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ABUSE OF PPP: WHY PRESIDENT JONATHAN MUST REVOKE LCC FEDERAL SUPPORT AGREEMENT

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It is my humble opinion that the discourse on governance or leadership especially on responsive and responsible government must be both descriptive and prescriptive. Very much unlike inventories that can be managed, people must however be led. Leadership itself is not manifested by coercion, even against the resented. Greatness is not manifested by unlimited pragmatism, which places such a high premium on the end justifying any means and any measure. Leaders are not born, but they are made just for the good of the people and to make life more abundant. However Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola and his collaborators have chosen to take Lagosians for a ride by embracing tyranny and dictatorship which is against the features of democracy or rule of law.

It has been widely observed that if Lagos government and Lekki Concession Company are planning to bring any ease of life to Lagosians, their construction activities will not be undertaken under heavy presence of armed and combat ready mobile policemen, and billions of naira will not be doled out to the local media to cover their excesses, especially facts about the wrong doing of Lagos government on its citizenry particularly those involving severe tax regime on Lagosians. To start with none of the LCC’s radio and press adverts have been presented to pass through the screening of (APCON) Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria for thorough vetting before getting to the public, despite the fact that the body (APCON) has been running advert in the print and broadcast media that all adverts in any form even obituaries, must be brought forward to them for screening/vetting. Recent discoveries showed that none of LCC’s adverts contents are factual, but filled with lies to mislead and deceive the public for their selfish gains; they manipulate and play with words to hoodwink the road users. For example LCC has once told the world different end dates for their construction activities on the 50 km road, and also when the tolling will start on the same corridor.

Lagosians and more importantly those of us residing along Lekki-Epe expressway were fooled in 2006, with the claim that the project will be completed within three years. The concessionaire, LCC put the construction cost of the 2km upgrade at N5billion. The company practically lost its integrity by charging commuters for using a road that is technically, “still under construction”. The concept of Public-Private Partnership is not “Nigerian”. It’s a concept that was developed in the western world. However, it has become common practice for governments in Nigeria to borrow a foreign concept and turn it on its head against the interest of the already impoverished citizenry to score needless political points. As PPP has now become a common place in government quarters at state and federal level, it is important that the government realise that concessions can sometimes create a private monopoly or extreme dominance, with consequent market power, which is prone to be abused. This makes the design of the concession agreement important so that adequate protection is given to consumers. There are awareness that the Lekki-Epe contract defies the basic principles and world’s best practice on Public-Private Partnerships. There is no PPP contract that involves the tolling of a road without alternative routes. Presently there is no alternative motorable road along the Lekki-Epe axis. Therefore, handing this road over to a private company to upgrade under a 30-year concession is contrary to principles of social equity. The concessionaire, LCC, has basically become a private monopoly by default.

A source from (LASAA) LAGOS STATE SIGNAGE AND ADVERTISING AGENCY said at a forum that LCC will make over 1billion naira from the proceeds of the commercial advertising generated on only 2km of the road, which translates to the generation of N25 billion naira per annum if the entire 49 km stretch becomes fully operable. What now baffles everyone is that if the company could generate such huge amount from commercial advertising alone why would it still bent on introducing 3 toll plazas on that road (within a local government), and why 30 years? It’s been noted that there are plans by the LASG to build an alternative road along the Lekki shoreline. So why was LCC not encouraged to build the alternative road under a PPP agreement? And what’s the timeframe for the completion of this alternative road? Ideally, toll roads in major urban areas are aimed at making available a priced ‘premium’ service as an alternative to competing congested roads on the unprized network, while covering full costs, including a target rate of return on capital. The pronouncement by the company’s MD (a Rivers State, Okrika man), Dr. Opuiyo Oforiokuma, some weeks back (December, 2010) put all of us the residents, almost into a state of coma, when he confirmed that Lekki-Epe Expressway toll plaza has been completed and will be commissioned for use in January 3, 2011. We were simply taken for granted despite the fact that a committee was set up by the state government to review the project in its entirety so that all stakeholders could reach common ground, but up till this moment none of the members of the committee had access to the recommendations of this supposed committee, except LCC, Tinubu and Fashola. Well it was later annouced that the tolling has been indefinitely put on hold by Governor Fashola when they realize our agitations will spell doom for Fashola second term bid in Lagos State.

