President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed the $18.5 billion Centenary City Project flagged off by former President Goodluck Jonathan last year. He noted that skills, expertise and vast experience that will be brought into Nigeria to build the Centenary City on the Dubai model, will also be of immense benefit to the country’s overall development.
The project which is 100 percent private sector driven has generated a lot of controversy in recent times and has of late been turned into a subject of litigation between the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, who spearheaded the initiative, and a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Cairo Ojuogboh.
Buhari had summoned the Governing Board of the Project, chaired by the former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and his members to offer explanations on the project.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the Presidency yesterday in Abuja welcomed an assurance from Centenary City Plc that all the original inhabitants of the site have been fully compensated.
Shehu noted that after being briefed by the Chairman of the company’s board of directors, Abubakar and members of its management team, Buhari praised the Centenary City’s main development partners from the United Arab Emirates for having enough confidence in Nigeria to agree to invest about $18.5 billion in the project.
According to him, the President also welcomed the assertion by Abubakar and his team that the project will create about 250,000 more direct jobs in the Federal Capital Territory and about half a million indirect jobs.
He said that he looked forward to regular updates on the Centenary City’s development.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was also present at the briefing, said that the issue of the rights of the original inhabitants of the site acquired for the Centenary City had been of concern to the present administration.
“We are glad that it is being handled,” he said while welcoming the assurance that compensation had been paid to those who will be displaced by the project and that the issue of their relocation was being addressed.
Abubakar and the management of the Centenary City also told President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo that the project would be totally private sector driven.
In a joint briefing of State House Correspondents after the meeting, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory Administration (MFCTA), John Chukwu, said there was no truth in the report that the financiers have backed out. “All members are available and they can explain later”.
On reports of short changing Nigerians by former government officials, especially as it concerns reported N1.2billion waiver, he said: “I am not aware of any short changing”.
On allegations that the former SGF appropriated plots without following due process, Chukwu said: “ The company is here, they can answer such questions.”
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Centenary City Plc, Dr Odenigwe Ike Michaels said that the project is owned by 40 local and international investors.
His words: “Under our agreement with FCTA and other stakeholders, we have paid all the compensation on the Centenary City site, and we are going ahead with the relocation which is being supervised by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
Concerning allegations that Anyim owns the project, Odenigwe said: “We do not respond to rumours, we only respond to facts”.
The immediate past SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim, was also part of the delegation.