THE CHANGE THAT CHAINED US
Toyo Jimmy, Esquire
Angered by monumental corruption, incompetence, insecurity, impunity, cabalism, and the crass arrogance of the then ruling party (PDP), Nigerians yearned for change. Compelled by this yearning, they sought for a different pilot in 2015. In our estimation, the pilot needed to be someone who is firm, credible, incorruptible, competent, and with a good grasp of governance. ‘Candidate’ Buhari fitted perfectly into this mould. Tales of Buhari’s integrity and no-nonsense demeanour were highly seductive to sedate our memory against his ‘misdeeds’ as a military ruler. Groan with patriotism and exigency of saving Nigeria from being run aground, most Nigerians were ready to abandon, and indeed abandoned, their traditional, ethnic and religious ties to root for Buhari. In the end, Buhari won. The air was filled with joy and some sense of fulfilment. A strong statement was made that, power belongs to the people and that change is inevitable.
At his swearing-in, President Buhari famously and tastily declared that he belonged to nobody. The media were awash with such bold statement. There was a great feeling of satisfaction among Nigerians – our hopes were alive that we have snatched power from the establishment and given to the masses. ‘We now have a nation where considerations for appointments and employment will not be based on ethnic, religious or political lines,’ retorted some.
More than three years down the line, our hopes have been dashed. President Buhari appears not to be the beautiful bride we all celebrated. The iniquities that the past administration was accused of have been committed by the present administration and even more.
Insecurity is still pervasive in the North East. The promise to decapitate Boko Haram has not been fulfilled. Some weeks ago, the Governor of Borno State while on a visit to President Buhari helplessly broke down in tears as he narrated the ordeal of his citizens in the hands of Boko Haram.
Corruption, which forms the main policy plank of this administration, is fought selectively and dishonestly. Corruption is defined by the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (9th ed.) as dishonest or illegal behaviour especial of people in authority. Many instances of dishonest behaviour of the President Buhari abounds, but a few will suffice. It amounts to dishonest behaviour by the President Buhari for a minister who allegedly served the country without having her NYSC certificate is escorted out of the country and not made to face the law. It is dishonesty when President Buhari turned a blind eye to collection of bribe by a governor in his party and even went ahead to defend the governor, while other governors still under immunity are investigated and their state government accounts froze by the EFCC.
Impunity is the order of the day under President Buhari’s administration and court orders are flouted at every turn. It is unconscionable that Dazuki and El Zakzaky are detained for over two years even in the face orders of court granting them bail. President Buhari acts based on his whims and caprices, the very attitude legal scholars feared when they decided to propound certain theories – rule of law, separation of power, checks and balances – which have now been adopted as being part and parcel of democracy. The President has suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria in the most brazen manner without recourse to the law. President Buhari has exhibited behaviour characteristic of a despot.
President Buhari has displayed the highest level of incompetence. The President does not understand questions asked and cannot give rationale answers to them. At law, the President would have been called an ‘incompetent witness.’ The President has committed faux pas and blunders of unpardonable proportion.
Cabals have taken over President Buhari’s administration. Many plots have been hatched without President Buhari knowing about them. The National Assembly was laid siege by the State Security Service (SSS) without the knowledge of the presidency. The incident totally embarrassed the government which led to the sack of the then Director General of the SSS. It is alleged that the presidency did not know of the proposed arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria before the Code of Conduct Tribunal until few hours to the arraignment.
President Buhari’s party – the All Progressives Party (APC) – has acted with crass arrogance exhibited by the repented PDP. This arrogance reached its nadir when the Chairman of the Party declared to the whole world that the sins committed by politicians are wash away when they join the ruling party.
Moving forward, Nigeria deserves better. A nation so blessed with human resources deserves to be competently represented. With hindsight, this is not the change we bargained for. To be clear, the problems enumerated above existed before President Buhari took charge of government, but Nigerians expected that things would be done differently with Buhari being in charge. Under President Buhari, our situation has become worse and the change seems meaningless. To worsen things, the economy has degenerated and there is high rate of unemployment in the land.
In the forthcoming election, our options seem limited. We have Moghalu, a young and vibrant Nigerian, capable of turning things around. But does he have the necessary political base to win election in Nigeria? Pragmatically, the answer is in the negative. Even in the most civilised clime, it will still be difficult for Moghalu to win a national election given his lack of base. What option do we then have? Atiku seems to be the only expedient option. He is not without baggage, but he appears to be the lesser of two evils. Though he has been accused of corruption, it is over five years since he left office and no charge has been brought against him. And he has a formidable base that sustain his ride to power.
