‘Former Rivers accountant general unaware of hotel concession deal’

A DealA Former Accountant-General of Rivers State, Ngozi Abah Abu, has denied knowledge of concession agreement or the sale of Olympia Hotel by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi administration.

It has, however, been revealed the regime leased out Olympia Hotel through a concessionary arrangement with Centrum Properties Nigeria Limited for 40 years at a total cost of $3.450 million.

Abu, while testifying before the Justice George Omereji-led judicial commission of inquiry into the sales of valued state assets sitting in Port Harcourt, stated that irrespective of his strategic position as the accountant general of the state, he was not informed of the leasing of the once famous Olympia Hotel, neither was he aware of the purported payment of $1 million to the state government by Centrum Properties Nigeria Limited.

He said: “I don’t know anything about the concession of Olympia Hotel. I was not a party to the concession agreement and I don’t know anything about the sale or concession of Olympia Hotel. I also did not advise the government because I was not involved and I was never consulted in anything regarding to the sale or otherwise of Olympian Hotel.

“I had no brief on the lease of Olympian Hotel. No mandate was signed relating to Olympian Hotel in the annual account relating to Olympia Hotel. I was not a member of the executive council. I was not briefed about Olympian Hotel and nobody wrote to me about Olympian Hotel. I am not aware of any payment of $1 million to Centrum Properties by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry into a bank account domiciled at Keystone Bank.”

The Project Director, Centrum (Cenpropsaroten) Properties Nigeria Limited, Chinedu Okpareke, told the commission that his company paid $1million, which was equivalent of N155, 750, 000 at the time as concession fee for the 40-year lease into the state’s account number 13700012047, domiciled in Keystone Bank.

He explained that with the payment, the company was granted a five-year moratorium by the Amaechi’s administration to enable it after demolishing the old over 10-storey building and replacing it with a new one.

According to him, the value of Olympia Hotel was put at between $110 and $120 million and was expected to have risen to about $336 million in another 40 years.

Speaking on the terms of agreement in the 40-year concession agreement, Okpareke said Centrum Properties would pay the Rivers State government a concession fee of $50,000 per annum for five years. “From the 10th to the 20th year, the Rivers State government will earn $10,000 per annum for 10 years. From the 20th year to the 40th year, the Rivers State government will earn $80,000 per annum.

He stated that the state government was expected to realise about $2.450 million in 40 years from the annual concession fees.

Okpareke further disclosed that the hospitality was demolished on the order of the Amaeachi-led executive council, which in a letter dated August 3, 2012, directed Centrum Properties to proceed with the exercise.

“ The demolition order was given to us by the Rivers State government through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry which insisted that Centrum must build in the place of Olympian Hotel a four-star hotel. The land space of Olympia Hotel is 14,000 Square metres. Even before Rivers State asked us to demolish the Olympia Hotel, we had also wanted to demolish it because our technical partners insisted that the standard of their hotels was within the four-star range which must contain between 150 and 200 rooms,” he disclosed.

He noted that the state government reasoned that the structural integrity of the facility was not modern and that his company needed to build an iconic structure that in tune, adding that the design records for the hotel were released to his company.

According to him, there were no structural documents regarding the facility to enable his company determine its structural integrity which was already outdated.

Responding to enquiries of the legal counsel to the commission, Dr. Zaccheaus Adangor, if he were aware that the former administration had suggested that the new four-star Olympia Hotel be built at the new Greater Port Harcourt City, Okpareke responded in the contrary.

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