CNN Gets Heat from Nigeria Over Roster Of Tollgate Corruption

CNN is facing warnings from Nigeria to pull out of a story that exposes the role of a former presidential candidate in tollgate corruption in the highly lucrative commercial suburb of Lekki. Without providing…

CNN Gets Heat from Nigeria Over Roster Of Tollgate Corruption

CNN is facing warnings from Nigeria to pull out of a story that exposes the role of a former presidential candidate in tollgate corruption in the highly lucrative commercial suburb of Lekki.

Without providing any evidence, Nigerian authorities have responded to the Niger Delta Watchdogs report of an investigation into how the home of Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the man who ran against Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 presidential election, was earmarked for the development of a tollgate at the Lagos-Epe Expressway.

Footage from a lawsuit obtained by the watchdog shows a tollgate operator signing Balarabe Musa’s name under a contract to build what would have been Nigeria’s first tollgate, according to the watchdog’s report.

The status of the lawsuit was unclear in Nigeria, but Mr. Musa is now the FCT, the administrative territory’s minister.

Jonathan Eze Onyemelukwe Wale Oladipo-Yusuf, president of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, called the CNBC story a “fraudulent expose.”

“The matter raised has been covered by the courts and the government has moved on,” Wale Oladipo-Yusuf said in a message to CNN. “CNN can always call us if it has any issues.”

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He added the film wasn’t a probe “into tollgate development.”

Despite the threats, CNN has stuck to its story. The Lagos court found the a contract for the Lekki Tollway was not preceded by an enabling law but ended up requiring approval from the current Nigeria’s Justice Department, which in the past has been hostile to toll roads.

The incident with Alhaji Balarabe Musa highlights the way in which tollgates operate in a strange, hidden regime of collusion. Because they aren’t required to be paid for or posted, people can readily sell rights to manage tollgates to the highest bidder, and not the operator.

Newsweek reported that out of the 45 such toll roads in Nigeria, at least half were planned at the initiative of those with the dirtiest hands, including former President Jonathan Goodluck, whose wife, Patience Jonathan, is now the country’s vice president.

Included in the Niger Delta Watchdogs report was an audio recording of former Senate President, David Mark, who is currently the secretary-general of the ruling APC party in Nigeria, discussing a $300 million road project in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The project, which will be a toll road, was built by The John T. Rock Group, an American company partly owned by T.K. Conway, the former billionaire chairman of Texaco Nigeria.

John T. Rock Group released a statement at the time of the payments. The statement read in part: “The transaction was to finance road construction by a developmental partner under a contractual relationship that was approved and endorsed by the government of Nigeria.”

“This is a sovereign road project funded by the government of Nigeria and a private local partnership project financed and executed by John T. Rock Group, an American company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina.”

Information from the Associated Press.

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