- As Presidential Aide says Recalled judge collected N90m bribe from 100 lawyers
Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman’s assurances of bringing Government’s serious attention to Apapa was validated at the weekend, with the Power, Works and Housing Minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola’s signing of a N4.34 Bn Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dangote Group and other stakeholders, for the reconstruction of Apapa Wharf Road.
Hadiza, backed by Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello had pacified embattled striking stakeholders to go back to work few weeks back, stressing that reconstruction would be effected, despite the road not included in the nation’s 2017 budget.
Validating Hadiza’s on Saturday, the Minister also confirmed that the project is to be funded by the AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd, an arm of the Dangote Group, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Flour Mills of Nigeria.
The reconstruction work is to flag off shortly after the signing of the MoU, sequel to the site being handed over to the stakeholders.
Fashola acknowledged that the embarrassing gridlock in Apapa could no longer be safely ignored, especially having drawn the ire of the stakeholders and transporters, hence the urgency attached to it.
He however blamed shippers choice of using road as means of cargo evacuation, instead of other means, including rail, as being mainly responsible for the gridlock, in addition to causing road degeneration as well as well as avoidable hardship to port users and Apapa residents.
Even as he praised the residents for their patience, alongside the maturity and the stakeholders’ “leadership role’’ which finally culminated into finding solutions to the complex gridlock in Apapa and its unsavoury effects on its environs.
“As a result of all these unsavory practices, we have reached a point of near total gridlock, it is difficult to move cargo in or out, difficult for residents to get home and this must stop,’’ he said, identifying initial bottleneck encountered in the process of agreeing on the most desired design capable of adequately addressing the drainage problem since the area was water logged.
“We have finished with the design, we now have a Bill of Quantity and the cost of the road is N4.34 billion to be funded and paid for by these three groups, Flour Mills of Nigeria, AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd and NPA,’’ he said.
The minister said that although the parties were funding the project, the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing would supervise it through all the stages to ensure quality and compliance with standards.
Fashola sought for the cooperation of all residents of Lagos and directed the Apapa Area Commander of the Nigerian Police Force, DSP My Nuru to apprehend reckless drivers who drive against traffic during the period of construction.
He also appealed to Nuru to tackle all bureaucracies that would affect free flow of traffic while apprehending offenders.
Fashola also appealed for synergy among law enforcement and traffic regulatory agencies for better traffic management to reduce stress on road users during the one-year duration of the project.
The Managing Director, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Mr Paul Gbededo said that Wharf Road was the “most important road in the entire country’’ which needed more attention.
“This kind of road cannot be handled with levity,’’ he said.
Responding to issues of lack of holding bays raised by transport unions, the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Usman said that government would support the private sector to drive the initiative to set up new ones.
“We have received proposals on electronic management of holding bays, we are working through processes and we would soon conclude on that,’’ she said.
She said that tank farms that do not have holding bays for their trucks would soon be sanctioned.
Usman said that the NPA was also working on providing weigh bridges within the ports as well as enforce implementation in a few months to take care of problem of high axle load on the roads.
Mr Joseph Makonjuola, the Honorary Adviser to Dangote Group of Companies assured that the company would contribute its funding as part of its corporate Social responsibility and would still meet its tax obligations to government.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd, Mr Ashif Juma, while giving a brief of the two-kilometer road project said that rigid pavement would be used on the road.
He also assured that high quality materials that would withstand stress would be used.
The event was witnessed by the Representatives of truck owners, transport unions, maritime operators, and business owners in Lagos, among stakeholders.
In the meantime, one of the judges recently recalled from suspension by the National Judicial Council will be charged this week with offences bordering on receiving gratification from lawyers, the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, has said.
In a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, Obono-Obla alleged that the judge was found to have received gratification worth N90m from 100 lawyers.
The presidential aide alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would likely file charges against the judge and the lawyers by Tuesday (tomorrow).
The judge, whose name was not disclosed, will be the second among the recalled judges, to be charged after the NJC lifted their about-eight-month suspension.
The EFCC had shortly after the NJC announced the recall of the six judges in a June 1, 2017 statement, charged Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court in Yenagoa with 14 counts of unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000.
Obono-Obla told our correspondent on Sunday that the NJC deliberately cleared the judge (whose name was not disclosed) to resume work despite cases of receiving gratification from lawyers pending against the judicial officer.
The presidential aide said, “The judge will be charged. He was deliberately cleared by the NJC. But now, we have established a case of receiving gratification from 100 lawyers against him.
“The EFCC will file the charges against the judge and the lawyers by Monday or Tuesday.”
He said apart from charging the lawyers alongside the judge, “We are also going to bring disciplinary proceedings against those lawyers.”
Additional report from Punch