The Untold Story of The Tower of Shame A Government Building Located In Bayelsa State Where No One is Allowed to

According to him, after the charge at the State Executive Council retreat in Uyo, a series of meetings were held and there were positive outcomes, until the unfortunate kidnap of the commissioner, Mr. Federal Otokito, which has stalled progress. “The governor gave a charge for us to look for investors. We are working very hard to get investors. Before the kidnap of the commissioner, there was already a Chinese company we were working on. We are talking to the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB). The discussions with the Chinese company had gone far before the kidnap of the commissioner. We had already given them questionnaires to know their capability and how they intend to raise funds.” The official added that, very soon, a final outcome would be presented to the governor on the way forward.

Two men sat idly, while a third man was sprawled on a weather-beaten bench in what is supposed to be a security post.

One of the men, dark in complexion, walked briskly to the dirty, rusty gate upon sighting a stranger.

Asked to be given permission to come in and take pictures for a story as a journalist, he bluntly refused, declaring that an approval from the state government was needed.

“You can’t be allowed to come in. I cannot rely on your identification card. You have to get a letter from the government,” he said.

The man, who claimed to be a law enforcement agent, said they were changed every three months.

And that seemed to be the only activity going on at the abandoned Tower Hotel, a proposed five-star resort on Isaac Boro Expressway, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

For a hotel that held great promise at the beginning of its construction with all eyes on Bayelsa as the next place with a magnificent building adding to the aesthetics of the state capital, its present state numbs the heart.

At a point, the vast land was a huge construction site but it has since turned to a shelter for criminals, marijuana smokers, the destitute, reptiles and rodents.

Even the project signage has been stripped bare.

It has nothing to show what the building is.

The rusty equipment on site tells a harrowing story of what can be appropriately called Bayelsa’s tower of shame.

According to him, after the charge at the State Executive Council retreat in Uyo, a series of meetings were held and there were positive outcomes, until the unfortunate kidnap of the commissioner, Mr. Federal Otokito, which has stalled progress. “The governor gave a charge for us to look for investors. We are working very hard to get investors. Before the kidnap of the commissioner, there was already a Chinese company we were working on. We are talking to the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB). The discussions with the Chinese company had gone far before the kidnap of the commissioner. We had already given them questionnaires to know their capability and how they intend to raise funds.” The official added that, very soon, a final outcome would be presented to the governor on the way forward.

 

The idea of Tower Hotel was mooted by the late Governor Diepreye Solomon Alamieyeseigha in 2005, as part of efforts to attract investors and the entertainment industry, after hosting the Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA), founded by Peace Anyiam Osigwe.

Alamieyeseigha, worried by the lack of standard hotels to host the many movie stars that came to Yenagoa, decided to commence the construction of the hotel, designed as a 14-storey building with 120 rooms and a 2,500-capacity auditorium.

Aside from identifying the land and awarding the contract for the clearing, Alamieyeseigha ran into problems with the London Metropolitan Police, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and he was subsequently impeached and his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, became governor.

Jonathan, on assumption of office in December 2005, promised to continue with the project.

He awarded the contract to a construction company. And to demonstrate his seriousness, he took the building from the ground floor to the second floor.

But shortly after winning the primary of his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and looking forward to winning the election as governor, Jonathan was made running-mate to President Umaru Yar’Adua, which effectively ended his sojourn in Bayelsa State government.

Timipre Sylva, who took over as governor in 2007, expressed commitment to continue with the project.

He actually redesigned it and took it to the 18th floor, where it remains today.

He was desirous to continue, until a big problem crept in with the contractors.

The stoppage of further work drove a wedge between Jonathan and Sylva such that the former used non-completion of the hotel as the reason he stopped his second term bid.

Jonathan, at a rally at Samson Siasia Stadium, in the build-up to the 2012 Bayelsa governorship election, accused Sylva of abandoning the Tower Hotel, which he dubbed “Monument of Shame,” adding that it accounted for why he dumped the former for Henry Seriake Dickson.

Jonathan said: “Everybody knows that, in our society, we need development.

I was second in command to Alamieyeseigha.

One thing I remember is the Tower Hotel. It was not my dream but it was conceptualised under the Alamieyeseigha administration. He discussed it with the contractors.

It was supposed to be a five-star hotel and it would attract people from all over the world. But now it is a monument of disgrace.”

However, Sylva, in one of his numerous explanations on why he stopped work on the project, disclosed that the bogus contract variation requested by the contractor who built it was not tenable.

Sylva said the construction company built a church and donated it to Jonathan in his community, Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area.