Once again, the allegations by all concerned Lagosians and stakeholders are that, LCC is planning to commence charging road users, on a road that is still under construction this is an affront and it calls into question, the openness and transparency of the project procurement process. The key questions we need to ask LASG are, was the project subject to competitive bidding? What was the agreement between LASG and LCC in terms of toll charges and commencement of tolling? As we know, the project was meant to be completed in 2009, however, only 2km of road has been completed (!). So what does the contract say about completion date? Are there clauses in the contract that imposes penalty on LCC for failure to complete the project in time? One of the key benefits of Public-Private Partnerships is speedy, efficient and cost-effective delivery of projects through integration and cross-transfer of public and private sector skills, knowledge and expertise. I am not surprised at Mr Governor’s antics, recently he even attacked saharareporters recently in United Kingdom because a simple question was asked and the tyrant reacted angrily saying he doesn’t even read their publications or any other online news, which means he is indirectly telling us that he doesn’t visit his personal website, his party website, and even the state official website, but who cares? What is important for Mr Governor is to make himself accountable to the tax payers who made him governor and not dictatorial to suit the dictates of his god-father at the expense of Lagosians who groan under his severe tax regime.

Moreover, if the private sector can’t deliver within the specified timeframe, as it’s currently the case, then what’s the purpose of the agreement and to whose benefit? It is ludicrous to subject commuters to endless months of road works without any form of compensation from the concessionaire. Some have argued that the global financial crisis may have affected LCC’s ability to secure loan, hence delay in the project, and perhaps, the reason for early introduction of toll charges. The reason why PPP have long concessions periods and different from traditional contract, is because there is a broad range of uncertainties and risks associated with PPP. The concessionaire assumes far more responsibilities and much more and deeper risks than a traditional contractor. And that’s why in most cases, the project delivery cost in PPP projects can be quite expensive. And also, what if the concessionaire goes ‘burst’ before the completion of the project despite the Federal Support Agreement signed by the state, LCC and Federal Government? Does the state government have any mechanism in place to make sure that the road is completed? This is not an unlikely scenario, considering that LCC seems to be struggling financially. Or will it become an ‘abandoned’ project? This has been the common practice with most of the PPP contracts.

The operator of MMA II, Bi-Courtney Air services Ltd, was also recently fighting labour union over the takeover of the General Aviation Terminal. Proponents of PPP projects need to understand that extensive consultation and open communication with all stakeholders is necessary to ensure success. Stakeholders include employees and their trade unions, the public, the people who will use the assets and services provided local community groups and sector interest groups. It is also important that the economic, social and environmental concerns of those directly affected at local level should be taken into account along with the statutory rights and legitimate economic interests. There’s no doubt that private sector participation is necessary, if a sustainable infrastructure development is to be achieved, with sincerity of purpose and openness - especially in a country like Nigeria with massive infrastructure deficit. It is however important that it is done in a fair and transparent manner. It would also be fair if EFCC can interrogate Dr. Tunji Olowolafe, Fashola and Tinubu about LCC and the Lagos infrastructure Project. (LIP); Nigerians want to know.

We would never allow this government to intimidate us with the influence of their barrel of guns, they have failed to silence Adewale Sanni through death threats, blackmail, saying he is sponsored by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even if they kill him, (which can never be possible), we would still continue to fight the fight, until our agitations are adequately addressed. Lagos government and Fashola should cover their face in shame as they have failed to address the 'Slaving' Lekki Concession Company (LCC) and its collaborators. A quick check on the community in question will reveal the following: No primary or Secondary Health Care System, No security, No Public Secondary School, among other infrastructure deficit. Apart from the Lekki-Epe Express road, you need a 4-wheel-Drive to navigate the swampy inlets. All the developments on that axis are privately motivated. Lekki-Epe Expressway is the only link road in & out of these communities. This two lane dual carriage road was built about 27 years ago by a civilian administration link this one. Why on earth will somebody wakes up one day and award a contract to add just one lane and toll the road for 30 years period. This is highly unacceptable. It is also correct that the concessioning of the road was never opened for public bidding in 2006; LCC just came from the blues and forced on Lekki and Eti-Osa residents for 30 years extortion. Governor Tunde Fashola needs to explain to us what our taxes are used for! All the over N17.5Billion monthly tax that accrue to the state!

This particular issue has to be addressed otherwise it portends doom for this administration and the illegitimate concessionaire (LCC). The total amount contract amount should be amortized and paid by the government over the period of 30 years from the taxes that accrues to the state. Otherwise it will lead to multiple taxation on the side of the dedicated tax payers that live around that axis. Thirty years Tolling means that Three generations from our linage will be subjected to this. That is to say each individual from my linage (3 generations) will each pay about N19,000,000.00 for tolls in addition to the regular taxes paid to the state government. Please Governor Babatunde Fashola, rise up to this challenge and save this situation before it deteriorates. The unresolved restiveness in the Niger-Delta region also started like this, where lives and facilities are lost just for the fact that government was defiant to the agitations of its own people. This is the same state which has abandoned its striking lecturers in LASU for many months and also left its hospital in a messy situation which made the doctors to down tool for almost 6 months, presently Lagos State records the highest volume of individuals living with HIV/AIDS virus and other deadly diseases in the country, if not in Africa. We don’t have a listening governor that is the problem and the citizenry are suffering for it.


