Lagos-Calabar Coastal Project: Atiku Formed Intels Nigeria As Civil Servant, Has No Right To Claim Conflict Of Interest – Onanuga

Bayo Onanuga
The Presidency, has reacted to the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his claim of conflict of interest in the award of the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project by the Federal Government.

Atiku had in a statement on Sunday, claimed that the road project was awarded to Hitech Construction Company because the owner of the firm, Gilbert Chagoury, had business ties with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party also alleged that Tinubu’s son, Seyi, sits on the board of a company owned by Chagoury.

He also faulted the massive demolition of buildings to pave the way for the highway, saying it had the potential to discourage foreign investors.

Reacting to this in a Monday statement titled ‘Atiku Abubakar’s penchant for distorting facts,’ Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said that the former VP lacked the moral right to raise the question of conflict of interests.

“We found it strange that Alhaji Atiku could accuse President Tinubu of conflict of interest in the award of Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway to Hitech Construction Company, which he claimed is owned by Chagoury family because the President’s son, Seyi Tinubu, sits on the board of CDK, a tiles manufacturing company, based in Sagamu, Ogun State,” he said.

The Presidency further queried that should Atiku, who formed Intels Nigeria with an Italian businessman when he served in the Nigeria Customs Service, a “clear breach of extant public service regulations…be the one accusing someone else of conflict of interest?”

It said as Vice President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, Atiku maintained his business links with Intels, which won major port concession deals.

“Was this not an abuse of office, a flagrant violation of his oath, that a company where he was a co-owner won major government contracts and concessions when he was vice president?” the Presidency queried.

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It also accused the former VP of approving “sales of over 145 state-owned enterprises to his known friends and associates” as Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation.

The Presidency, therefore, stated that Seyi Tinubu, a 38-year-old adult who joined the Board of CDK in 2018, has a right to do business and pursue his business interests in Nigeria and anywhere in the world within the limits of the law.

“The fact that his father is now the President of Nigeria does not disqualify Seyi from pursuing legitimate business interests,” it asserted, stating that “the Chagourys are minority shareholders in the company, and only one member of the clan is on its five-man board.”

It added, “We wonder how Seyi’s membership of the board of CDK conflicts with Hitech Construction Company’s work on the Lagos-Calabar Coastal superhighway.

“How can an elder statesman be waging a campaign of calumny against the economic fortunes and prosperity of a country he wishes to govern or trying to scuttle a project that will bring prosperity to nine coastal states and the nation in general?”

Onanuga also countered Atiku’s claim demolition of buildings for the Lagos-Calabar highway would discourage investors.

He asserted, “various sectors of Nigeria’s economy, such as telecoms, manufacturing, solid minerals, oil and gas, e-commerce, and fintech, are attracting new Foreign Direct Investments from discerning investors who know Nigeria is a good market for bountiful returns.”

It argued that contrary to Atiku’s claim, the Tinubu administration has attracted over $20bn into the economy within its first year.

He cited President Tinubu’s trip to India for the G20 summit last September, saying “a substantial part” of the $14bn in new investments that investors promised “is already in the country.”

“Foreign investment in Nigeria’s stock market has ballooned, from N18.12bn in Q1 2023 to N93.37bn in Q1 2024, an increase of 415 per cent.

“The last time Nigeria saw such a level of investment was in the first quarter of 2019 when N97.6 billion was invested.

“The market, since Tinubu came to power, has broken records and created more wealth for the investors,” the statement read.