• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

6 strange things about the Calabar-Lagos Coastal Highway

Highway to hope: Can Nigeria’s coastal corridor unlock economic prosperity?

The Calabar-Lagos coastal road appears to be perennially swallowed in controversy since the first day of the project’s unveiling.

Over the weekend opposition leader and former vice president Atiku Abubakar added fuel to the fire when he revealed that the president’s son Seyi is on the Board of the firm given the gigantic contract and alleged that President Bola Tinubu appears to more concerned about lining the pocket of friends and family.

Analysts say there is a lot more about the huge deal than the government is able to disclose so far.

The analysts are shocked by the utter lack of transparency and empathy with which the construction is being handled and they have raised six mins boggling questions:

1. Nigeria seeks to build a Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway. Of the places it could possibly start off from is Lagos, it just has to start off from Eko Atlantic, which is or will be the preserve of the privileged, ultra monied elite. Why?

2. The original coastal road as the people were told during the construction of the Lekki expressway/toll gates, was the Water Corporation road. Nigerians were told it was going to be an alternative route to the tolled road. Today, a large expanse of that road has been abandoned and is virtually an eyesore. But, we have chosen to ignore it and instead start a brand new “Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway”. Why?

3. The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway is such an ‘urgent’ project that work on it commenced even before it was announced to the public. Quite a feat and highly unusual for any government project in this part of the world. Typically, such projects are slow to take off and are riddled with delays. In this case it’s so very different. What’s the great, big hurry and why?

4. This is the only project of this magnitude Nigerians have ever seen/heard of where an EIA stakeholder meeting is being convened AFTER the project has commenced. It appears the views/concerns of stakeholders and the potential environmental impact of the project are of absolutely no concern to the project owners/sponsors. This is particularly strange given the centrality today of ESG factors to project financing and investment decisions.

5. Globally, there are major concerns over the impact on coastal cities of rising sea levels, erosion and climate change. According to some reports, Lagos is particularly at risk from rising sea levels. Yet our government appears to be embarking on constructing a coastal highway at a cost of N4B per KM with no hard evidence of having conducted a proper EIA. Why?

6. The opacity about the source of funds and the nature of the handshake between government and the private sector in the funding arrangements makes it all even more worrying. First the contractor was going to self-fund and then suddenly, – change of plan – the government is now going to fund. But we don’t know the full cost, nor was any competitive bidding done. Why?

Many questions but no one’s giving any answers and as we speak, the demolitions have started. What exactly is the reason for the apparent obfusacation and difficulty with (or is it reluctance to provide) providing full disclosure of information that should be in the public domain? The people are afterall being told the road and accompanying demolitions are for the greater good and in the public interest.