Meanwhile, if this non listening government claims they are sincere they should 1. Postpone any tolling until all the roads have been completed. 2. Knock down the obnoxious fences 3. If they insist on 30 years, they should toll the coastal road and allow free movement on the existing road. They can put 10 tolling booths there for all I care. Anything short of this they have only proven that they don't have the people of Lagos in mind; all they want to do is cash in on our population to profit themselves illegally. For the idiots that talk about recouping investment, let's be sincere even if you are building a bridge from Lagos to Ibadan with the same 6 lanes, it is not going to take 30 years to recoup the investment so why sell the people into slavery. How much was the budget for the entire project including profit margin and does it require building 3 toll plazas and fencing off alternative routes? I'm a Lagosians and they shouldn't take our gentility for weakness; lesser states would have destroyed those toll plazas by now through power of explosives. We the long suffering Lekki residents will not keep quiet and will not allow these looters to bring or harass us into submission; we would keep the protests going!

I expect our very responsible and passionate President, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President Right Hon David Mark, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Right Hon. Dimeji Bankole, who we consider as our last hope not to be allowed by any deceptive and insincere government to rob them into blackmail, the ACN government has been clearly seen to be tactical and heartless, hiding under Pa Awolowo’s name; the same individuals that have lied about assets declaration. THE EKITI STATE GOVERNOR FAYEMI, A FORMER TEACHER AND SPPECH WRITER FOR BOLA TINUBU DELARED THAT HE HAS ASSETS WORTH 750MILLION NAIRA IN ANTICIPATION OF WHAT HE WOULD STEAL IN FUTURE. FAYEMI WHO HAS NEVER BEEN A BUSINESSMAN IN HIS LIFE. SAME APPLIES TO HIS DEPUTY, A MIDDLE LEVEL BANKER THAT CLAIMS SHE WORTHS 1.2BILLION.

Our President should distance himself from that project and he should also not be allowed to be deceived by Lagos State government, because we understand before the suspension of the tolling plans by the concessionaire and Governor Fashola, the President would be invited for the commissioning of the initial set date for tolling in January 3, 2011, which will simultaneously kick start the commencement of the tolling on that axis. Mr President should also revoke the Federal Support Agreement (FSA) so that we the residents can be permanently relieved & released off the hook of the concessionaire. On the part of Lagos State, it is so unfortunate that late President Yar’Adua was cajoled by the duo, Tinubu and Fashola for the signing of the Federal Support Agreement, a document which gave LCC, Tinubu, Fashola & Tunji Olowolafe to get the 300 million US dollar loan from African Development Bank (AfDB), JP Morgan, Standard Bank etc. We can all see that Lagos government did not wish to spend their money to do feasibility studies nor did they wish to put up the cash to modernise the road to make the tax payers comfortable and be free from infrastructure deficit. It is already open to all of us that LCC wants to recoup its investment within a year and enjoy 29 years of extortion of road users on Eti-Osa axis.

Tinubu has mortgaged Lagos and primarily glued it to everlasting debt, even if the FSA is revoked by the federal government this would effectively means that FG would deduct Lagos' liability from our budget allocations, not to mention the reputational damage it will do as well as the impact it will have on Lagos' FDI, but yet we insist the FSA must be revoked without going back, because the damages it would eventually cause will apparently outweigh the good. People need to understand that LCC and Hitech are both owned by Tinubu, although LCC has tried to misinform us that Hitech is simply a contractor imposed on them by former Lagos state Governor who has a stake in Hitech and that LCC is a vehicle setup by ARM and LARUE to manage the project. This logjam will happen because some few individuals are greedy and selfish. The company no doubt might have been paying interest on loans for over 3 years now, but that should not be the business of the innocent and impoverished Lagosians who were never carried along before this concessioning was brokered.

If Lagos wants to do any tolling they should concentrate on a trunk road like Lagos-Badagry expressway and not a 50 km stretch, I see this as criminality and wickedness of the highest order. Meanwhile Fashola and his predecessor are consistently known for disrespecting due process in the scheme of things. For the Lagos-Badagry stretch, a federal infrastructure, the State did not seek permission from federal government before embarking on the project which will also be tolled after completion, however that project is also a stalemate at the moment because of the faulty foundation of the State government. Our stand point remains irreversible, it’s ‘‘No Tolling, No Fencing’’ and federal government should please expedite actions to revoke the Federal Support Agreement (FSA) and the Lekki-Epe Public Private Participation (PPP) project which has been grossly abused by its operators, should be terminated immediately to avoid monumental crises which may put lives and properties in jeopardy in and around that axis.

Barrister Ilesanmi is a property owner & resident of Ajah/Badore in Lekki-Expressway, Lagos State.

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