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Jan 11, 2018
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By: Edet Eyo Bassey

I join every discerning Akwa Ibomite to express my concern and reservation over the decision by the Akwa Ibom State Government to transfer management of Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. My concern stems from the fact that every stakeholder including my humble-self reserves the right to know who and how our common assets are managed.

The disclosure of the transfer of management was made a few days ago by Mr. Victor Antai, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism during an interactive session with members of the State House of Assembly. Antai who announced the transfer said it was seamless and flawless with virtually the same crop of staff, hinting that there was no job loss. He said Government decided to take-over management of the hotel because the Management Consultant failed to remit a dime to government in the last 10 years. Asked if management was not making profit despite the huge patronage, the Commissioner said the money was spent on purchase of diesel as the hotel was largely powered by Generators.

It is curious that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suddenly acquired the necessary managerial skills to manage a 5-star hotel facility that it lacked at the time the management of the hotel was outsourced to a consultant. Or could government decision to transfer management to the ministry be informed by Governor Udom’s assessment of the “superlative performance” of the Ministry under Mr. Victor Antai? This year, the Ministry received the highest budgetary allocation it has ever gotten from government since creation of the state. Although Mr Antai has impressed his boss with the various shows he had organized lately, his accomplishments as Commissioner in the Ministry of culture and Tourism maybe taken for granted but certainly not the management of a 5star hotel.

I am struck with indignation that Government in its thinking should choose to hand-over a 5-star hotel facility with a world class golf course built with tax-payers money to be ruined and wrecked by government’s inept management apparatus. We have always had a Ministry of Culture and whatever (Now Tourism. Why did government not deem it fit for the ministry to manage the hotel ab-initio but instead entered into a management contract with a consultant? The answer is obvious: for effective management and proper service delivery. If the Consultant could not deliver because much money was being spent on diesel (as we are told), the solution cannot be found in the outright change of management but in finding solution to the problem by (1) review of expenditure on diesel and taking steps to conserve power and (2) an alternative source of power. Regrettably, no House Member asked the Commissioner how he intended to solve the power problem. Government must come clean (if that is all the problem with the hotel) on how it intends to solve the power problem. You cannot solve a problem using the same elements or factors that caused it.

I am afraid that history is about to repeat itself. We recall the once grandiose and luxury Metropolitan Hotel Calabar, built and operated by the then South Eastern and later Cross River state governments. It was managed by several hands under the state Ministry of Tourism. It was run aground, furniture looted and the hotel stripped bare by poor and corrupt management. The same thing happened to Qua River Hotel in Eket. They were shut down for years. Only Metropolitan Hotel was leased out to a private enterprise by the Government of Donald Duke. It has since been running proficiently and I guess profitably too.

The Metropolitan Hotel and the Cross River experience is enough lesson for us. We cannot go that route in order to avert similar experience. Governor Udom Emmanuel must necessarily take a closer look and reverse the decision to transfer the management of Ibom Le Meridien hotel to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The Ministry lacks the requisite skills to manage such a hotel. Governor Udom Emmanuel should as a matter of urgency commence an open, transparent and credible exercise for the recruitment of a competent firm of Hotel Managers to take over the management of Le Meridien hotel. Akwa Ibom people cannot risk the joy and pride they derive from a well-managed Le Meridien Ibom hotel for reasons of government ineptitude and failure to do what is rationally correct in the circumstance.

Meanwhile, Government has paid out 7.2 million US$ to the Marriot Group, an International Hotel Managers for the management of 4 points hotel Ikot Ekpene. Is it not funny that management of Le Meridien Ibom hotel is transferred from a consultant to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism? What’s going on?

Edet Eyo Bassey (Esq.) is the state Publicity Secretary of APC, Akwa Ibom State.

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