House probes Lagos-Calabar highway, alleged visa racketeering

The House of Representatives has resolved to probe the procurement process in the award of the N15 trillion Lagos-Calabar coastal road, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over alleged visa racketeering and maltreatment of Nigerians abroad.

In a resolution yesterday, the lower legislative chamber lamented the contract award did not follow due process and get approval from the National Assembly.

It, therefore, agreed to set up an ad hoc committee to undertake the probe.

The development followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance moved by Austine Achado (APC: Benue) during a plenary presided over by the Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas.

The 700 kilometres highway, with each kilometre costing N4 billion, has been criticised by many Nigerians, including the presidential candidates of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, and erstwhile Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who described it as a misplaced priority by the Federal Government.

Moving the motion, Achado stressed the need to thoroughly investigate the procurement process.

He noted that the project, with the prospect of providing easy access for movement of goods and services across the nation, has a financing structure, as announced by the Minister of Works, that requires the Federal Government to provide 15 to 30 per cent co-financing, while the private sector would provide the balance.

The lawmaker added the highway would be tolled for a minimum period of 15 years at completion.

The House also resolved to call on the Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to ensure that all guarantees and credit enhancement instruments for the project are sent to the National Assembly for approval.

IN another motion moved by Ben Etanabene, the Green Chamber mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to investigate the alleged visa racketeering and ill-treatment of Nigerians overseas and report back within three weeks.

Etanabene had stressed the urgent need for the House to wade into the issue since scores of Nigerians are illegally held or imprisoned in foreign countries and subjected to harsh conditions that in some cases result in deaths.

The legislator claimed that he was privy to several complaints regarding issues of employment in the ministry and missions, appointments, postings, redeployments and disciplinary issues that affect morale and service delivery.

He added that in a lot of foreign missions, the local staff ceiling has been allegedly exceeded due to violation of rules, and in some instances, the ceiling of Foreign Service Officers.

This, Etanabene claimed, has further promoted indebtedness at the missions.

He warned that if the issues are not urgently treated, they could advance wastage, inefficiency and loss of revenue, poor implementation of government reforms and policy thrust.

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