• Monday, May 27, 2024
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The coastal road of many queries from Lagos to Calabar

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

By Chido Nwakanma

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka famously interpreted and gave wings to the Yoruba aphorism that “there are many stories in a penny newspaper”. The context was the newspaper’s early days in Nigeria, which sold at a penny each.

Today’s media platforms inundate us with many stories, each more captivating than the last. In this sea of information, we must engage our critical thinking skills. Remember, we must verify the information for honesty.

The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road remains the focus of many debates, disputations, and interventions. On many platforms, commentators raised issues. Here is one.

Read also: Atiku faults Tinubu’s 700km Lagos-Calabar coastal road project

“In my view, there is much more than ‘the government claiming back their right of way’ to this Landmark matter. We can start with the utter lack of transparency and empathy with which it’s being handled. I have a few questions including the following:

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

2. The original coastal road, as we were told during the construction of the Lekki expressway/toll gates, was the Water Corporation Road. We were told it would 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 start a brand new “Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway.” Why?

3. The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway is such an ‘urgent’ project that work commenced 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 I have ever seen/heard of where an EIA stakeholder meeting is convened after the project has commenced. The project owners/sponsors are not concerned about stakeholders’ views/concerns or the project’s potential environmental impact. This is particularly strange given the centrality of ESG factors in project financing and investment decisions today.

5. Globally, there are significant concerns over the impact of rising sea levels, erosion, and climate change on coastal cities. 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 the government and the private sector in the funding arrangements makes it even more worrying. First, the contractor was going to self-fund, and then suddenly, with a change of plan, the government was going to fund. But we don’t know the total cost, nor was any competitive bidding done. Why?

Arise News correspondent Laila Johnson-Salami took to Facebook to raise more questions about the road following her near altercation with Minister of Works Engr Dave Umahi at a press briefing. Umahi tried to minimise her and her questions by claiming an inability to hear elevated grammar. Still, she stood her ground and asked him to seek assistance from his many assistants.

Vice President Kassim Shettima and “ice cream” duties

During the week, a long post running across social media platforms suggested that Vice President Kassim Shettima did not have enough critical tasks to occupy him. Indeed, the piece indicated that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should move Shettima away from “ice cream” duties to real jobs.

Read also: Secrecy, suspicion, and soaring costs: Why Nigerians doubt the Lagos-Calabar coastal road project

𝐊𝐚𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐒𝐡𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈𝐜𝐞 𝐂𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦 𝐃𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬

During the campaigns, Shettima had touted himself as a security expert. Now, he loiters like an ice cream man. Shettima is effectively idle. Against the backdrop of Osinbajo, Shettima looks like a forgotten ceremonial piece. Shettima’s dusty redundancy is confounding because the government grapples with many intractable demons. So Shettima can’t recline into this cheerleading without provoking sympathy. He should be assigned a big bone. Before the elections, the effusive man had big ideas, but now he floats like the naira, filling his days with hypeman’s flattery and motivational chants.

The presidency reeks of awalokan. Shettima’s mind must harbour unutterable emotions. All levers of power are in the hands of trusted longstanding aides and associates of the president. It must be a little claustrophobic for an adventurous Shettima. Once in a while, when he is allowed to luxuriate and represent the president at a foreign conference, he comes to board his plane smiling for cameras. He didn’t come to the presidency for these international picnics. Yet he must remain in the ‘suffering and smiling’ mode for his good. Even a wince can make him a Judas. Buhari and Tinubu are different animals.

Regardless of the suffocating prevalence of parapoism in this presidency, a former governor and senator, who prides himself as Jim Ovia’s boy, should be allowed to breathe. These things prevent the atrophy of self-esteem. He has political gravitas that has been undercultivated and underutilised. Politically naive Osinbajo had his hands full. Shettima can even be used for nasty jobs. “At-all at-all” they say. We all know he chairs the economic council and a few other inconsequential gatherings. With the president’s implicit confidence in Wale Edun, Cardoso, and other men who helped him in Lagos, and with him ensconced in them, Shettima looks dispensable. Osinbajo carved and sold an economic and recovery program, and Atiku championed one program after another during his first tenure. But Shettimma has become an itinerant motivational speaker, hawking half-baked jokes at birthday ceremonies, mouthing platitudes about hope in the time of tumbling naira and crushing cost of living. His situation is unfortunate.

Mr President, give Shettima a heavy-duty assignment. He didn’t come to the Villa to watch an Eyo political festival.

The Abia State debacle over an airport

Social media focused on Abia State is on fire. Governor Dr Alex Otti alleged in America that the previous government of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu took N10b for an airport but failed to deliver even an apron. Ikpeazu and team say they utilised the N10b for road projects after an Executive Council decision against building an airport.

Otti says a Top Three audit firm investigated the matter. Ikpeazu’s team challenges the Abia State Government to release the report, implying and then later asserting that there is no such audit report.
Enter a blog that supposedly accessed the audit report to release portions of it in a report.

The Ikpeazu camp, citing the Abia State government website, alleges that the audit matter is a hoax. It accuses the Otti administration of manifest waste of state resources on unverifiable projects.

All of these play out on various social media platforms. Check them out to get the view of democracy in the state with the charismatic Dr Alex Otti and the not-so-liked Dr Okezie Ikpeazu. The rant contains many lessons and disclosures. When and where is the truth?

Established in the exchanges are these:

a. The Okezie Ikpeazu government appropriated N10b for an airport dream that was never realised. It then deployed the funds for other projects. Why would this happen, and should the EFCC not be on the matter?

b. The Abia state government continues to work with the contractors it accused of conspiring with the previous government to defraud the state without any effort to prosecute them. Where does that happen, and why?

Much ado about taxation following the 0.5% Cybersecurity levy

This week, taxation is the dominant issue in Nigerian discourse, following the Central Bank’s announcement of a 0.5% `Cybersecurity levy. Individuals and groups are livid and poised against it.
Social media has given it many angles and takes. There are cartoons, jokes, innuendos, and poems.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐚𝐱 𝐏𝐨𝐞𝐦

Tax his land, tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.
Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirts,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.

Tax his chew, tax his smoke,
Teach him taxes are no joke.
Tax his car, tax his grass,
Tax the roads he must pass.

Tax his food, tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his sodas, tax his beers,
If he cries, tax his tears.

Tax his bills, tax his gas,
Tax his notes, tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
He said that after taxes, he has no dough.

If he hollers, tax him more,
Tax him until he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.

Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove me to my doom!”
And when he’s gone, we won’t relax,
We’ll still be after the inheritance tax.

-Author unknown.