Andy Esiet, Calabar
Gov Ben Ayade
The purchase and proposed concession of N2. 8 billion Transcorp hotel by the Cross River state government is causing ripples in the state.
The state had under the regime of Donald Duke sold the hotel to Transcorp at N250 million but recently under the regime of Governor Ben Ayade repurchased the 230 rooms hotel at N2. 8 billion and has put the hotel on sale again thus attracting criticism from some Cross Riverians. The state government in an advertorial in some national dailies recently and in keeping with the federal government National Development Plan (NDP) of 2021-2025, through the Ministry of Industries in collaboration with the Public Private Partnership (PPP) council and the Bureau of Public Private Partnership (BPPP) is engaging on an open competitive call for expression of interest(FCI) for the concession of some of its industries and asset by the public which include,
Cross River Bagging Factory, Calabar. G
roundnut Oil Mills, Bekwarra, Maize Flour Factory, Obanliku, Fresh Fruits Factory, Obanliku and Transcorp Hotel, Calabar
The document said the concession “is in line with the Cross River state government strategic, integrated, infrastructure plan to promote infrastructure development , attracts investment, creates employment , increase internally generated revenue and stimulate its economy… and the concession of the aforementioned assets have been approved by the state executive council as eligible for a PPP”.
However, this arrangement has not gone well with some Cross Riverians who are saying that the concession plan is targeted at Transcorp hotel for the interest of some top persons in government and it should be jettisoned.
A statement by the Movement For Total Liberation of Cross River State, said the government had earlier given the impression that the state was to buy the hotel from Transcorp and it was meant to be bought by gradual payment “but when it got to the publication of properties of Cross River State government to be sold, you would clearly see that it has already been repurchased” .
The statement which was signed by the Chairman, Chief Ase Adung said, “at what month was it repurchased? What was the process of repurchase? How did Cross River State government pay N2.8 billion as the worth of that property? There is a lot of criminality and fraud in this aspect. A commercial bank in the state is said have paid the money on behalf of the governor Ben Ayade led government and for that property to Cross River State government a month ago, is now pursuing the House of Assembly to see how they can concession the same property to a private company of their choice and by so doing, they have not followed due process.
“We are seeing the fraud very clearly that this property has been bought by Cross River State government and we need to shout because we do not know the processes through which this property was acquired. We will challenge these issues. They should stop deceiving themselves to think that governor Ayade’s government would buy a dilapidated property for N2.8 billion and say it is on behalf of Cross River State. When did they do the assessment and evaluation of that property?”
The movement submitted that “there are a lots of corruption issues in this transaction. How can governor Ben Ayade buy a property for Cross River State without due process of valuation ? Why should he try to bring a recently re-purchased hotel into the list of moribund industries he claimed to have built over the last eight years? After failing to get even one out of his numerous phantom factories working successfully , why should governor Ben Ayade add another failed hotel to the list of Cross River owned assets just few weeks before leaving office?”
The movement argued that the outgoing government “is preparing a situation where Prince Bassey Otu’s incoming government is coming to pay debts he has no idea of and the state would be functioning by way of borrowing for a new government that would come because there is no money. I am saying that Cross River State should wake up to this issue and not allow the state to be mortgaged to any individual or family”.
On his part, an activist and journalist, Mr. Agba Jalingo said “the governance of the newly purchased hotel has not even been handed over to the State government. Till now, the State hasn’t been told the content of what we bought for N2.7 billion. And the governor is already listing it as one of the properties to be concessioned. The seller is the buyer”.
He said that “the governor’s last attempt at concessioning his industries, he listed more than 18 of them. That attempt failed and the Governor openly wrote a press release saying Cross Riverians had rejected the idea in a referendum. At what point did he choose to return to the idea? At what point did the industries reduce to five? Why didn’t he conduct a referendum this time?”
In a reaction, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Publicity and Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita said, “the government is conssessioning Transcorp hotel and not selling it. There is a difference between conssessioning and selling. Government did not even hide its intention as there is an advertisement in the paper, so what is the issue? Government re-bought Transcorp and Transcorp as it is, is owned by the Cross River state government but to manage it government is trying to conssession it out so that they can manage it because government can not manage it.
“So the state government is not selling that property but government is conssessioning Transcorp and they are two different things. The advertisement is there. Can you advertise for concession and end up selling? Its only in Cross River you talk of concession and people will say you want to sell”.
Ita who is also a legal practitioner, said “we discovered that in the old South Eastern states all things built or acquired in the Michael Okpara era are still in the hands of government but in Cross River here we are selling everything. If you observe governor Ayade has not sold any government property. What he did was that he bought it back for Cross River and Cross River is now concessioning to ensure that the thing is properly run”.