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Sunborn Yacht Hotel: Lagos Floating White Elephant (with Video)

September 11, 2009

  (Kayode Ogundamisi visits the much-hyped Sunborn One year after)The Sunborn Yacht Hotel was delivered from the UK in November 2008. Despite claims that it would be put to immediate use upon arrival, nearly one year later it remains unused and derelict.

  (Kayode Ogundamisi visits the much-hyped Sunborn One year after)The Sunborn Yacht Hotel was delivered from the UK in November 2008. Despite claims that it would be put to immediate use upon arrival, nearly one year later it remains unused and derelict.

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OUR 1st story: Bola Tinubu Named in Floating Hotel Buy For Lagos: Saharareporters investigations reveals that apart from several other projects in which he is either a direct or indirect beneficiary, the former governor has recently been named in a floating hotel purchase that was concluded few days ago in the United Kingdom. Sources told Saharareporters that the former governor, who has been acting  on behalf of the notorious Chagourys (late Gen. Sanni Abacha's partners) to corner juicy construction jobs from the Lagos State government, is directly involved in this  deal.

Saharareporters investigations further revealed that the erstwhile Governor of Lagos State, a former chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), arrived London on Sunday (July 20 2008) night leading a retinue of Lagos State officials, traditional rulers and federal officials that included the state commissioner for Tourism, former Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, and his Federal counterpart,  Ademola Kayode (SAN), as well as a plane load  of public relations practitioners and avalanche of reporters of print and electronic media, including 5 staff members of the federally-funded Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Tinubu, who is said to be the beneficiary of major juicy contracts from Lagos state since he installed his crony, Babatunde Fashola, as his successor last year, personally handled the hotel deal said to be worth about $40 Million.  The deal, which was initially disguised as a public –private partnership between the Lagos State government and some private entities including a commercial bank, is a bona fide contract between Tinubu and the state government according to the latest information available to Saharareporters. The floating hotel, which was based in the UK before its sale, was owned by a Finnish businessman. 

When Saharareporters contacted the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi in London, he explained that the Lagos State government bought into the “Floating Hotel” idea because of shortage of hotel rooms in the Lagos metropolis. Further, he denied that the Chagourys were involved in the present deal; instead he claimed that the entire transaction was a Private Public Partnership (PPP) between the Lagos State government and Diamond bank, a Lagos–based commercial bank.  He admitted to Saharareporters that the deal was worth 22 million Euros but curiously stated that the government of Lagos will not be spending a dime on the project, not even a loan guarantee for the project.

As Saharareporters reminded Senator Afikuyomi that it will cost the state money to prepare the Marina for the permanent anchorage of the boat, he shot back saying he had stayed in the Sunborn Yacht at its UK base on several occasions and that the floating hotel requires no further work either on the ground or in the Marina. Asked if that includes the cost of towing the Yacht hotel to Lagos, he answered in the negative. 

Afikuyomi also denied that Tinubu was involved in the deal in anyway. He also feigned ignorance of Tinubu's presence in London since last Sunday until yesterday. Sources told Saharareporters that Tinubu deliberately stayed away from the handing over ceremony to avoid being seen as the anchorman for the deal, especially in light of recent revelations by THISDAY newspapers of his questionable fiduciary engagement with the Chagourys.

However, sources familiar with the negotiations leading to the purchase of the four-star Sunborn Yacht Hotel located at No. 1 Royal Victoria in the Docklands of London told Saharareporters that the 102-room hotel would cost a lot more than is currently disclosed to the public by the Lagos State government: "there are a whole lot of hidden charges" said a source who did not want to be named. The source drew attention to the fact that the 10 year-old Sunborn Yacht hotel, which was originally brought from Finland to the UK and commenced operations in 2002, does not have an engine of its own.