“That five-star hotel project was on the second floor when I came in as governor in 2007.

It was a project started and abandoned by former governor, late Alamieyeseigha. I came in and took that project from the second to 18th floor.

The project was initially awarded for N8 billion and I had already paid the contractor N6 billion at a point.

“Then the contractor came to me to ask for a variation of N5 billion because the external works were not included in the initial contract they signed.

“So, by the time we put all these things together, it would probably have cost us about N20 billion to build one hotel in Bayelsa.

I thought it was really not a viable project and that was why I withdrew from the project.”

Investigations revealed that a report presented by the Financial Management Review Committee set up by Dickson, headed by Chief Timi Alaibe, stated that the Tower Hotel was one of the projects used by Sylva to secure the N50 billion bond from the capital market.

The committee declared that the cost of the project was N13.9 billion.

In March 2013, the Dickson administration presented a cheque of N4 billion to a contracting firm to complete the hotel.

Dickson had said on the occasion: “The N4 billion is to enable you to re-mobilise to site.

We have engaged world-class consultants from South Africa, who have the experience and expertise in the development of tourism facilities.

They will work with  the support of the government.

We believe that, by the grace of God, the project will be successfully executed.

Dr. Kelvin Bribena, who served as the managing director, Bayelsa State Hotels and Tourism Development Company Ltd, during Dickson’s first term, had attributed the delay in completion of the hotel to government’s insistence on best practices.

Nine years later, the project has not moved beyond where Sylva left. Governor Douye Diri, who was part of Jonathan’s government and later Dickson’s government, is also bothered about the state of the Tower Hotel. During the maiden retreat for cabinet members in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, in March 2021, he charged the commissioner for trade and investment to think outside the box and explore the possibilities of getting public-private partnership to complete the hotel.

Mr. Fortune Alfred, a social commentator and doctoral researcher at the Niger Delta University, expressed sadness over the state of the hotel. According to him, the non-completion of that hotel was a great disservice to the people of the state.

“Although I am not privy to the terms of the contract for that project or the other systemic issues that are responsible for the abandonment and neglect of the Tower Hotel, a project that successive Bayelsa governments have invested huge scarce state resources in, I consider the non-completion of that project a huge disservice to this state.

“You would recall that the Seriake Dickson administration is on record to claim to have spent some billions of naira to fence and landscape that uncompleted project, while abandoning the main building it was fencing.

“Given the huge sums of state resources that have been sunk into that hotel, each day that it remains uncompleted it remains a state liability rather than asset and fits well into the befitting name former President Goodluck Jonathan called it, namely, Monument of Shame.

“I call on the government to value the hotel and initiate a competitive bid for willing investors to buy, complete and effectively manage it.

“If the government is not favourably disposed towards an outright divestiture of its interest in that property, it can enter into a lease and maintenance contract with willing investors that could complete, manage and maintain the building in proper shape at the expiration of the lease period.

Whatever they do, they should ensure the completion of that hotel.”

Mr. Morris Alagoa, who was part of a team that toured the hotel in 2015, representing the Civil Liberties Organisation, said, if not that huge public funds had been pumped into the project, it was no longer worth continuing.

“It is just because funds have been wasted on that project, otherwise, I am of the view that it be completely discontinued or decommissioned. It is not a priority project, in my personal view.

“I was there about seven years ago, as a member representing the CLO in ongoing projects tour by the commissioner for works and infrastructure, who is now deputy governor of the state.

We went up to the helipad on top of the building too.

The reason for the visit was to convince stakeholders that work was in progress on this Tower Hotel.

“We also heard later that the director of the construction company died after the state government released some funds. And since then, the project has been in limbo.

The question is, why should the death of a company director lead to suspension of contractual obligations?”

Alagoa also suggested that the Diri administration should seek the option of public-private partnership on the project, with some period of moratorium on tax to complete the hotel.

A top government official at the Ministry of Trade and Investment, who pleaded anonymity as he was not permitted to talk without approval, said the Diri administration was working round the clock to get investors for the hotel.

According to him, after the charge at the State Executive Council retreat in Uyo, a series of meetings were held and there were positive outcomes, until the unfortunate kidnap of the commissioner, Mr. Federal Otokito, which has stalled progress.

“The governor gave a charge for us to look for investors. We are working very hard to get investors.

Before the kidnap of the commissioner, there was already a Chinese company we were working on.

We are talking to the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB).

The discussions with the Chinese company had gone far before the kidnap of the commissioner.

We had already given them questionnaires to know their capability and how they intend to raise funds.”

The official added that, very soon, a final outcome would be presented to the governor on the way forward.

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