to a road that will come from Sokoto down to Badagry and another spur that is going to link a road that is running from Enugu, Abakaliki, Ogoja down to Cameroon and that is called trans-Africa trade route. 

“The Badagry route is also an African trade route, linking us to other West African countries. The president has just approved that we start the design and procurement of that Sokoto to Badagry, 1000 kilometres.

 “It is running through a lot of irrigation lands. It is running through a lot of dams where you can have a lot of power generation and it’s running from Sokoto to Kebbi, Kebbi to Niger, Niger to Kwara, Kwara to Oyo State, Oyo State to Ogun State and then to Badagry in Lagos state. 

“And you have the third route that is running from that spur, the African trans-sahara, running from there, passing Ebonyi State. 

“Ebonyi State’s length is just 46 kilometres and it runs to Benue. Benue is about 200 and something kilometres. It runs to Kogi which is about 300 and something kilometres. It runs down to Nasarawa and down to Abuja. 

“The benefit is that anybody from Southeast and South South, the moment you get to that point, you can make Abuja in less than five hours and then we also have a lot of irrigation corridors along this route. 

“The difference between these two legacy projects of Mr. President and the first one of Lagos-Calabar is that the Lagos-Calabar has the train track at the middle but these two new ones are going to have the train tracks by the side. And then we’re also reducing the lanes of the Lagos to Calabar. In some locations we are going to do six lanes, in other locations where we’re passing through major cities, we are going to continue with 10 lanes. Same with the Badagry-Sokoto.”

As preparations for the project’s inauguration gather momentum, anticipation among stakeholders continues to mount. The official flag-off ceremony, scheduled for the Sunday, May 26, promises to be a momentous occasion, marking the beginning of a transformative journey for Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape.

In conclusion, the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway stands as a testament to Nigeria’s unwavering ambition and determination to chart a path towards progress and prosperity. 

With construction set to commence in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, the project represents a beacon of hope for a brighter future for all Nigerians.

The ball is in the court of President Tinubu and Works Minister Umahi to prove wrong, those – who for legitimate reasons – doubt that this ambitious project will be completed in record time, if at all.

Melissa Enoch 

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