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More Worries For Delta State’s $550m Tourism Projects By Lucky Onoriode George

Before an exclusive interview with Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State that was published in the May 2013 edition of African Travel Times and respectively, it was evident that the state was being economical with the truth about its much publicised Resort at Oleri and Wildlife Park at Ogwashi-Uku tourism projects.

Before an exclusive interview with Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State that was published in the May 2013 edition of African Travel Times and respectively, it was evident that the state was being economical with the truth about its much publicised Resort at Oleri and Wildlife Park at Ogwashi-Uku tourism projects.

While many in the state are not sure of the viability and the timing of such huge investments, Richard Mofe Damijo, Commissioner for Directorate of Culture and Tourism, whose office supervises the projects and the contractor Sarner PFN, owned by Princess Abiodun Adefuye, is also just playing to the gallery and without doubt, is a man with a very short memory that ‘the rich and famous also cry’.

It is true that Delta State must diversify her economy and investments, but such must be sensible and viable.

The Delta Leisure Resorts as presented by the state, appears would be one of the most spectacular parks and prestigious leisure destinations in the southern hemisphere, and the first of its kind in West Africa.

At various point, it has been said that the projects were inspired by the stunning Nigerian landscape, and celebrating the rich and diverse African culture and wildlife, the parks were conceptualised to cover some 300 hectares in the Warri and Asaba areas, and is being built at an estimated cost of N49 billion [US$250 million] for the resort and [US$300 million] for the Wildlife Park respectively.

The aforementioned, is not part of the several billions of naira that the state government has committed, and other amounts still being spent on daily basis.

According to the state and the contractor, the range of attractions to be built will include the following: a spectacular water park with wave pool and flume, thrilling adventure rides, a dramatic waterfall vista, an animal reserve and marine life centre, sports club and golf course, cinema complex, 5 and 3 star hotels and luxury villas, a casino, colourful live shows, stylish restaurants, a luxurious spa, and top brand shopping galore. A big joke many would say!

Apart from the above mentioned facilities, the contractor is also bragging of also including a centre for education and historical learning, such as the local crafts village, cultural museum and children’s interactive centre.

In a recent interview, the governor was also quoted as saying that, greatest care would be taken to create this world-class destination in harmony with the natural environment, using only the most ecologically beneficial construction methods, materials and facilities.

He also disclosed that the sand filling of the site of the project at Oleri alone, is costing the state a whopping sum of over N2 billion; the question is, was the condition of the land not discovered before the government chose the site?

The governor also hinted that, the road median from Effurun to the park, which is being laid with interlocking tiles and colourful street lights, would gulp about N700 million from the state government’s purse.  However, Governor Uduaghan informed that the US$300 million-dollar wildlife park, which would occupy 250 acres of land at Ogwashi-Uku will harbour the big five animals.

The projects conceived as a public/private partnership business, and the government is expected to provide the land, security, the access road, including a bridge that cost the government N3 billion, while the private investor takes care of the rest;

It is being executed by the state government and Africa Sarner PFM Resorts Ltd under a Public/Private partnership agreement, while consulting services are given by Bergsten Africa, the main contractor handling the project is, Fast Approach Konstruction Ltd.

Part of what they say all the time are, that a three star hotel of 500 rooms as well as a five star hotel of 450 rooms, tagged Tagmaha would be built in the park. The question is, for whom?

Deltans are also being bamboozled to believe that, apart from the leisure aspect of the resort, there are also structures that will usher in activities that will enhance spiritual and academic growths, and that it would emerged as the most beautiful in the world.

The state government also said the resort, will harbour a theological and research institution in Nigeria, in conjunction with an institution in Pretoria which will be funded by the United Nations.

Answering questions on the benefits of the park during a recent tour of the rite, Uduaghan said although the construction was yet to commence fully, it was already addressing unemployment in the state, as no fewer than 2,000 people were already making their living from the preliminary work going on, adding that when the project is finally completed, at least 5,000 will be engaged.

However, African Travel Times investigations revealed that, even Princess Oyefusi is not sure and certain on how to finance the two projects. At a time, she was talking of selling shares and at another, saying some individuals and organisations have promised to finance them.

