The Nigerian House of Representatives has asked the federal government to investigate allegations in CNN’s documentary series “Power players” about the deadly toll that the Lekki Toll Gate toll road in Lagos has taken on Nigerians. The Nigerian government is continuing to provide no evidence to justify its claim that the CNN report is inaccurate.
On July 27, the Nigerian Senate passed a resolution that condemns CNN’s documentary series and urges the federal government to take legal action against the cable network. On August 1, the House of Representatives passed the same resolution, with additional conditions, urging the government to invest in critical infrastructure such as roads and power to reduce road fatalities and disease burdens. On August 3, The Voice of America’s correspondent Emmanuel Brown reported that the Nigerian National Assembly Committee on Justice and Human Rights has begun investigating the allegations of corruption and deaths associated with the toll gate and is working with the Lekki Toll Gate operator to help find the truth about the toll road project.
On August 4, CNN reported that the Lagos State government confirmed the toll road is still being operated under franchise contract. Lagos government officials then denied allegations the cable network made in its documentary series that the toll collection practices were illegal, noting that the toll collection is regulated by the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). CNN also reports that the Lagos State government is actually banking money in a secret legal account to maintain the toll road, and that all communications with Lekki Toll Gate have been lost.
Despite the fact that no evidence to substantiate its claims have been presented to the House, the Nigerians Government has responded by threatening CNN with economic sanctions. On August 10, the federal government threatened to impose economic sanctions if CNN refuses to retract the reports and apologize to the Nigerian people. In response, CNN’s spokesperson tweeted: “CNN stands by its reporting. We stand by the integrity of our reporter and team.”
On August 24, CNN released a revised report that contains no evidence to substantiate the Nigerian Government’s claims.
Lekki Toll Gate has affected nearly 12,000 people and their families since the toll gate opened in 2008, with more than 7,000 of those deaths occurring in the past five years. At least 94 percent of the toll roads served by the Lekki Toll Gate are involved in auto accidents and in at least two cases have resulted in fatal crashes. According to CNN, some Nigerians are paying more than $6,000 each year for the privilege of paying tolls along the toll road, while others have died on the road in some of the countries worst traffic jams.
The Lagos State Government, in collaboration with the Lekki Toll Gate, is currently prosecuting a former state official for encouraging the deadly toll road.
At the heart of the case is the money on the toll road. Money made from auto accidents and traffic deaths on the toll road is now the main source of revenue for the controversial toll road, leaving some Nigerians paying the $6,000 or more a year to receive protection from traffic death and injury.