President Bola Tinubu has fired back at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, saying the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last election is bitter because he knows that projects like Lagos-Calabar and Sokoto-Lagos highways can potentially end his presidential ambition.

Atiku has heavily criticized Tinubu for embarking on the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway with the latest tirade coming on Sunday when he said the road project was awarded to Hitech Construction Company because the owner of the firm, Gilbert Chagoury, had business ties with President Tinubu.

However, Tinubu through a media aide Bayo Onanuga on Monday replied to the former Vice President saying he sustained his criticism of the project because of bad politics not in the interest of the country.

He said: “Atiku has been waging an unrelenting war against this all-important and transformative project for no justifiable reasons other than bad politics.

“Atiku knows that its grand success and other projects to be unfurled, such as the Badagry-Sokoto superhighway, will be a major boost for President Tinubu and finally upend his perennial presidential ambition.”

The ex-VP also alleged that Tinubu’s son, Seyi, sits on the board of a company owned by Chagoury.

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

But the Presidency, in a statement on Monday, denied the claims by Atiku, adding that the former VP lacked the moral right to raise the question of conflict of interests.

The titled, ‘AtikuAbubakar’s penchant for distorting facts,’ was signed by Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, BayoOnanuga.

The Presidency said, “We found it strange that AlhajiAtiku 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, SeyiTinubu, sits on the board of CDK, a tiles manufacturing company, based in Sagamu, Ogun State.”

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The Presidency has questioned Atiku’s credibility in accusing someone else of conflict of interest, given that he formed Intels Nigeria with an Italian businessman while serving in the Nigeria Customs Service, which was a clear violation of public service regulations. As Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, Atiku continued his business dealings with Intels, which secured major port concession deals. The Presidency pointed out that this was an abuse of his office and a violation of his oath as a co-owner of a company that won significant government contracts and concessions.

The Presidency also accused Atiku of approving the sales of over 145 state-owned enterprises to his known friends and associates while serving as the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation.

In contrast, the Presidency stated that SeyiTinubu, a 38-year-old adult who joined the Board of CDK in 2018, has the right to pursue his business interests in Nigeria and anywhere in the world within the limits of the law, despite the fact that his father is now the President of Nigeria. The Chagourys, who are minority shareholders in the company, have only one member on its five-man board. The Presidency questioned how Seyi’s membership on the board of CDK conflicts with Hitech Construction Company’s work on the Lagos-Calabar Coastal superhighway.

The Presidency criticized Atiku’s campaign against the economic fortunes of the country and his attempts to scuttle a project that could bring prosperity to nine coastal states and the nation as a whole.

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

It 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.

Onanuga 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.

The former Vice President had also said, “The fact that President Bola Tinubu’s son and his surrogates are on the board of companies owned by Gilbert Chagoury constitutes a conflict of interest.”

The Presidency said that every true and patriotic Nigerian, regardless of political differences, should work to promote the unity and economic well-being of the country and not delegitimise genuine efforts of the Federal Government to encourage local and foreign investments into the economy.

It said infrastructural projects such as the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway are used to galvanise the economy as US President Joe Biden used his $2tn bi-partisan infrastructure deal to revamp decaying American infrastructure.

Onanuga, also described as “stale news,” reports that the IMF is reclassifying Nigeria’s economy as the fourth largest in Africa.

He noted that the reclassification happened because of the devaluation of the Naira, promising that “Nigeria will bounce back to where it rightfully belongs as Africa’s largest market and biggest economy.”