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Umahi Faults Atiku over Criticism on Lagos -Calabar Coastal Highway Project

“Atiku does not understand figures…you have to pardon him,” Umahi said regarding the controversy trailing the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway.

The Minister of Works, Mr Dave Umahi has faulted the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s recent criticism on the proposed Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project by the President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

Umahi who spoke yesterday, during a two-day inspection of ongoing federal government road projects in Port Harcourt, Rivers and Aba, Abia states, said the former Vice President do not understand the process of coastal and long kilometer road construction, reason he criticised a project yet to commence.

Recalled that Atiku had recently expressed his reservation over the process of the proposed Lagos – Calabar highway project, stressing that the project should have started from the South than kicking off from the West as planned. He alleged that the project looks dubious, with all the hallmarks of a white elephant project.

In a statement by his media aide, Paul Ibeh, Atiku said the 700-kilometre Lagos-Calabar coastal highway plan should have commenced from Calabar if it were genuine, and not another project intended to merely cajole the people.

Parts of the statement said, “This project returned to public discourse at the twilight of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in November 2014, wherein it was announced President Jonathan had signed the 10-state, 22-station project with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) at a cost of $11.97bn.

“However, former President Jonathan could not begin the project before he lost the election. But his successor, former President Muhammadu Buhari, expressed his intention to begin it and announced in 2016 that the project had been renegotiated downward by $800m to $11.1bn and that it would be ready within three years. But it continued to stall.”

Reacting on the criticism by the immediate past presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections, Umahi said if there is anything the former Vice President think is wrong with the procurement of the project, should approach him as an expert and Minister overseeing the planned project, and not to trouble the President with his unconfirmed figures.

The former governor of Ebonyi state, who said he is an experienced engineer on road construction, said Atiku does not understand figure, therefore he would explain the project properly to him and Nigerians when he addresses a world press conference, which he said would be held in Lagos.

Umahi who is also a former Senator in the National Assembly, expressed “I read something on social media credited to His Excellency, the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar on coastal road. I am going to give him proper information.

“Is quite degrading on my part for him to think, a former party chairman, former deputy governor, governor for eight years, a senator, that I am not a stakeholder in this country and that I will do the wrong thing. So he doesn’t understand figures and I going to run figures for him to understand and he understand how prudent the administration of President Bola Tinubu is being.

“He will understand how prudence is taking the centre stage, especially in my Ministry. The President had once scolded me on cost of project and I had to run the figures with Mr President, he still thinks I should bring down the cost of projects. At the same time the contractors are crying that I am oppressing them so much because what they were getting better before they are no longer getting.

“So, Mr Vice President, Atiku Abubakar must know that I am the twing and twist. Even the company he is castigating ‘Hitech Construction Nigeria Limited” it was through persuasion they accepted to do that project at that cost. But when I run the figures, Nigerians will see what this present administration is doing. I am not here to run the figures, I have seen the figures they are parading, but my figures are quite better than those figures and I understand this engineering.

“So I will run the figures and I will like journalists to be prepared. I will give every account of that coastal road, given that Mr President had that vision when he was a governor and he got a gazetted corridor, but subsequent administration saw the relevant of that project and they attempted to do it: both the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and that of President Buhari. For one reason or that they could not do that, but this present administration will do it and I will tell the world the economic benefit and how the coastal road will tie the entire country together, not just the South South and Southwest”.

Speaking on the benefits of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project, Umahi said “Its tying the nut together, starting a project from Badagry to Sokoto and we have a spour of this coastal road to that. The Africa Trans-Sahara road is passing from Enugu-Abakalike-Ogoja-Cameron. So you can see how wisdom has taken centre stage in the execution and midwifing of a coastal road. Is a coastal road but is also tying the entire country together.”

Meanwhile, the Minister has expressed satisfaction over the ongoing rehabilitation road projects in Rivers and Abia states.

Umahi who visited the project sites, including the Aba section of the Port Harcourt -Enugu and Eleme – Onne section of the East-West Road projects, commended the contractors for adhering to advise on a solid construction.

Speaking on the project handling by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), and other contractors, the Minister said if there is enough fund, some sections of the project would be completed at the end of April this year, adding that the project could be completed in six if there is available funds to encourage the contractor.

“The moment there is money the project can be concluded in six months. This is not the only project in the country, we have projects scattered all over the nation. So we allocate funds on the basis of fairness, equity and justice all through the six geopolitical zones. This is the last segment of the Enugu-Port Harcourt full rehabilitation.

“As we talk now about three sections are ongoing: the one at the beginning of Enugu-Lokpanta done by CGC Nigeria Ltd, they are doing fantastic job. By the end of April we sure that the whole of one carriage way of 61kilometre will be fully done, so we will be left with only 61km of another carriage way in that section.

“You get to the section of Umahia-Aba being done by Arab Contractors: by the end of April, they should have fully completed one carriage way, they are working at the last 3.1km on that segment. And then, other segment will be left with 5km which we have rescoped to appreciate the cost of inflation.

“Then this last segment is done by CCECC. They are doing fantastic job, I redesigned the road so that the inner shoulder of 1.5 will be on concrete, outer shoulder of 2.5 will be on concrete and the 7.3 carriage will be on Asphalt 6cm of binder cost and 4cm of wearing cost. That is what they have demonstrated here, and the 2 carriage way kilometer.

The first time they completed 9km with over 10 lanes on that section and about 2 lanes. So far they have completed about 3km and they are working on this. If they complete this segment of 5km, then they would have done a total of about 9km on 10 lanes and 5km on two lanes.

“I am very impressed with their work. They are also doing what we have been emphasising that we should make the carriage ways motorable and the little places that are left, before the end of April, I am directing that they should complete it”.

Commending also the Acting Comptroller, FMWH, Port Harcourt, Mrs Enwereama Tarilade, Umahi said “And so I want to commend the contractors very well and commend the Acting Comptroller for this fantastic work, and speed is also commendable. I commend CCECC, they are very good, the moment you agree on price with them you are sure to get a very good job”.

On the Eleme -Onne section of the East West road rehabilitation, the Minister warned “The RCC if they do not increase the pace, I will take out a portion of this road and give to other contractor. We would not want a contractor to stay on a job like this 15km by 30km even though is a very specialised kind of construction.

“Those who are querying for the cost of this coastal road, at the time the design was not like this, was more expensive than the normal road per kilometer. We were quarrying before but they are presently following instructions, good job.

Atiku does not understand figures, I will run the figures for him to understand. This is my field, I am SAN in this field, so I will run the figure for him to understand, you have to pardon him”, Umahi stated.

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

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