President Buhari needs to be voted out if Nigeria is not to be plunged into abyss by Buhari and this men. The change we voted for has now become a chain that has tied our hands and feet. We must cut it free and embrace a new era. The options may be limited, but we have a choice.
Toyo Jimmy is a legal practitioner and an advocate of good governance, rule of law and civil liberties.
Dementia: How Prof Uduak Archibong is expanding the frontier
Dementia: How Prof Uduak Archibong is expanding the frontier
By Edidiong Udobia
According to Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia”. It further notes that dementia is not a specific disease but an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. There is a common misconception about dementia where it is often referred to as senility and this is why most dementia patients are subjected to stigmatization.
Studies reveal that lack of awareness is the biggest challenge to the fight against dementia especially in Africa which has the highest prevalence. For instance, the 2015 World Alzheimer Report showed an increasing evidence of dementia in sub-Saharan Africa, but unfortunately, despite the magnitude of the situation, awareness about dementia remains low within the population and older people are rarely the target of specific health policies. Another report indicates that lack of awareness further contributes most dementia associated deaths in the African region. Citing Prince et al., (2012), the Alzheimer Report further states; “This higher mortality risk in people with dementia in sub-Saharan Africa is consistent with what has been observed in other low and middle income countries of Asia and Latin America in the 10/66 Dementia Research Group studies, where mortality hazards were 1.6 to 5.7 times higher in individuals with dementia at baseline. Those results support the fact that dementia was found to be a leading contributor to mortality in older population of countries with low or middle income”.
Perhaps, it was on the strength of this sad reality that Prof Uduak Archibong; an indigene of Ibiono Ibom local government area, decided to launch a dementia awareness campaign in Akwa Ibom State. Prof Archibong is a professor of Diversity, and Director, Centre for Inclusion and Diversity, University of Bradford, United Kingdom. She recently visited Nigeria and she used her brief stay in the country to create awareness about dementia. “We started out with a reach-out campaign and looking at how we take the message to our communities about what dementia is and how likely we are to live with dementia and what we need to do as a people to support those who live with dementia. So we went to three Local Governments starting with Ibiono Ibom (I’m from Ibiono Ibom), Mkpat Enin and Abak. Then on Friday, we launched the dementia project, the dementia schools project and on Saturday, we had a walk around Uyo and today my colleagues have joined me to see how we can work with Nigerian Universities to advance economic development in our two countries”, she said.
The Dementia Schools Project Awareness Campaign, which was launched on the 13th of July, 2018 at Ibom E-library, brought together participants across different fields including secondary school students, medical experts and caregivers. In his keynote address, the state commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong noted that globally, dementia is recognised as a public health problem associated with loss of mental ability. “Memory loss is usually the first symptom noticed. There may be impaired abstraction and planning, loss of ability to perform familiar tasks, plan activities and draw sample conclusions from facts. Language and comprehension disturbances are not unusual and may be associated with poor judgement, impaired orientation ability, decreased attention and increased restlessness behavioural and personality changes and psychosis”, Dr. Ukpong said.
Dr. Ukpong further revealed that there is poor understanding of dementia among the lay population in the country and unavailability of epidemiology data on prevalence and incidence of dementia which both pose serious challenge to the fight against dementia, adding dementia experts can only depend on studies conducted in other countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. He listed some brain diseases are the common causes of dementia, to include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which he said is the most common cause. Others, he said, are vascular or multi-infarcts of the brain; AIDS, brain tumour, prolonged abuse of alcohol and other drugs; vitamin deficiency, thiamine, niacin or B12; hypothyroidism; hyercalcemic among others. While highlighting some common symptoms of the disease and possible treatments, the health commissioner commended Prof Archibong and her team for their thoughtfulness, assuring that he will bring the attention of the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to the laudable initiative.
“On my own part, I promise to bring this subject and effort of Professor Archibong to the knowledge of His Excellency, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, who is very concerned about the plight of the handicapped in our state. Let me therefore use this opportunity to appeal to health care providers, teachers and indeed everyone entrusted with the care and rehabilitation of those with dementia to do so with compassion and enlist the support and cooperation of their parents as well as members of their extended families. Collectively, we can make the best out of an unfortunate situation. Once more, let me appreciate Professor Uduak Archibong for her pioneering role in this daunting task”, he added.
