The Federal Government on Thursday inaugurated a compensation verification committee saddled with the responsibility of reviewing, evaluating and compensating landowners affected by the construction of the N15tn Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway.

The Minister of Works, David Umahi, who inaugurated the panel, also directed the committee to complete all verification and begin remuneration in 10 days ending April 28.

The move was part of efforts to hasten construction of the project set to revolutionise infrastructure in the country.

Umahi said verified claims would be settled within 72 hours by the contractor, Hitech Construction Limited, but remained silent on the total amount approved for the exercise.

The 700km Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project has been a subject of public scrutiny, following concerns by affected stakeholders and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over the cost, bidding and procurement processes.

The road designed to connect Lagos to Cross River, passing through the coastal states of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom, before culminating in Cross River, estimated to gulp over N4bn per Kilometer.

The works minister, while inaugurating the committee at the ministry headquarters in Abuja, said the gesture was in line with the renewed hope agenda of the administration of President Bola Tinubu which is transparency.

He, however, warned that only property owners with proven titles would receive compensation, while shanties and those with property within the 250m shoreline setback without a federal government title would not be compensated, as it is a legal matter.

He said the committee was responsible for engaging with affected property owners, assessing compensation details, and potentially visiting the sites for proper evaluation.

He further added that the federal rate on compensation would be used to determine the amount and not a lower figure by the Lagos State government.

Umahi said, “We are committed to transparency and that is why we are inaugurating this committee today. We have had our alignment on both sections of phase one of the coastal road which is 47.7 km and the second section which is about 55km. Hence the need to set up a review committee to look at the work done by the environmental assessment team and the works to be reviewed by this committee is very simple. It is just to interact with property owners that are going to be affected and then in the process, look at the compensation as enumerated to be paid and when possible, you visit the site; and at the moment we are using the federal rate to do our remuneration.”

He further explained, “I know very well that no amount given will satisfy those affected but we are bound by the law so we are using the federal rate which is higher than Lagos State compensation rate in paying compensation. The moment the property owners sign, after filing necessary documents and bank accounts, within 72 hours, we will authorise payment.

“The contractor is going to be paying directly to all those who are affected. This, we are committed to doing, this verification exercise starts in Lagos on Wednesday.”

Umahi said that apart from verifying those to be paid, the committee would also verify the dimensions and make calculations based on the area and volume.

“So only those that have proven titles will be paid as they are brought to us in the ministry, although, it will still undergo some processes from us.

“We have to make it very clear that 250 metres of the road legally belongs to the federal government.

“So if you have a title within these 250 metres and it is not a title from the federal government, then it is incumbent, and only the President will give a waiver if he so feels for payment. So I will work within the confines of the law,” he said

Tasking the committee to be diligent in adhering to the dictates of the law, he said, “The committee is not in charge of ramp or anything but just to verify those who are going to be paid compensation, the authenticity of those filing for compensation, verify the dimensions, where possible, the amount and in their presence where the property owner signed, once these are authenticated, we direct the contractor to go ahead and pay.

“It is from the contractor’s money the compensation is routed.

“But where there is a title problem, it will need a Presidential waiver for such to be paid. It is only those with proven titles that will be paid as they are brought to us in the Ministry; because they will still undergo all the verification processes.

“So anyone with a title within the 250m and is not a federal government title, then it is incumbent that only the President can give a waiver if he feels so for the person to be paid. So, I will work within the confines of the law.”