Hotel operators in Oyo town Thursday decried what they described as zero patronage of their facilities, despite the ongoing World Sango Festival in the city.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the town, they expressed displeasures over what they called “poor patronage”.
NAN Correspondent reports that some of the hotels visited recorded one or two lodgers, while others recorded zero patronage.
The Sango Festival, which started on August 12, is an annual festival celebrated in August, in the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo.
It is a special day used to celebrate Sango, a popular Yoruba deity, who was believed to possess magical powers.
The festival was rebranded as World Sango Day by the Oyo State Government, through the efforts of Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, to signify its international widespread.
The grand finale of the festival, which usually played host to visitors from all over the country and followers from foreign countries, would hold on Saturday.
At Labamba Hotel Ltd., Oyo, the situation was pathetic as no visitors were allowed in. This is because the facility was among the hotels sealed by the enforcement team of the state revenue board on Wednesday, over tax-related issues.
Adegoke Ogunluyi, the Managing Director, Labamba Hotel Ltd., attributed the zero patronage to the economic climate and the third variant of COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Ogunluyi said: “The economic climate is very poor, cost of services has gone up astronomically.
“We all know that inflation is on the rise. Obviously, it is very difficult for lots of people, especially an average Nigerian, to start visiting and spending in hotels for such festival.
“Also, the third variant of COVID-19 is out again, which we understood is more deadly than the first and second waves; that alone is affecting our patronage.
“COVID-19 has been the major trauma, but most festivals always involve cohesion and people coming together, which is completely against the rules and ethics of guiding the pandemic.”
According to him, I guess that is the major hindrance that prevented people from trooping into the town for the celebration of such festival.
“I see Sango Festival as a growing festival, unlike Osun-Osogbo Festival, which has taken several years to build it.
“I believe in continually building Sango Festival, and with time, it will grow to continue to attract more visitors to the town and grow our economy,” Mr Ogunluyi said.
Also, Sunday Ogunlade, the Proprietor of Ajaba A to Z Hotel, Durban area of Oyo, said that there was no patronage of the facility at all.
“You can see for yourself now; how many people are here drinking and relaxing at the bar?
“Nobody comes here to lodge. There is no business here at all.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 had even crippled our businesses in a town like this place,” Mr Ogunlade, who is also the Chairman of Hotel Operators in Oyo and its environs, said.
Also commenting, a manager of another hotel in the town, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorised to speak, said that this year Sango Festival has not, in any way, improved their businesses.
According to him, since the festival started last week Thursday with series of activities lined up for the celebration, they have not recorded a single visitor or lodger in their hotel.
“This experience is too bad for our businesses.
“I don’t know whether this was because of the prevailing economic situation in the country or due to the ravaging pandemic, which is now in its third wave,” the manager said.
As of Wednesday, at least 10 of the hotels in Oyo town had been sealed by officials of the state government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondents, who went round some hotels in the town, gathered that the facilities were sealed by the enforcement team of the state Board of Internal Revenue over non-payment of taxes.
NAN reports that this action had affected patronage of hotel facilities by visitors, who were in the town for the celebration of the ongoing festival.
It was gathered that the enforcement team had no other option than to seal the affected facilities due to the alleged inability of their operators to pay the mandatory tax after they had been severed notices.
At Labamba Hotel Ltd., Oyo, one of the affected hotels, its main gate was chained and locked by the revenue enforcement team since Wednesday.
When contacted, Mr Ogunluyi, the Managing Director, said the hotel was sealed on Wednesday over the tax issue.
According to him, the Oyo State government is all over the place, locking down hotels as a result of revenue drive.
“A lot of hotels experienced very poor patronage for over six months last year. We didn’t record one patronage.
“We locked down the whole place, salaries were not paid and many of our workers have to leave because there was no money for them to feed. It was so difficult.
“For us to start getting back, this is where we found ourselves. It is a difficult period.
“You cannot compare hotels facilities in the capital cities like Lagos and Ibadan, where they have money, with rural towns like Oyo to drive revenue.
“It is not balanced, there should be a level playing field for hotel operators to operate,” Mr Ogunluyi said.
He said the revenue board should have embraced dialogue, as locking their hotels and facilities is never the solution, adding, “We should engage and dialogue”.
Reacting, an official of the state Board of Internal Revenue, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the sealing of the hotels, which he said were not less than 10 in Oyo town.
According to the official, this is due to the inability of the affected hotel operators to pay their taxes despite the notices given.
“We are, after all, tax defaulters. We have earlier given them adequate notices before embarking on the enforcement.
“We normally issue 14 days notice in the first instance, then, serve them another seven days notice, and after the expiration, we give them final notice of three days to pay.
“Even, after the expiration of the notice, we still give them more time; but after we have realised that they are not willing to pay, we then, go after them for enforcement.
“It is not only in Oyo Town that we are carrying out the enforcement; we are in other towns too.
“Also, we are not only after hotels, but all institutions and organisations that default in tax payment.
“Currently, we carry out enforcement in companies, hotels, hospitals and schools,” the official said.
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