This means that the Lagos State government would have to pay exorbitant charges for powerful tug boats to tow the Sunborn from the Docklands near London in the United Kingdom to the Marina water fronts of Lagos, Nigeria - a journey that is bound to be long, delicate and potentially intensive. For instance, it took nine days for the Yacht hotel to be brought to London from Finland via Germany. Marine experts say that apart from the potential dangers, with high cost of fuel in the international market, it will be costly to tow the floating hotel to Lagos. Already, Saharareporters has been reliably informed that the contract for the towing of the floating hotel to Lagos, Nigeria using a submersible vessel, has been secretly awarded to the Chagourys for a whopping sum of $5million, a price which is adjustable depending on the prevailing cost of fuel in the international market.

Hoteliers and experts knowledgeable about the age of the boat and its general condition said that they doubt if the cost of buying the Yacht hotel would really worth it in the final analysis, particularly in view of the unending recurrent expenses that would be required to run the hotel.  They listed some incidental or additional operating costs to include the cost of anchoring the Yacht to the quay, refurbishing and maintenance that will involve expatriate attention from time to time. Also, the floating hotel has to be attached to the dockside with hydraulic metal rods in order to ensure customers’ safety and stability, especially if the water surrounding it becomes restless in bad weather conditions. These requirements, which are not yet in place, will cost a fortune; a hidden cost which critics say will drive the Lagos State government deeper into the hands of Tinubu and the Lebanese family who run HITECH Construction Company formerly known as C&C (Chagoury and Chagoury) Constructions.

Critics of the project also wonder how many citizens of Lagos can afford a night in the floating hotel; in Docklands where it has been officially operating since 2002; a night out in the hotel average 350 British pounds equivalent of N80, 000 when exchanged to the Nigerian currency, according to the hotel's general manager, a Nigerian, Andrew Mabinuori who disclosed to Saharareporters that the cheapest rooms cost at least 215 pounds per night while the suite cost 500 pounds. He also disclosed that the hotel is scheduled to stop operating in the Docklands on August 3 2008.  “I just don't see how this will benefit Lagosians"; echoed a high school teacher, who simply gave his name as Olayeni.
 It would be recalled that THISDAY, a Lagos based newspaper, had reported in its July 20, 2008 edition that the Chagoury family, best known for its business relationship with the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, is now the favored contractor to the Lagos State government. According to THISDAY, the Lebanese, operating through HITECH Construction Company Limited, are currently handling construction contracts running into billions of naira in the state. THISDAY learnt that former governor Tinubu who made his name as an anti-Abacha activist, is promoting their businesses before the Lagos State government.

THISDAY further reported that the ex-governor, who traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, a fortnight ago in a Gilbert Chagoury-owned Falcon 7X jet to seal more deals with the family, is also said to own beneficial interest in HITECH Construction Company Limited formerly known as C & C (Chagoury & Chagoury) Construction. HITECH, it would be further recalled, was the company whose earth-moving equipment criminally broke a petroleum product pipeline in Ijegun, Lagos State, on May 15, 2008, leading to the tragic deaths of scores of people, including school children, who were burnt to ashes. 

THIS DAY reported also that instead of launching a criminal investigation, the Lagos State government is involved in a cover-up of mass murder shifting blame to the local government or unusual water movement, although civil construction experts blamed the incident on the company, without proper mapping of the area before embarking on the construction job as required by law.

The fire incident in the Ijegun area of Lagos further exposes another shady enterprise of the former governor engaged in while in office. Whilst he was the governor of Lagos State, Tinubu purchased 60 fire-fighting engines from the United Kingdom as part of his administration's fire aid package to enhance the operational capability of the fire service in Lagos. The fire engines, popularly called the "Green Goddess" were described by the BBC as "hopelessly outdated" having been manufactured over fifty years ago.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, (BBC), the fire engines were "designed to cope with the aftermath of a nuclear strike, and came to be seen as hopelessly outdated.  But now the Green Goddess fire engines have found a new mission - on the streets of Lagos and other African cities".  Tinubu purchased them in 2005 in a deal that ran into several billions of Naira. It is however, ironic that the fire engines were no where to be found in several fire incidents and pipeline explosions that incinerated thousands of people, including school children in the state.

Nevertheless, Saharareporters has reliably gathered that some family members of the people who lost their lives in the recent blaze at Ijegun, a Lagos suburb, are planning a major class action lawsuit against the Lagos State government.


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