The Lekki Concession Company has appealed to leaders of movements planning protests at its destroyed Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza in Lekki, Lagos State to give peace a chance.
Last weekend’s decision by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the tollgate to the LCC had generated strong reactions from youth movements with a group threatening to occupy it and another pledging to defend it.
Speaking at a press conference at its head office on Thursday, the Managing Director of the LCC, Yomi Omomuwasan, explained that the company had refrained from commenting since the unfortunate event of October 20, 2020 because it realised that “tempers were high, and truth had become a major casualty”.
The MD, who empathised with individuals and businesses that suffered losses, said as a peace-loving organisation and also an institutional victim, it was distressed that more protests would hold at the Toll Plaza.
He explained that the LCC approached the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the tollgate to it in good faith and stem its losses.
Omomuwasan said: “To set the records straight, LCC never prevented the protesting Nigerian youths from occupying our plaza before the unfortunate incident of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, even as we incurred huge losses from the forced closure of the facility by the protesters who chose to make our facility their protest ground.
“It was in a bid to halt further losses, especially given our subsisting financial commitments to local and foreign lenders, including the African Development Bank, that we approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess our facilities.”
He added that the LCC requested the Tollgate’s return to evaluate the damages, process insurance claims and rebuild the burnt facilities before the commencement of operations to continue to fulfil its loan repayment and other financial obligations.
Omomuwasan added: “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 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, January 2021.”
The MD, who appealed to well-meaning Nigerians from across the divide to sheath their swords and give peace a chance, said the LCC is “also a victim of the unfortunate circumstance”.
LCC, he reiterated, “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.”
Omomuwasan said that the LCC, incorporated as a special purpose vehicle to build, operate and maintain the Eti-Osa Lekki Toll Road under a 30-year concession, is the first successful PPP intervention in road infrastructure in Nigeria.
Omomuwasan noted that not returning to full operations within the shortest possible time would result in loss of jobs for the LCC’s over 500 direct staff and thousands of others across its business value chain.
He said: “We appeal to the leaders of the protest movement to cooperate with us as we gradually restore and commence operations.
“To every sore heart and scared body, we at LCC ask for divine comfort and speedy healing.
“As we grieve together, let us find warmth in the embrace of one another with a common resolve to rebuild a better Lagos upon the ashes of our yesterday.”
Omomuwasan disclosed that despite the tolls not being operational since October 2020, LCC has continued to render essential services, including free 24/7 emergency assistance and vehicle breakdown and recovery services to all road users.