By Olasunkanmi Akoni
WhenÂ the Sunborn Yatch Hotel, a floating hotel facility, berthed at the Marina waterfront recently, it elicited a lot of excitement among many Lagosians. Many saw it as a spectacular sight to behold, especially it was the first hotel of its kind to float on water in Nigeria.
The joy arising from this soon heightened when information got out that it was the latestÂ acquisition by the Lagos State government to enhance the tourism profile of the state.
The yacht is said to be one of the very few floating hotels in the world, putting Lagos in the league of cities like New York, Barcelona, Paris and Finland just as it has already put the state ahead of cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha which are said to be at various stages of setting up similar floating hotels.
Custom built in 1999 and refitted in the year 2002, the Sunborn Yacht Hotel combines contemporary class and comfort, being 18.4m wide, 106.5m in length and 17.6m in heightÂ at sea level.Â The floating edifice with a total of six decks and an interior space of approximately 5000 Sq.m provides a breathtaking ambience for corporate guests, conference delegates, wedding parties and leisure guests to hold their exclusive events. It presently boasts of facilities such as conference halls, restaurants, meeting rooms, spas, saunas and lounges.
Receiving the floating hotel facility when it berthed at Marina waterfront, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, described the transfer of the hotel to Lagos as a landmark achievement by Governor Babatunde Fashola and was meant to reposition Lagos as a tourism destination. He said â€œfor Lagos, Africa and indeed the Middle East, this has now become the flagship and a project heralding the dawn of a new era in the Nigerian tourism sectorâ€.
He affirmed that the project was a fully funded private sector initiative only facilitated by the state government to achieve the set objectives of the administration for the development of tourism in the state.
He disclosed that the operating licenses were ready for interested businessman, noting that the two-decked yacht hotel could also be used by banks and other industries for their annual general meetings.
But the joy arising from the acquisition of the floating hotel suddenly appears short-lived as it is now being threatened by controversy. The controversy derives in part from allegation that the acquisition was made possible by funds from the coffers of the state government for which theÂ Â state House Assembly had commenced investigation to get to the root of the matter.
Another aspect of the controversy borders on a dispute over ownership of the hotel. In fact, Lonseed Ltd, the Special Purpose Vehicle floated by Diamond Capital to facilitate the purchase loan, has allegedly sued the state Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations over the matter.Â At the centre of the resulting tussle are Multipurpose Infrastructure Development Company(MIDC) and Diamond Capital, the financier of the deal.
The Assembly had two weeks ago summoned the Commissioners for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Budget and Economic Planning, Finance and Justice: Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Ben Akabueze, Rotimi Oyekan and Supo Sasore, respectively to appear before it to clarify grey areas surrounding the procurement of the Sunburn Yacht.
The matter which was discussed at the plenary session lasted for about two hours with each member asking pointed questions. At the end of the session, the Speaker, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, directed all the parties involved to produce and submit all valid documents in the transaction of the Sunborn Yacht on or before the dayâ€™s sitting for further clarification.
Ikuforiji explained that the documents are important in order for the house to establish the truth as well as correct any wrong public impression over the development.
â€œEvery document that has to do with the procurement of the yacht should be brought to the House… in order to really clarify every grey area surrounding the vessel,â€ Ikuforiji stated.
On Monday, the Assembly even threatened to sanction Senator Afikuyomi if he failed to appear before it with the said documents.Â Â Â Diamond Capital Limited, has however,Â come out to deny that the state governmentÂ was financially involved in the Sunborn Yacht Hotel project, saying it has no hand in the hotel.
Making this declaration at a recent press briefing, the Managing Director of Diamond Capital Limited, Mr. Tony Onwu, said the â€œLagos State Government and the taxpayers in Lagos State do not have any financial commitment or otherwise to the entire investment that has brought this project this farâ€.
He expressed gratitude to Gov. Fashola â€œfor his wise counsel in ensuring the protection of what is a private enterprise between Diamond Capital Limited and its business customersâ€.
The Managing Director further declared: â€œWe have every confidence in the programmes of the Governor in ensuring a conducive environment for commercial enterprises in Lagos State and we look forward to working with Lagos State in actualising this dreamâ€.
Earlier in his remarks, the Special Adviser in the Governorâ€™s Office, Mr. Sunny Ajose, said further mediatory meetings between the Diamond Bank and their business customers concerning the Sunborn Yacht will still be convened at a later date to resolve some grey issues surrounding the hotel.
Present at the occasion were the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olasupo Sasore (SAN), and the Special Adviser in the Governorâ€™s Office, Mr. Sunny.
Five docked for conspiracy
Five middle aged men, Taiwo Adesola, SadiÂ Adejumo, Yinka Liasu, Kunle AbokunwaÂ and Jamiu Mutairu, aged 36, 21, 36, 22 and 25 years, respectively have beenÂ docked before an Ikeja Chief magistrate court on a two-count charge of conspiracy and extortion of money from commuters and motorists along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
The accused persons, according to the charge sheet, were said to have allegedly conspire among themselves to extort money from commuters and motorists at about 06:00am on July 5, 2009 at along Badagry Expressway.
The charge sheet preferred against the accused read: â€œThat you Taiwo Adesola â€˜mâ€™; Said Adejuwon, â€˜mâ€™; YinkaÂ Liasu â€˜mâ€™; KunleÂ Abokunwa â€˜mâ€™ and Jamiu Mutairu â€˜mâ€™ ,on the 5lh day of July 2009 at 0600hrs at Badagry Expressway Lagos in the Lagos magisterial district did conspire among yourselves to commit felony, to wit: extortion and thereby committed an offence punishable section 516 of the Criminal Code Cap 17 Vol. II, Laws of Lagos state of Nigeria 2003.
LG boss proposes toll gate at Festac
IN a bid to generate money and restore the lost glory of Festac, the Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area Comrade Ayodele Adewale has proposed a tollgate for all vehicles coming into the town.
Speaking on his one year in office, the council helmsman said that the total collapse ofÂ infrastructure in Festac will cost over N20 billion. The internally generated revenue will be used to upgrade the basic amenities and cater for the huge population, he informed.
According to Adewale, Festac Town was planned and designed for 300,000 people in 1977 but the population is now close to a million and he blamed the decay on the lukewarm attitude of the Federal Government.
In his words: â€œThe neglect of Festac by the Federal Government and the burgeoning population led to over-stretching and eventual collapse of the infrastructure. Irrespective of the census figures, the Federal Government should give Lagos a special status due its significance and populationâ€.
On assumption into office, Adewale set up a 20- point agenda for his administration saying that what he has done in the last one year touches every aspect of the 20 point agenda, which he intends to consolidate in the second year.