According Prof Archibong, the school intervention project will be in stages. “The first stage is extra curricular. We want to look at how we can use Arts, Music, Sports in dementia education then the curriculum. It’ll take a lot of time to convince the Education Minister to include it in the curriculum so you can see it’s not a one-off”.
The school project was immediately followed by the street walk around the state capital in furtherance of the dementia awareness and sensitization. In an interview with journalists, the Ibiono Ibom born scholar disclosed that the public awareness campaign was very successful because people showed the willingness and desire for information, knowledge and enlightenment on dementia. She noted that the public awareness campaign was necessitated by the fact that lot of people are ignorant about what dementia means and that people have been ostracising those living with dementia and sometimes due to lack of knowledge seem to think that when people live with dementia, they are senile or considered as witches and wizards.
“Going back from the beginning, ours is not a one-off thing. This project was launched in November 2015 and we have a centre in Eket and right from then, we’ve been coming to different places. Last year, I was in Uyo twice and I gave a lecture at Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio 20th Anniversary. And in March this year, I came back and went to six places; all the Oro local governments, Ikot Ekpene, Uyo, Onna, Eket and Nsit Ubium and this time, we’ve gone to Ibiono Ibom and all the nearby local governments, so it’s not a one-off. We have continuity. Our plan in the first year is to work with 15 secondary schools and in the second year, we extend to as many schools as possible using the pioneer schools as models and in the third year, we’ll merge the secondary schools with selected primary schools and we’re cascading as we go hoping that by the third year, we can have dementia in the curricula in Akwa Ibom state working with the state education board and it becomes a mainstream content within the primary and secondary schools”, she said.
Perhaps, the hallmark of Prof Archibong’s initiative, was her decision to ensure that Bradford University is a key partner of the campaign. This, she did by bringing other scholars from Bradford University to Akwa Ibom and convened a university stakeholders meeting where select university vice chancellors other university administrators across the country met with the visitors from Bradford. Besides dementia, the brainstorming session also featured discussions on how Nigerian universities can partner with Bradford University in critical areas like knowledge transfer, students/staff exchange, funding of research, etc.
“But that will not be possible without the fact that Bradford University has a very big presence and reputation globally around dementia. So we have a very big distant learning program on Dementia studies. We’ve won many awards including the Queens Award on Dementia Care and this has now led to interactions with other universities. The bigger picture is that University of Bradford is doing business internationally and I’m helping them access as many party of Nigeria as possible but I wanted us to have this meeting in Akwa Ibom State. Already we have a very large Nigerian student population in Bradford, about 1200 alumni students. Many of our alunmi are in very key places. We have the best Peace Studies department in the world, so the program is renowned. It’s really important that we key into these things and show that it’s not just some thing we talk about without delivering. So one thing about the exchange is that in University of Bradford, the Vice Chancellor has set up a network of technology universities, so we run the world technology universities network.
“When we were here in April, we signed 8 universities in Nigeria into that network. The beauty with the network is that it’s global, we have Universities from all over the world who are happy to join our vision. We’ll all agree what kind of student exchange and who’ll fund what aspect of the exchanges. So with the world technology university concept, we have a collection of universities all over the world who define themselves as technology universities and by technology universities, we’re not talking about engineering and all that. We’re talking about any university that use its position to impact the world around them. That’s our definition of technology university which means every university can fit in if they want to. As a member of this network, every university will be expected to say how they’re going to support student/staff exchange. So this is a global activity and its less likely to fail. Whereas, if we came here as a stand alone university, we might struggle. But through the world technology university concept, we are also able to sustain our activity.”
Speaking with journalists shortly after the university stakeholders meeting in Uyo, the deputy vice-chancellor (Academics), Bradford University, Prof Shirley Congdon said that the major focus of the meeting was to think about the relative strengths of the institutions and see whether there are some common areas to collaborate in order to find solutions to some of the world’s problems which will be different in different countries too. She noted that at the meeting, the stakeholders decided to use the global Sustainable Development Goals to try and find where they might have strength. “For example, we’ve heard that one of the universities is trying to specialize in War Zone Management and Sanitation. That would be an area we can contribute to. I think the other big thing is that students across the world have got to be more global, we need to be producing global success and students that are very inquisitive and want to be entrepreneurial and want to think about what opportunities might exist. So what we think we could do is possibly collaborate, we can expose students to the experiences that would make them much more effective in a way they can think about their future careers and how we might also work together to get a strong pipeline into Universities, from primary school all the way through and into the universities so that we can continue to raise aspirations of students”, she said.
