President Jonathan summons Babalakin over deadly Lagos-Ibadan expressway

President Goodluck Jonathan has summoned Wale Bablakin, chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services, a company to which the federal government has concessioned the Lagos-Ibadan expressway but which appears unable to fix the road about three years after it entered into an agreement with government.

The 105-kilometre highway was conceded to Bi-Courtney in a public private partnership policy of late President Umaru Musau Yar’Adua, in May 2009.

Since signing the agreement in 2009, Bi-Courtney has failed to construct the road, leading to increased carnage and regular obstruction of traffic on the road.

The invitation served on Mr Babalakin follows an earlier meeting governors of Nigeria’s Southwest states had with the president to push for  the revocation of the contract.

Presidency sources said at that meeting, the governors pushed vigorously for the cancellation of the agreement between Mr. Babalakin and the government, “to halt the daily loss of lives” on the road, which has become more impassable, and is in a worst state than Bi-Courtney met it.

According to presidency officials, Mr Babalakin, a known financier of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP),  was to meet the president on Tuesday but the appointment was later called off.

Another appointment has now been fixed for Sunday or later next week.

The road, stretching from Lagos to Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, through Ogun state, is a nightmare for its users. Frequently, petrol-laden tankers trip on the road causing huge carnage. Accidents and robberies are also common on the road.

The worst traffic drawback on the highway is the routine snag caused by the activities of religious organisations flanking both sides of the road.

Funding the road

The cost of constructing the highway is estimated at about N120 billion. Bi-Courtney’s  major obstacle in delivering on the project since 2009 is lack of funds, the governors told the president.

The company’s spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, however said Bi-Courtney was buoyant enough to execute the highway construction but has been held back by the federal government’s inability to clear structures on the highway’s right of way.

“The problem is never funding,” Mr Kehinde said.

He said Bi-Courtney recently entered into partnership with some South African companies to help fund and execute the project.

He said Group Five would be the construction firm, while Rand Merchant Bank is the financier.

Vela VKE, he said, will be the Project Management company, and Aurecon would provide  independent Traffic and Technical Advisory Services.

But Rand Merchant Bank recently wrote the International Center for Investigative Reporting, Abuja, saying rather than being a financier, it was appointed a financial advisor to the project as part of a wider team.





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