The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has rejected Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ termination of its contract with the state government.
Starwood, which is the operator of the state-owned Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort in Akwa Ibom, had notified the governor that it would cease to manage the five-star hotel fromSeptember 14.
Starwood, as exclusively reported by PREMIUM TIMES, accused the state government of failing to pay its debt to the hotel as when due, in addition to “failing to deposit in the Operating Account the amount of funds requested by Operator within fifteen (15) days after delivery of Operator’s Fund Request” as spelt out in their agreement.
The company said that the government as at March was in default of N394 million.
Starwood, a worldwide hospitality organisation, manages Le Meridien, Sheraton and other famous brands around the world.
The company is now a subsidiary of Marriott International Inc after a $13 billion acquisition by the American hospitality company in September last year.
Governor Emmanuel, over the weekend, tactfully accused the operator of wanting to withdraw from the contract because the state government contracted Price WaterHouse Coopers to audit the accounts of the hotel.
The governor said during a monthly prayer meeting at Government House, Uyo, that the state wasn’t getting the expected gains from the hotel, despite several years of investments in it.
He said that Marriott’s attempt to abandon the resort at this point was unacceptable to the state government.
“I had a meeting with them yesterday (Friday), and I told them you are not going,” the governor was quoted by his spokesperson Essien Ndueso to have said during the prayer meeting.
“I am going to take a trip to their regional office in Dubai and tell them that this marriage cannot be separated now.”
The governor said that the hotel management complained that they have been running the resort at a loss, but that he told them to be patient and allow the audit firm to conclude the exercise.
The governor said he was ready to protect the wealth of the people, without compromising his integrity.
“When they say that the government is not giving money (to the hotel), I ask them, how can you keep giving money like that for several years, without any dividend?” he said.
Mr. Emmanuel recounted the state government’s recent contributions to the hotel maintenance to include the provision of a 1500KVA generating system and the refurbishing of the entire lighting system, the toilets, and the cooling system.
He said he has had a fruitful meeting with the management of the hotel and that the issues could be resolved.
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