Also speaking, the director of External Affairs, Bradford University, Mark S. Garratt disclosed that they were in Nigeria for three major reasons; to build their profile in Nigeria as a university that can help students, to develop collaborative partnerships with some Nigerian universities, and to explore ways of doing joint research and collaborations. He noted that there are observable challenges to achieving the goals, but was optimistic that with the right attitude, the goals will be achieved. “There are challenges. What I tend to find is that if people have got the right attitude, then those challenges could be broken down. I came here 3 months ago and we’ve got the same people. They recognise me and I recognise them and we’ve had a very welcome conversation. So I think we’ve got the opportunity to collaborate. Where we’ve got to really work hard is to find the funding sources to be able to make the projects work but I get the sense here today that people collectively have different ideas what to do, either the funding from our government, or the Department”, he assured.
Prof Uduak Archibong’s laudable effort in dementia awareness creation and the betterment of the Nigerian university education through collaboration is already yielding results. So far, there have been relative improvements in the way people treat those with dementia in the few communities she and her team visited during awareness campaign. Therefore, it is pertinent for the government, relevant stakeholders and the general public to give this initiative the needed push for it to succeed.
Day Use Abat Edem,Urua and Ikpa Celebrated Their Son
Day Use Abat Edem,Urua and Ikpa Celebrated Their Son
By Edidiong Obot
The joy in the hearts of the people in Use Abat Edem Urua and Ikpa all in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area knew no bound when their illustrious son visited the community to give back to the people. Indigenes rolled out their drums, neighboring communities trooped out in their numbers while men, women, youths, children and even in-laws all stood out to appreciate the son of the soil, Barr Ini Ememobong and wife, Chinonyerem (Sandra-emejuiwe Ini Ememobong), for coming back to give to the community.
Among projects executed and completed were a mini-water project in the community which will deliver water to the inhabitants of the village and its environs. This project was demanded by women in the community when Chi, Ini Ememobong’s wife, went on village tour in Ward 4. She decided to donate this project to the community in honour of Her Excellency, the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, Deaconess Martha Udom Emmanuel.
The people of Use Abat, an agricultural vibrant community in Ibiono Ibom, are therefore removed from both the populations of Nigerians who lack access to safe drinking water and those who have to walk long distances to get clean and safe drinking water as they now have a water project inaugurated for them in their community.
Also, the community of Use Ndon did not miss out of the 2018 World Cup match at the Udom Emmanuel free viewing centre. The project was donated by a social development advocate and Publicity Secretary of PDP in Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Ini Ememobong, as part of his support for the rural development drive of Governor Udom Emmanuel was there to watch the matches with the people. The viewing centre was opened every matchday throughout the duration of the World Cup and will be open for other matches as well.
Ememobong stopped at nothing to touch the children in the community, hence, the provision of School uniforms and note books to all students of Ibiono Community High school, Edem Urua. This is to help boost the morale of the students, according to him, “as I observed during my last visit to the school, many students had stitched uniforms. Some of them were lacking sufficient notebooks.”
The publicity secretary stopped at nothing to build Udom Emmanuel IWADU House. This secretariat project was conceived to provide an administrative base for one of the foremost sociocultural organizations in the state, Ibiono Ibom Welfare and Development Union (IWADU) formed in 1932. In his words: “this facility has a meeting hall, an exco conference hall and offices. The building is donated in honour of Governor Udom Emmanuel to mark his 52nd birthday in appreciation of the fatherly care and love shown to me.”
Early this year, he donated improved variety of cassava stems to the women across his ward. He had also recently hosted a thank you dinner in honour of his university lecturers across the Departments of Linguistics and Law.
Several sons and daughters from his community are currently undergoing training in different skills. Those who have completed the training have been given tools to enable them to practice their skills.
The Akwa Ibom PDP Publicity Secretary, Comrade Ini Ememobong, recently held a dinner in honour of veteran journalists in Akwa Ibom State.
The state PDP image maker, who acknowledged the important role of the media in the development of the state, seized the occasion to appreciate the renowned journalists for their significant contributions to the media industry in the state.
Considering his selfless sacrifice to his people, the Ibiono Ibom Welfare and Development Union (IWADU) considered their son, the publicity secretary of the Akwa Ibom State PDP, Comrade Ini Ememobong worthy of an award.
Speaking at the commissioning of the Udom Emmanuel IWADU House, Ememobong maintained: “we should humanize politics and not politicize humanity.”
This is to specially thank everyone who attended the donation of the community development projects to use Abat, Edem Urua and Ikpa.