To concerned Deltans, how this woman is able to charm the entire ruling class in a hopeless state like Delta remains a mystery.

Some critics argued that the projects are being used to steal land from the communities respectively, because in our investigations and conversations with key players in this deceit, African Travel Times can authoritatively say the projects will never and can never be actualised.

In the last interview which the governor granted African Travel Times, a completion date of 2015 is set, even when a block has not been laid.

Deltans, stakeholders and as well as the media must hold the state government accountable for its waywardness, recklessness and plundering of the people’s resources.

Oleri and Ogwashi-Uku people may think the government meant well for them; the truth is that, the ruling class is indulging in systematic land grabbing.

In her earlier media campaign, Princess Abiodun boosted that she fought tooth and nail to secure the building of the resort, and the wildlife projects in Delta State from a consortium of investors in Europe and suddenly now, Sarner PFN and the state government have been running around for investors?

The question is that, what happened to the earlier investors’ fund the state government and Sarner PFN, claimed to have secured?

The most annoying part of the ‘Delta Tourismgate’ is that, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, Richard Mofe Damijo as well as the governor, displayed that they are not smarter than the average Urhobo, Ijaw or the Itshekiri market woman, and many wondered, how on earth they think all Deltans can be fooled.

Sources who pleaded anonymity told African Travel Times that, several documents have been doctored to give sweeping ownership of the projects to Sarner PFN, and that the few civil servants that asked questions, are immediately and frequently summoned to government house and threatened.

Beside the shoddy manner that the projects are being presently funded with government money without any proper accountability, tourism analyst also wondered how on earth that a state without any form of tourism structure and foundation, be wasting so much resources in building the aforementioned.

Apart from the main culture and tourism ministry and the state tourism board, there is nothing to suggest that, Delta State is genuinely willing to develop and promote tourism, rather than using the sector to steal money and rewarding cronies.

African Travel Times also have it in good authority that, the Directorate of Culture and Tourism as well as  the state tourism board have both suffered lack of funding over the years, in the pursuit of their basic activities.

In the last three years, the state government has not released budgeted annual N3 million for World Tourism Day celebration, and yet, it’s committing several millions of dollars into the resort and wildlife projects.

Like many Deltans that are familiar with the projects, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi is a hustler that God has buttered her bread at the expense of the people of the state, because the two white elephant projects are the most expensive single investment in the history of the state.

While we wait for the funds to be secured, the projects to begin and its completion in 2015, Deltans are waiting for the promised 6,000 jobs that the government and Sarner PFN are brandishing.

The last conversation between African Travel Times magazine and Princess Oyefusi was that, she’s doing Deltans a favour for bringing two projects she knew nothing on how to execute them, raise cash to fund them,  telling lies against those who asked questions is shocking, even as she continues to live on the state resources among others.

The trend around the world is that, no country in Africa or destination anywhere succeeded by relying on the public private partnership [PPP] for its initial investment in tourism.

Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana are some of the countries with huge initial government investments, and when the sector grows and becomes stable, the state or government will scale down its shares.

That is how governments around the world initiate development of the sector to attract other investors.

Princess Oyefusi told this magazine in 2011 that, it was quite difficult for her to convince the investors’ board of the suitability of Delta State and Nigeria, instead of Kenya in East Africa.

The big question is, where are the investors and the finance that the state has been doing all the spending, with Sarner PFN scavenging for money here and there?

It is obvious now that, the completion of the first phase of the resort by December 2013 and the official ozpening in April 2014 will only remain a dream, as boosted by Sarner and the state government previously.

Without doubt, it is only the gods of the land that can give answers to how Princess Abiodun Oyefusi and her Sarner PFN got involved; a company that was registered long after the state government has awarded these projects to her.

At the time of going to press, not even a block has been laid as the resort is still at the sand filling level, while that of the wildlife is also at an embarrassing level.

As for Uduaghan, history is kind to him by making his cousin, Chief James Ibori a scapegoat before his very eye that he can learn from.

It would be a shame, if he allows himself to be dragged down by these two white elephant projects.