The Democratic Peoples’ Alliance (DPA) has accused the Lagos State Government of speaking from both sides of the mouth on the acquisition of a N4.75 billion “tokunboh” hotel yacht, challenging it to come clean with details about the transaction.
DPA pointed out that when the 105-bedroom custom-built boat hotel first landed at the Marina waterfront in November, the Commissioner of Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations Senator Tokunboh Afikuyomi showed it off as a Lagos State acquisition with private participation, but Government Babatunde Fashola at the weekend said it was a purely private initiative with no financial outlay from the state.
The party challenged the government to tell Lagosians whether it changed its mind after initially showing interest in the scheme.
“It all boils down to a matter of accountability and transparency. If Tourism Commissioner, Senator Afikuyomi, had earlier described the transaction as, to quote him, ‘a Public Private Project (PPP),’ and the Governor now comes to dismiss it as a purely private initiative, then we clearly have a credibility crisis,” DPA said in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Felix Oboagwina. “All this raises curious questions: Who is lying, the Governor or the Commissioner? How can one government hold two contradictory positions on one project? Tax payers will like really to know who pays the €24 million it cost to negotiate, acquire and transfer the yacht to Nigeria. Are they say Lagos did not spend a kobo on the venture?”
DPA wondered why the project had failed to be commissioned and how much it cost state officials to travel to London, the yacht’s former base, to inspect and approve its acquisition.
According to the party, media reports had always quoted Senator Afikuyomi as ascribing the “success of the acquisition bid” to Governor Fashola and members of the Lagos State Cabinet, especially the commissioners in charge of the Water Front, Physical Planning, Justice, Environment, Works and Infrastructure ministries, and the Special Adviser on Taxation. He had also praised Lagos for beating the Middle-East cities of Doha and Dubai, who had equally bid for the possession of the yacht.
Renamed the Lagos Yacht Hotel, the contraption erstwhile known as the Sunborn Yacht, had anchored and done business in London. But its acquisition in July 2008 saw its transfer to the Lagos Marina through a deal reportedly bankrolled by Diamond Capital Ltd (the investment banking arm of Diamond Bank Plc) and facilitated by two Nigerian venture capital advisory firms, MIDC Ltd and Westcom Ltd.
DPA said one report quoted Afikuyomi as saying: "The Hotel we have just acquired for Lagos with the support of Diamond Capital Ltd will be the first of its kind in Africa and indeed the Middle East and puts us in the league of the first five major cities of the world with similar hospitality facilities and tourism earnings capabilities. This hospitality facility is the first that was custom-built. So it is a piece of heritage that we are buying into.”
The Commissioner, DPA said, had also been quoted as saying, “We defied the odds and won the highly competitive bid to make this history for Lagos by buying the first yacht hotel in Africa and Middle East,” and he said part of the total payment would go into upgrading the facility.
After its acquisition in London, the 20-year old yacht first sailed to Brazil for a complete overhaul. With its luxury room priced at no less than N50,000 per night, the hotel boasts facilities including conference halls, restaurants, meeting rooms, spas, saunas and lounges, and can provide about 400 jobs.
Director of Publicity, Lagos DPA