In her reaction, the wife of the governor, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel, appreciated the gesture from Barr Ini Ememobong to the community, stating that if everyone does as such, the workload will be less on the state. She urged all to contribute positively to the growth and success of the state.
In their various reactions, indigenes of Use Abat Edem Urua and Ikpa thanked the publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party for coming to their aid even when he is not holding a political office but from the little he has, he remembered home and came to share with them.
“We cannot forget this gesture in a haste. We have great people from this community we can boast of but, it never occurred to them to reach out to our needs. Today, God has given us help in the person of Ini Ememobong, we can only tell God to bless and increase him so that he can do more.”
In his speech at the inauguration of the Udom Emmanuel IWADU House, Ememobong said “As we stand here today, we can boldly state without any fear of contradiction that our dear state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel loves Ibiono Ibom. This statement has manifest evidence as its foundation- the flagoff of the Ikot Udom road (within the first 100 days) and the subsequent commissioning (within the first year) of this administration; donation of the cassava processing factory by the first lady, Mrs. Martha Emmanuel, plus other projects spreads across the entire landscape of Ibiono Ibom. These are clear testimonies of love.
As a political and ideological son of Governor Udom Emmanuel and wife, it has become my avowed responsibility that we communicate in realistic terms, the magnitude of love the first family has for our state and the citizenry. This we have done by donating lawn mowers to schools, notebooks to pupils and students, wrappers and financial support to teachers, annual get-together with heads of public primary and secondary schools, donation of graphs board to public secondary schools, sponsorship of mathematics quiz and provision of scholarship grants to the first 4 winners of the competition, donation of computer to schools, provision of artificial limbs to physically challenged students (two of whom are females and are here today (one of them is from Ibiono- Eno-obong, while the other, Blessing Friday Uko, who is a gold medalist in dart from Oruk Anam local government area. Blessing has not walked for 15years, having lost her right leg in very mysterious circumstances at the age 3”.
But today, we are glad to announce to the glory of God that, she is walking again, he continued, “We decided to acquire prosthesis (artificial limb) for her, as part of activities celebrating the 52nd birthday of our dear Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel; payment of school fees to numerous undergraduates and post-graduate students; purchase and distribution of improved variety of cassava stems to women, establishment and funding of women cooperative societies, sponsorship of more than 30 persons to learn different skills and vocations (the most recent being scaffolding, where two trainees are undergoing training in Eket. One of the trainees is from Onna, while the other hails from Ibiono Ibom). This excludes the 75 women, 3 per village drawn from the 25 villages in ward 4, Ibiono Ibom, who will in the next few months commence training in different trades.”
In his appreciation message, the publicity secretary thanked Her Excellency, the First Lady of Akwa Ibom state Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel, for spending her whole day touring different wards in Ibiono Ibom, inaugurating projects. “Her presence made a lot of impact on every community we visited. I thank her for being a caring and compassionate mother.
I thank my dear brother, the Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Barr. Onofiok Luke and wife, Dr Mrs Uduak Luke, who was chairman on the occasion and blessed us with his quality time and their esteemed presence at my village abode, we are grateful.”
He further thanked the state chairman of PDP, Obong Paul Ekpo, all the commissioners, board chairmen and members and government functionaries who attended the event, adding that they are very well appreciated. The long list which included State Assembly members thanked them for their critical advice and support which was very supportive
“The president general of IWADU, Obong Dr Effiong Inyang, secretary general, Godwin Okon and all executive members are appreciated for their support in the planning and execution of the event. His Majesty, the paramount ruler of Ibiono Ibom, Edidem Ime Udousoro Inyang, the Okuku Ibiono Ibom and all members of the traditional institution are appreciated. I thank them for the traditional recognition (not chieftaincy title) as Eti uwud mkpo Ibiono Ibom (a good example for Ibiono Ibom).
My wife, chi, deserves tonnes of appreciation for her unwavering support to our people. I’m indeed grateful, Let us lend a hand, he maintained.
The 13th floor incarnate By Edidiong Udobia
The 13th floor incarnate
By Edidiong Udobia
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear, hate, or dislike of the number thirteen (13). There are different stories about number 13 with attendant superstitions, which although not proven, have gained wide acceptance in many countries like the United States. One of such superstitions is the legend of the 13th floor. From my little research, I learnt that in the affected countries, the number 13 is considered unlucky, so most superstitious building owners purposefully omit a floor numbered 13. However, the fact that building/hotel owners deliberately refuse to number a floor as 13 does not mean that the buildings have a real vacuum between the 12th and 14th floors. The owners either choose to give the thirteenth floor an alternate designation such as “12A” or “M” (the thirteenth letter of the Latin alphabet), or close the 13th floor to public use or access (e.g., by designating it as a mechanical floor).
