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‘Go back to library to get the facts’, Presidency replies Atiku over Lagos-Calabar highway criticism



The Presidency has taken a swipe at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, over his criticism of award of the contract for the construction of the multi-billion dollar Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway to Gilbert Chagoury, the owner of Hitech Construction Company Ltd, whom he claims is a crony and business partner of President Bola Tinubu, without any competitive bidding.

Atiku, in a statement on Sunday issued by his Media Coordinator, Paul Ibe, accused Tinubu of awarding the contract to Chagoury who is his ally “devoid of any documented competitive bidding process or decision by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”

“More curious is the fact that the entire pilot phase of this project begins and ends in Lagos, especially within the axis of Bola Tinubu’s business interests. It is no secret that both Tinubu and Chagoury are business partners.

“This same Hitech, owned by Chagoury, was unable to complete the 50km Lekki-Epe Expressway. Despite installing two tollgates along the axis, Hitech which was part of the Lekki Concession Company consortium, was only able to construct about 20km, forcing the Lagos State Government to buy it back at the cost of N7.5bn ($50 million at the time) in 2013, which came at a loss to the people of Lagos.

“Tinubu has once again put his personal business interest ahead of that of the Nigerian people in violation of his oath of office where he swore that ‘I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions,” part of Atiku’s statement had alleged.

But while responding to the allegations on Monday, Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to the President, Bayo Onanuga, described Atiku’s comments as misrepresenting facts, advising him to go back to the library and get the real facts on the contract.

Onanuga stated that Atiku’s statement was full of inconsistencies as he allegedly allowed himself to be led into a blind alley by his poorly informed aides.

He noted that the Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway and Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail are two distinct projects which according to him, was unfortunate that the former Vice President got confused about the two projects.

The Presidency’s statement titled ‘Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway: Atiku Abubakar makes his hollow point again,’ noted that Atiku was not fully informed about the projects and as such, made his comments out a place of ignorance.

“Contrary to the claims in Atiku’s endorsed press statement, at no time did the administrations of former Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan award contracts for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway to any company at any varied and revised amount. So, the question of cost comparison does not arise,” the Presidency said.

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

READ ALSO:Atiku calls for probe of alleged N3.7trn budget padding, faults Ningi’s suspension

“The contract was awarded on August 4, 2021, by the Federal Executive Council presided over by former Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at $11.17bn. 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 16 years it held sway.

“Atiku queried the decision to start the coastal road from Lagos and not Calabar, oblivious of the huge impact such will make on export-import flow around the industrial zones.

“We are at a loss as to what the former VP hopes to achieve with his assertion. Is it not a received wisdom that a thousand-mile journey begins with a step?

“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.

“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.

“Whether the project begins from Lagos or Calabar, Warri or Sapele, what should gladden the heart of any patriotic Nigerian is that this important project that has been in the pipeline for several decades has finally taken off.

“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.

“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.

“We urge the former Vice President to act his status as a presumed statesman and desist from engaging in fruitless exercise that does not add any value to nation-building.

“As to the other poorly researched issue raised by Atiku and his team on the Lekki Concession Company, we urge them to return to the library for real facts rather than rushing to cast aspersions on President Tinubu and his government,” the statement said.

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