By ETIM ETIM
It must be the love Senator John James Udoedehe has for Akwa Ibom state and the passion he has for the welfare of the people that propelled him to pledge to open the Sheraton Hotel located at Ikot Ekpene for business immediately he assumes office as governor. Speaking in Essien Udim yesterday during a town hall meeting, the NNPP governorship candidate condemned the refusal of the Udom Emmanuel administration to open the hotel for business.
‘’The hotel would have employed up to 300 Akwa Ibom people if it had been opened for business. It is immoral and a huge waste to keep it closed for this long’’. In my first three months in the office. The hotel will be put to use, and our young men and women would be employed there, if I am your governor next year’’, he said. Senator Udoedcehe noted that with the federal government reconstructing Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road, that hotel would just be a 25-minute drive from Aba, and that means a lot of businessmen from Abia will use it as their recreational destination. Already, Uyo has become a major attraction for property investments for businessmen from the South East.
‘’There is no sensible reason for this administration to keep the hotel closed’’, said Senator Udoedehe. ‘’The hotel is the property of Akwa Ibom state government. It does not belong to an individual. So, we must put it to use’’, he said to a cheering crowd of supporters.
The continued closure of the hotel and the one in the Tropicana Complex, Uyo which was meant to be managed by the Hilton group, is a fallout of the political enmity between Gov. Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio. Both facilities were completed and furnished by the previous administration, but were not opened for business due to non-conclusion of the agreement between the state government and the respective international hotel management group that was supposed to manage them.
In his early days in office, Gov. Udom Emmanuel had announced that the government was making efforts to conclude all outstanding legal documentations to clear the way for the opening of the hotels for business. But nothing has happened since then. This writer understands that the governor is lukewarm about pushing for the commencement of business in the hotels because ‘’he believes that Akpabio will take credit for them’’, according to a government source who is well-placed to know. He added: ‘’There is no legal agreements, or any partnership that is too difficult for a government to push through. If the state government could get the Icon Group to manage Ibom Hotel in Uyo, why is it so difficult to get a reputable hotel chain to manage these two hotels and open them for business?’’.
This writer can affirm that the pledge by Senator Udoedehe to open the hotels for business if he is elected is in consonance with his economic agenda which emphasizes job creation, poverty reduction and stimulation of economic growth and development. Says Udeme Akpan, a former staff of Access Bank in Uyo, ‘’If Senator Udoedehe is planning to launch a stimulus package that would grant N31 billion to 31,000 people to start or expand their businesses, then it is logical that he would strive to take sensible business decisions, including opening the two hotels that can easily employ over 500 people and add to the GDP of the state’’.
Etim is a Journalist and political analyst, writes from Abuja