Lawsuit, Bureaucracy Delay Lagos-Ibadan Expressway | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Lawsuit, Bureaucracy Delay Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

Posted: Mar 25, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

…After N50bn Spend

‘People Are Killed Almost Every Day On This Road’


Nkasiobi Oluikpe LAGOS


“The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is a story investors would not like. The Federal Government of Nigeria granted a concession to a private company (Company A) and later withdrew and cancelled it. The FGN then entered into a construction and financing agreement with another company (Company B). Company A went to court and got an order to cancel the financing agreement with Company B.

“As things stand, work has been stopped on the construction of the road. The construction companies cannot get financing because of the court order, so they have laid-off about 2,000 workers, in an economy that has so much to do and needs to create work.”

These are the words of Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works, Power and Housing on the lingering stalemate on the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Controversies have been the lot of the expressway since 2009 when the Federal Government conceded it to Bi-Courtney for 25 years at the cost of N89.53 billion.

Three years into the contract, the Federal Government in November 2012, terminated the concession to Bi-Courtney on grounds of non-performance and a breach of the terms of the concession, which it re-awarded in June 2013 to Julius Berger Plc and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) at a cost of N167 billion with a completion timeline of 48 months.

In their reaction to the allegation by the Federal Government, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited (BCHSL) explained that their non-performance was as a result of government bureaucracy, saying that the immediate past administration should be held responsible for delays in delivering the road.

They explained that within the three years and six months that they had the concession, the design process which was expected to be completed within four months took 18 months as a result of bureaucratic bottlenecks at the Ministry of Works.

Specifically, Julius Berger was to handle section one of the expressway covering Lagos-Sagamu intersection, while RCC handles the Sagamu-Ibadan intersection.

The Federal Government committed the sum of N50 billion out of the total sum of N167 billion. Work began in earnest until the middle of 2015 when they stopped work as a result of non-funding.

Obviously angered by the volume of work said to be done by Julius Berger before the abandonment last year, Alhaji Dauda Kigbu, a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, noted: “After scratching the surface with a whopping N50 billion, one of the construction firms, Julius Berger, has abandoned the road project, forcing the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board.”

Bi-Courtney, which is challenging the termination of the concession in court, said they wrote the then Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, for arbitration, which the minister rebuffed.

Part of their letter reads: “We refer to the letter of November 19, 2012, wherein the concession granted to our consortium vide your letter of May 8, 2009, was purportedly terminated pursuant to Article 16.1 of the Concession Agreement (“Agreement”) for failure to remedy the alleged breaches complained of in your letter of August 28, 2012.

“Please note that the consortium disputes the purported termination of the concession. We refer to our letter of September 26, 2012 wherein we responded seriatim to issues raised in your letter of August 28, 2012, and demonstrated that the ministry’s purported notice of the non-compliance with the agreement is premature and invalid. We also emphasised the need for the grantor to comply with the agreement before it alleges non-compliance by another party.”

Bi-Courtney claims the construction company it engaged for the reconstruction was active on site until the receipt of the letter purportedly terminating the concession.

“We believe that a dispute has arisen which should have been resolved in accordance with the dispute resolution mechanism under Article 21 of the agreement prior to the invocation of any termination clause”.

They, therefore, demanded that the Dispute Resolution Board (“the board”) be set up, to determine the propriety or otherwise of government action under the agreement.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we reiterate that your purported termination of the concession is, according to law, invalid and should be discountenanced by relevant parties,” the letter concluded.

The Federal Government, according to Bi-Courtney, did not respond nor react to the letter.

Independent put a call across to one of the construction giants, Julius Berger, who is assumed to still be handling the project, as to why work is stalled on the road, but its response did not indicate any solution on sight as the media officer, N. G. Duku, noted thus: “I am not in a position to answer that question now. I would get back to you in due course.”

Same goes for John Ibe, South West Director of High Services, Ministry of Works, who noted that presently, he couldn’t comment on the issue until details of the 2016 the budget are known and the amount allocated to the said expressway.

While the media assistant to the minister, Hakeem Bello, picked this reporter’s call, but on hearing the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, cut off the line. He never picked subsequent calls put across to him.

Fashola, who declined commenting on the merits and demerits of the Federal Government’s cancellation of Company A’s ‘concession’, said it sends a no-welcoming message to foreign investors if the decision was without basis or influenced by politics.

“If that was the case, as a foreign investor, I will be asking myself the kind of treatment that awaits me as a foreigner if the government does that to a citizen. But that is only one half of the story,” he said.

While the controversies range, the innocent road users and communities around the expressway, are subjected to all manner of hardship and sufferings.

Part of the completion process of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project included expansion to 10 lanes at the Lagos-Sagamu intersection, and the construction of pedestrian bridges in communities cut across by the expressway. These communities include Warewa, Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Kpakuro, Olowotedo, Mowe, etc.

However, with the construction abandoned, these communities are subjected to various forms of road hazards. Ibafo for instance, has her public school only on one side of the expressway, implying that innocent children are made to cross to the other side of the expressway to attend school. Severally, there have been complaints of vehicles knocking down children attempting to cross the expressway. Same goes for adults who are forced to cross the other side of the expressway, while going about their daily duties.

A provision shop owner at Ibafo spoke to Independent that the rate at which people die on the expressway has made it very imperative for government to do something about it. Severally, she said, government’s attention has been drawn to these incessant accidents, yet, nothing is happening.

She continues: “You can see people dying every day. What are we asking for, just a pedestrian bridge. We buried one woman last week, she was just going and a vehicle knocked her down. The other time, I was standing and saw a woman who was about crossing the expressway hit by a loose tyre from a moving vehicle, and she died on the spot. Do you know how many school children we have lost to this road, just because they want to cross over to school?”

Described as the busiest interstate road in the country, connecting the South West, South East and the North, the narrowness of the road, coupled with potholes, have made traffic flow a nightmare.