By Moses Akaigwe
Lekki Concession Company Limited (LCC) has appealed to the organisers of the- #OccupyLekkiTollGate, #DefendLagos/ #DemNoBornDemPapa, planned to hold on Saturday, as well as the intending demonstrators, to reconsider their decisions in order to avoid the ruinous effects of similar protests in October, 2020.
LCC Managing Director, Yomi Omomuwasan, said yesterday that another round of protests would bring back sad memories to the various families that were affected by last year’s violence, in addition to havi the potentials of repeating the disruptions the company and other businesses along the corridor suffered.
He pleaded with the organisers of the planned protests to back down, and cooperate with the toll plaza operators as they gradually restore normalcy and try to commence operations.
Omomuwasan disclosed that LCC, which manages the Lekki toll road concession project, learnt through social media reports that the two different groups were planning to demonstrate at the already destroyed Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza on Saturday, February 13, 2021, following the decision of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to hand the toll plaza back to the operator, but feared that the actions would worsen the already by situation last year’s protest landed the company in.
He further remarked, “It is also pertinent to restate and put it on record that, just like other businesses on the Lekki corridor, LCC is a victim of the events, as assets worth several billions of naira were destroyed during the protests. LCC had nothing to do with the protest against police brutality, which was the central point of the youth agitation.
“As an organisation, we were unlucky to have been caught in the web. LCC was incorporated as a special purpose vehicle to build, operate and maintain the Eti-Osa Lekki Toll Road under a 30-year concession. It is the first successful PPP intervention in a road infrastructure in Nigeria.
LCC is a private company with over 500 direct staff in its employment and many more indirect staff and not going back to full operations within the shortest possible time would result to loss of jobs for thousands of Nigerians who are currently employed directly and across the value chain of our business.”
The LCC MD explained that even as a victim of the protests, the company hitherto chose to be silent and not join “the fray” in recognition of the fact that tempers were still very high, as there had been a lot of misinformation circulating especially in the social media.
“Part of what we suffered was the untrue allegation that LCC prevented the protesting Nigerian youths from occupying our plaza before the unfortunate incident of Tuesday October 20, 2020. We want to confirm that at no point did we take any steps to stop or disrupt the protests throughout the period, even when we were conscious of the likely effects on our operations.
“It was in a bid to halt further losses to our operations, especially given our subsisting financial
commitments to local and foreign financial institutions, that we approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess our facilities.
“Our intent with the request was to enable us evaluate the damages, process insurance claims and rebuild the burnt facilities before the commencement of operations in order to continue to fulfill our loan repayment and other financial obligation.”
He stated that LCC cooperated fully with the panel and made a strong representation through its lawyers concerning the return of our assets, which was graciously granted on Saturday, February 6, 2021.
The Managing Director sated that his company was, therefore, distressed by the reactions the decision of the panel has elicited from some members of the public and their resolve to forcefully take over the plaza on Saturday 13, February 2021.
Omomuwasan further explained that though LCC is fully owned by the Lagos State Government, the assets and liabilities were also acquired alongside the business, meaning that the acquisition of LCC by the state did not automatically translate to debt cancellation by the lenders.
“LCC is therefore obligated to continue to run the business on behalf the Lagos State Government as provided for in the concession agreement. Contrary action would have grave repercussions on how International lenders would view doing business in Nigeria. This automatically heightens the risk profile of doing business in Nigeria and this would impact the efforts of the Federal and State Governments to obtain long term loans for needed critical infrastructure
“As users of the express road will testify, despite the tolls not being operational since October 2020, LCC has continued to render essential services to all road users such as free 24/7 emergency assistance, Vehicle breakdown and recovery services and security patrol to all road users plying the Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe Expressway. “