Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Presidency knocks Atiku over comments on Lagos-Calabar highway project, says ex-VP desperate to make headlines 

The presidency has knocked Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, over his recent comments on the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project.

Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, had alleged that the 700-kilometre highway project was awarded to Hitech Construction Company Limited (Hitech) owned by Gilbert Chagoury, arguing that President Bola Tinubu prioritised personal business interest over Nigerians in the handling of the project. 

He claimed that Chagoury is a business partner of Tinubu and the federal government failed to reveal the expenses associated with the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project.

He added that the road construction is shrouded in secrecy and could cost N15.7 trillion. He also condemned the federal government for not disclosing the cost of the project as done by Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari’s administrations.

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In a statement issued on Monday, Bayo Onanuga, special adviser to the president on information and strategy, said Abubakar did not get his facts right.

“In his desperation to always want to hug the headlines as a self-appointed opposition leader, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has allowed himself to be led into a blind alley again by his poorly informed aides,” the statement reads.

Onanuga said Abubakar made “false allusions” about the project in his “futile attempt to denigrate and find faults in the audacious and transformational” road construction initiative.

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“To Atiku’s chagrin and utter disappointment, the Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway has been rightly praised for the huge economic impact it will create and how it will be a game-changer in improving the quality of life of Nigerians, especially the economy of the nine coastal states it will pass through. Importantly, the road will boost the agricultural and tourism economy on a grand scale,” the presidential spokesperson said.

“Seeking to be a killjoy, Atiku Abubakar engaged in red-herring by raising ill-thought-out allegations that only exposed his inadequacies and those of his team in getting the basic facts on an issue he badly seeks to nail the government.

“We owe it a sacred duty to ensure Atiku and his handlers do not continue to spread disinformation as they wallow in their politics of hatred.”

Onanuga said the administrations of Jonathan and Buhari never awarded the project to any company at any varied and revised amount as claimed by Abubakar.

He added that Abubakar is mixing up the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project with the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail.

“So the question of costs comparison does not arise,” the presidential spokesperson said.

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“The contract that was awarded was that of Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail. The rail was designed as part of the standard gauge national rail network.

“The contract was awarded on August 4, 2021, by the Federal Executive Council presided over by former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN at the cost of $ 11.17 billion. The contract was to be completed in six years. The project didn’t take off.

“The Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail project has always been on the card. It was another testament to the failure of the previous PDP-led government that it could not get it off the ground in the 16 years it held sway.

“The Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway and Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail are two distinct projects. It is unfortunate that the former Vice President is confused about  the two projects.”

Onanuga said Tinubu “should be praised for having the courage to embark on this transformative project and not vilified as Atiku Abubakar unsuccessfully sought to do”.

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“We know there is nothing so sacred for Atiku Abubakar in the pursuit of his undying ambition to be President of Nigeria even in his advanced age,” he said.

“We, however, don’t expect a former Vice President of Nigeria to continue to fan ill-will and engage in divisive politics in his twilight.”

“President Tinubu as a leader and nationalist will continue to drive and propel national progress through infrastructural development across the country.”

The presidency asked Abubakar to “act his status as a presumed statesman and desist from engaging in fruitless exercise that does not add any value to nation-building”.

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