Presidency Chastises Atiku over Remarks on Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway

•Says former VP is killjoy of project that will boost economies of nine states

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The federal government, yesterday, berated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his comments on the ongoing Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, one of the signature projects of the President Bola Tinubu administration.

Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said Atiku had allowed himself to be led into a blind alley by his “poorly informed aides” in his desperation to make the headlines.

Onanuga said a statement signed on Atiku’s behalf by his media office made false allusions pertaining the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project.

He stated that contrary to Atiku’s suggestions, the coastal road project had been praised for how it would improve the quality of life of Nigerians and the economy of the nine coastal states it will pass through, particularly in the areas of agriculture and tourism.

Onanuga alleged, “Seeking to be a kill-joy, 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 have decided, however, to respond to Atiku’s misrepresentation of facts in matters of the coastal road if only to set the record straight so that unsuspecting Nigerians are not misled and misinformed.

“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 contrary to the claims in Atiku’s 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, adding that the question of costs comparison could not have arisen.

Rather, he clarified that the contract that was awarded was that of Lagos-Calabar coastal rail.

 Onanuga said, “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 (FEC) presided over by former Vice President, Prof. 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 of the failure of the previous PDP-led government that it could not get it off the ground in 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 deserved plaudits for having the courage to embark on the transformative project, and not vilified as Atiku unsuccessfully sought to do.

According to him, “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.”

He also faulted Atiku for objecting to the decision to start the coastal road from Lagos and not Calabar, saying he is oblivious of the huge impact such would make on export-import flow around the industrial zones.

Onanuga said, “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 miles’ journey begins with a step? 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.”

Onanuga affirmed that Tinubu as a leader and nationalist will continue to drive and propel national progress through infrastructural development across the country.

He enjoined Atiku to act his status as a statesman and desist from engaging in fruitless exercises that do not add any value to nation-building.

The statement added, “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.”

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