Enugu State government is yet to find any competent investor who will be willing to rehabilitate Hotel Presidential Enugu, under a build-operate-and transfer agreement
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 13, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
HOTEL presidential Enugu is begging for attention of the state government. The once prestigious hotel and one of the legacies of the defunct Eastern Nigerian government; is rotting away. The condition of the hotel has threatened one of the most enduring legacies of the city and also exposed its neglect by successive governments in the state.
The hotel, which is located in the heart of the coal city, used to be the cynosure of all eyes. It boasted of elegant and well-furnished rooms, restaurant, bar, Olympic size swimming pool, conference halls, among other facilities. But today, the hotel which used to be a beehive of activities looks like a ghost area following its unprecedented dilapidation occasioned by neglect and mismanagement. It was gathered that at a certain time the hotel deteriorated to a level that the roof was leaking and rodents and reptiles made the rooms their home.
Sources in the state said that the hotel’s revenue started dropping during the military regime. But the hotel witnessed its greatest misfortune between 2000 and 2007 when some politicians in government used it as a complimentary accommodation to hangers-on and an events centre. Realnews gathered that during the tenure of Chimaraoke Nnamani, former governor of the state, the hotel rooms were understandably converted to living rooms of some government officials, and guests of the government, without the then administration settling the bills incurred by occupants of those rooms.
A staff of the hotel, who spoke to the magazine on condition of anonymity, alleged that almost all the government officials that lodged in the hotel then refused to pay for the services offered to them. “My brother, let me tell you the truth. This hotel was one of the best hotels in Enugu. The dilapidation of the hotel gained momentum during the administration of former governor Chimaraoke Nnamani. During that time, almost all his aides were sleeping in the hotel rooms without paying money. Only few rooms were left for the hotel and that was why the hotel failed to generate money to move on,” he said.
He said that the staff were being owned over 24 months’ salary arrears and were not given enough notice before they were forced to park out of the hotel and warned not come to work again. “The government did not give us enough notice before it asked us to park out of the hotel. We were being owned over 24 months and nobody cared to pay us before asking us to go. How can they ask us not to come to work? As I’m speaking to you now, we don’t know if the new company will employ us or not.”
Although many residents of Enugu have applauded the move to rehabilitate the hotel, they also blame government for allowing it to deteriorate before renovating it. Gabriel Okwor, a resident of Enugu, praised the state government for renovating the hotel but feared that the government would not complete the work before 2015. “I’m happy for what the government is doing in the Hotel Presidential but the way and manner they are handling the project is a source of worry to many of us in Enugu. It is true that the governor awarded contract for the project but since last year nothing has happened there. For Christ’s sake, why does the state government choose to destroy the legacies of the state, from the amusement parks, to the zoo and now Hotel Presidential? They killed everything without building new ones,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state government’s effort to renovate the hotel seems not to be working. The government awarded the contract to Status Symbol International Limited in 2009 and revoked it early in 2012 and since then, it has been looking for new investors who would renovate the hotel.
Ozo Joe Mmamel, commissioner for culture and tourism in the state, denied the rumour that the state government has abandoned the foremost hospitality industry. Rather, he said, “care is taken to ensure that the place is upgraded without defacing its original design.” He disclosed that the search for genuine investors under private-public partnership arrangement has begun explaining that a competent investor that would be selected would build, operate and transfer the hotel to the state.
The commissioner also revealed that it was because of the premium the state government has placed on the resuscitation of the Presidential Hotel that it recently terminated, with immediate effect, the contract awarded to Status Symbol International Limited. He regretted that the company was foot-dragging on the renovation agreement.
Mmamel said an important factor in the terminated agreement was time frame because the state government does not want a situation where a company would sabotage its tourism development blue print. “So, we want to ensure that the agreement conforms to the development plan of this administration. The state government has often stated its preparedness to fast track the development of tourism in the state. It was intriguing that after three months of entering into the agreement, the company did not show serious signs of its preparedness to fulfil its side of the bargain. I can tell you that very soon, we will advertise for fresh bids,” he said.