To the best of my knowledge, Nigeria is not one of the countries with the 13th floor superstition, but over the past few weeks, the myth seems to be incarnating in the form of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom state. For starters, it has now become a mindboggling mystery how a hotel that was commissioned on Tuesday, May 26 2015 (and supposedly ready to commence operations) is yet to open for business three years and four months after. One word – how? Well, until recently, I was among the thousands of Akwa Ibom people who are wondering what kind of mystical power is holding the gates of the 14-storey oval shaped building that the government cannot fling them open for business to commence in the Hotel. Superstition is a global phenomenon so you can’t blame us. But that was me before I was privy to a letter from Starwood Hotel & Resort, dated April 10, 2016, wherein the company drew the attention of the Akwa Ibom State Government to some outstanding issues that needed to be sorted before the hotel could commence operations.
Eureka! After a glance of the said letter, I realized that a very good clue to unravelling the mystery around the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel was hidden in plain sight all the while. Recall that the ex-governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio has repeatedly said that the hotel was over 90 percent (precisely 98 percent) completed when he left office. In other words, the project was uncompleted as at the time of commissioning. First up, for a supposedly world-class facility like the hotel, even a 99.9 percent completion is not good enough to put the facility to full use considering that the remaining one percent can pose a grave danger to the users. Secondly, for a facility that the level of completion can be itemized, ’98 percent completion’ is a vague and bogus statement. Here’s what I mean. According to the letter from Starwood, the outstanding issues included;
a. Operating Equipment (OS&E), including the IT equipment and the property management system funding of $3m (N1,086,510,000.00);
b. Pre-Opening funding of $1.7m (N520,455,000.00);
c. Working capital of $2.5m (N765,375,000.00);
d. Provision of company vehicles;
e. Laying of Fibre Optic data lines to the hotel;
f. Certificate of registration with NOTAP (National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion).
Let’s get few facts straight. Starwood Hotel & Resort are the owners of the Four Points by Sheraton brand so they determine the workability of their franchise. Another fact is that no member of Starwood Management team attended the commissioning ceremony, meaning either of these two; that the then state government did not invite Starwood to the event, or for some reasons, Starwood deliberately refused sending a representative to the event. For me, the later seems to be a more valid explanation because from my findings, the hotel was commissioned without a signed franchise agreement and full complement of requisite furniture and fittings. So, my thinking is that Starwood ignored the commissioning because there was no signed agreement for the franchise. Of course, they knew that the commissioning was a mere jamboree because without their consent, the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene will remain a tall useless building.
Back to the issues raised by Starwood. My first question was, why can’t the government just source for funds to tackle the outstanding issues. Here’s the response I got from a reliable source; “All the issues raised by Starwood fall within the building and site improvement cost which forms 64% of the total contract sum but Distinguished Senator Akpabio had approved and disbursed 95% before vacating office. 31% more than the required amount, yet the issues were not tackled”. In other words, the ex-governor had already approved and disbursed the funds for the outstanding issues before leaving office, yet the issues were not addressed. If you do the math well, you’ll know that the first three outstanding issues alone will gulp over N2b. Discovering that the supposed “2 percent” the ex-governor left uncompleted will require over N2b (by my own rough estimation), I was curious to know how much was spent on the much talked about “98 percent” completion.
Further findings revealed that the contract for the construction of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel was awarded on September 12, 2013 at an initial contract sum of N16.7bn based on average exchange rate of N161.7 to a dollar. Two weeks before leaving office, former governor Godswill Akpabio again approved a variation of N8.7bn (though not satisfactory confirmed) which increased the total contract sum to about N25.4bn. Folks, after these findings, I’ve decided not to rack my brain again on this hotel issue because I have realized that from conception, the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene was meant to be a spiral of mysteries; you unravel one to discover another. If you doubt, ask the progenators of the project to show Akwa Ibom people the franchise agreement they signed with Starwood Hotel and Resort which legally authorizes them to operate the hotel. Like the 13th floor, it does not matter which of the stories about that 14-storey building in Ikot Ekpene you choose to believe, the fact remains that a fully functional Four Points by Sheraton Hotel is a myth.
Edidiong Udobia is a journalist and writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.
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