Gentlemen of the Press,
Permit me to start by expressing our immense gratitude to you for attending today’s press conference at very short notice. Even though we have maintained a stoic silence since the unfortunate incident of Tuesday October 20, 2020, it has become imperative for us to hold this Press Conference and talk about a few things. Prior to now, we chose to be silent and not join the fray because we knew that tempers were still very high, as there had been a lot of misinformation circulating especially in the social media.
First, LCC like many Nigerians are distressed by the violence that resulted from the protests and the resultant disruptions to people and businesses.
Unfortunately, LCC as an organization and an institution has also been a victim of the violent part of the protest resulting in substantial losses to our operations because we have since not been able to function and offer the services we used to. It has also brought a lot of uncertainties to our staff and their thousands of dependants, who are also being severely affected.
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.
Gentlemen of the Press, we have lately been made aware from media reports that two different groups – #OccupyLekkiTollGate and #DefendLagos/#DemNoBornDemPapaWell – are planning to demonstrate at our 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 us.
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 fulfil our loan repayment and other financial obligations.
We want to place on record that we cooperated fully with the Panel and made a strong representation through our lawyers concerning the return of our assets. A request the Panel graciously granted on Saturday, February 6, 2021.
We are therefore distressed by the reactions the decision of the Panel has elicited from some members of the public and their resolve to again forcefully take over the already destroyed Plaza on Saturday 13, February 2021.
We wish to use this medium to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians from across the divide to reconsider the decision, which has the potentials of repeating the disruptions we all suffered and especially bringing sad memories to the various families that were affected by the protest of October 2020.
It is also pertinent to restate and put it on record that, just like other businesses on the Lekki corridor, LCC is also 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.
Though LCC is fully owned by the Lagos State Government, it should be noted that the assets and liabilities were also acquired alongside the business. Therefore, the acquisition of LCC by the Lagos State Government 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.
We therefore appeal to the organisers of the planned protest to reconsider the decision, and cooperate with us as we gradually restore and commence operations.
Gentlemen of the Press, we urge you as partners in progress, to assist in propagating this passionate appeal to all peace-loving Nigerians.
I thank you for your attention.