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Coastal Highway: Claims Of Inciting South-East People Against FG Baseless, Says Obi

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, has described as “baseless distractions”, claims by the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, that he is inciting  the people of the South-East geopolitical zone against the Federal Government over the Lagos-Calabar coastal road project.

In a string of posts on X (formerly Twitter), Obi said his projects as Anambra State governor about two decades ago were strategic.

According to the government, the 700 km Lagos-Calabar coastal road would be constructed for N15 trillion, and a kilometer of the road will cost N4 billion. It is designed to connect Lagos to Cross River, passing through Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom states, before culminating in Cross River.

Last Saturday, the works minister flagged off the demolition of buildings on the right of way of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road.

The demolition exercise began at the Mani Chula Beach, Oniru Waterfront, attracting a barrage of intense criticisms from many Nigerians who strongly felt that the timing of the project was wrong and would lead to further job loss with attendant economic hardship on citizens whose source of livelihood was cut off.

Obi described the project as a misplaced priority by the Federal Government. Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had described the project as a fraud, a comment which was refuted by the Presidency.

However, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos on Wednesday, Umahi said Obi supported the demolition of structures for road infrastructure while he was in office as governor.

“I think he is inciting some of the South-East people that are not well informed,” Umahi said. “He is inciting and getting them into trouble and he does not go to fight for them.

The minister said that affected property owners are already being compensated to the tune of N2.7 billion.

In his defense on Thursday, Obi, a former Anambra State governor, said he took strategic decisions as governor of the South-East state.

He said, “Let me be unequivocal: during my governorship, I made it abundantly clear that all structures obstructing existing roads and lacking approval would be removed.

“The circulated video clearly stated this, and I only initiated removal when construction had already commenced. Any insinuation otherwise is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth.

“I challenge anyone to verify and show me where the demolished structures on existing roads or ongoing businesses were not encroaching on the road and built without government approval while I served as governor.

“To provide further clarity, consider concrete examples. I decisively demolished the Onitsha North Local Government headquarters situated on the only existing stadium, relocated, and built a brand new structure for the local government office away from the stadium.

“This action was necessary to restore the stadium to its original purpose as a sporting facility for the people. Subsequently, the stadium was rightfully named after the first owner of the first football club figure in Nigerian sports, Chuba Ikpeazu, as a tribute to our commitment to honoring our heroes.

“Similarly, the Onitsha South Stadium, the sole local playing ground for the community, was converted into a local government office. Recognizing the importance of recreational spaces, I reverted it to its original status by demolishing and relocating the local government office. I then renovated the stadium and renamed it after the longest-serving Green Eagles captain, Godwin Achebe.

“My actions were strategic, aiming to prioritize the repair and maintenance of existing infrastructure over projects that risked disruption and destruction. This approach aimed to safeguard the livelihoods of Nigerians and ensure the efficient use of resources.

“The ongoing destruction and disruption of jobs and livelihoods associated with the Lagos-Calabar coastal road construction sharply contrasts with my administration’s efforts to improve infrastructure while minimizing adverse impacts on communities.

“Regarding allegations of incitement against the government, I firmly reject these unfounded accusations aimed at tarnishing my character.

“My focus is on fostering constructive dialogue and inclusivity, rather than engaging in divisive politics. Claims of incitement are baseless distractions. I have always advocated for unity and advancement, refusing to partake in reactionary divisive politics.”


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