The hotel, which was one of the signature projects of Godswill Akpabio administration, had been at the centre of an intense political battle between Mr Akpabio and his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel, in 2018.
A multi-billion naira hotel, Four Points by Sheraton, in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, is now ready to receive guests, over six years after it was “commissioned” by the administration of then Governor Godswill Akpabio.
“The doors of Four Points by Sheraton, Ikot Ekpene, will be opened for commencement of business at 5 p.m. today (12 December),” the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Ini Ememobong, said in a Facebook post on Monday.
The high-rise four-star hotel, with 146 rooms and suites, was built at the cost of N25.4 billion, according to the Akwa Ibom State Government. It is within Mr Akpabio’s senatorial district.
A room in the hotel costs between $191 and $480 per night, according to the information on the hotel website. The minimum rate per room is likely going to be over N84,000 if the exchange rate between the naira and dollar stands at N440.
The hotel, which was one of the signature projects of Mr Akpabio’s administration, had been at the centre of an intense political battle between Mr Akpabio and his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel, in 2018. That was shortly after the former governor defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Akpabio, then a senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West District, had accused his successor of refusing to open the hotel for business. But the state government responded, saying that Mr Akpabio had commissioned an unfinished project. Besides, the government said the project was tainted by fraud.
Governor Emmanuel, while declaring his bid to run for a second term, told a large crowd of supporters in a 30,000-capacity stadium in Uyo in August 2018 that the electrical and mechanical fittings were not yet fixed as of then in the hotel.
“It is just now that we have incorporated a company to negotiate with Starwood for that name Four-Point by Sheraton. If anybody has ever done that, let him show me the agreement he signed,” Mr Emmanuel said.
“It is now that we are doing external works in that premises in order to turn it into a hotel. Is building a hotel? Can a building be a hotel?”
Continuing, the governor said: “I don’t want to join issues today, I just want to humbly submit myself. But the truth must be told that it is just now that I have paid $7.2 million to Starwood so that we can retain the name that was surreptitiously put on the building called Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel.
“Who is telling you a lie? Who is telling you a lie? Can they tell you that there were mechanical or electrical fittings in that building?” the governor said.
The APC supporters in the state, in their reaction to Mr Emmanuel as of the time, flooded Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp with photos, including one where the former governor and his successor were having lunch at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, as a “proof” that Mr Akpabio completed the hotel before he left office.
The APC referenced a news story published in the Nation newspaper, 12 July 2014, where Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide reportedly announced the signing of an agreement with the Akwa Ibom government for the establishment of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene.
“Regrettably, it paints an unpalatable picture of mischief for the immediate past Governor; a lawyer by profession, to present an unsigned and unverified press statement in the Nation newspaper of July 12, 2014, as evidence of a legal contractual obligation on a high net-worth project as one in question,” the then Commissioner for Information in the state, Charles Udoh, said in a statement.
Mr Udoh insisted that Mr Akpabio, as governor then, commissioned the hotel “without a signed franchise agreement and a full complement of requisite furniture and fittings”.
He said Raffia City Hotels and Tours Limited, the company which managed the transaction on behalf of the state government, was incorporated on June 11, 2015, “more than one month after Mr Akpabio had commissioned the hotel.”
Besides the disagreement between Mr Akpabio and the Akwa Ibom State Government, several residents of the state believed that the four-star hotel in Ikot Ekpene was a needless project since there was already a five-star hotel, Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo, which is less than 15 minutes drive from Ikot Ekpene, and especially since the education sector in the oil-rich state was near collapse during Mr Akpabio’s administration.
The Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort was built by the administration of Governor Victor Attah in 2007.
Mr Akpabio’s administration had attempted to build another multi-billion naira five-star hotel, as part of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, but abandoned it mid-way. The current administration has left the high-rise building unattended to.
“Nice one! How Akpabio sunk billions of naira into all these projects without functioning needs to be investigated,” a Facebook user, Ubong Etim, commented under the commissioner for Information, Mr Ememobong’s post.
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