Trillion-Naira Trouble: Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway Hits a Roadblock

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The ambitious N15 trillion Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project, initiated to connect major coastal cities in Nigeria, has hit a roadblock. The federal government, under the directive of President Bola Tinubu, has paused and redirected the project to preserve critical infrastructure and minimize the impact on local communities.

A Controversial Undertaking

Initially launched with great fanfare, the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project faced immediate backlash. Critics questioned the enormous cost and the prioritization of such a project over other pressing needs. Minister of Works, David Umahi, who spearheaded the project, faced resistance from local communities, particularly the Okun-Ajah community in Lagos, which was at risk of losing significant heritage and infrastructure.

“Minister Umahi assured affected property owners of fair compensation and emphasized the project’s importance for national development,” reported a stakeholder meeting in Lagos . However, this did little to alleviate the concerns of the local populace.

Community Outcry and Government Response

The Okun-Ajah community, home to six villages and three traditional kings, raised alarms over the proposed route that threatened their 600-year ancestry. Their voices were heard, leading to a presidential directive to reassess and realign the project. This move saved critical infrastructures such as MTN submarine cables and telecommunications workstations, vital for the community’s connectivity and economic activities.

“The president, out of compassion, added a human phase to save property and infrastructure of Okun-Ajah axis,” stated Minister Umahi, acknowledging the community’s heritage while applauding the government’s effort to mitigate the demolition impacts

Navigating Legal and Environmental Hurdles

The project followed rigorous legal and environmental protocols, undergoing certification by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Despite these measures, the realignment saw a reduction in the number of demolitions—from 750 houses in the original plan to 450 in the new alignment .

Umahi emphasized the legality of the process, clarifying that compensation would be provided to property owners with proven titles. He reiterated the project’s adherence to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Acts, ensuring compliance with established laws and regulations.

A Balancing Act of Development and Preservation

The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project exemplifies the delicate balance between development and preservation. While the federal government aims to enhance connectivity and economic growth, it must also safeguard the rights and heritage of local communities. The decision to halt and realign the project underscores the importance of inclusive development that respects both progress and tradition.

As Nigeria navigates its path to modernization, such projects highlight the need for thoughtful planning and community engagement to ensure that development benefits all stakeholders without erasing their cultural and historical identities.

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