February 22, 2006/guardian
The Cross River State Government has sold its stake in the rustic Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar, in the final laps of its privatisation programme. With a purchase price of N200 million, the bid winner, Messrs Crownwood Hotels Limited, has already taken over the management of the hotel.
The disposal of the property was executed under the programme of the state\'s privatisation council, headed by Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, which had also sold some other ailing companies and rubber estates.
Metropolitan Hotel, which is one of the hotels that hosted the Nigeria \'99 Youth World Cup, had been on the market for over two years, but the planned sale was slowed by the absence of \"good offers backed up with cash down payment.\"
Though two offers were made earlier to the tune of N500 million, the privatisation council claimed to have turned them down, as the preferred bidders had offered to make the payments in instalments.
But the six-storey property was eventually sold after the Lagos-based firm, Crownwood Hotels emerged the preferred bidder with an offer of N200 million.
The sale, however, has attracted criticism from the public, as many believe that the N200 million offer was much lower than the hotel\'s assets and the earlier offers made.
However, a consultant to the council, Mr. Gershom Davis of Davis, Offion and Company told The Guardian that the sale of Metropolitan Hotel was in order. He disclosed that in the past, each time the hotel was put up for sale, the preferred bidder did not come out with cash and even the substitute bidders could not meet up.
Davis, who is the managing consultant to the council, noted that the council\'s action was in order and the offer okay, given that the facility was completely run down with nothing coming to the state government.
He said: \"Certainly the buyer will do a lot of work to put the place to a good standard. One little problem that occurred over payment of affected staff, was on computation of financial entitlements of the staff. The council brought in experts to verify and advice accordingly. About 300 of the total staff affected, who were employed by the hotel, have been paid.
Davis explained that all problems were resolved and all the staff from five years and above were paid their gratuity and a redundancy allowance, while those below five years were paid only redundancy allowances. Amounts paid ranged between N80,000 and N500,000, depending on the category.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Joe Oshiagale, stated that the hotel was valued at N821 million in 2001.
Under the terms of the sale of its companies or estates, The Guardian gathered that the state government keeps 50 per cent of the total sale price while the balance of 50 per cent is used in servicing liabilities to workers, contractors, and fees to consultants and others.
Metropolitan Hotel was built in the early 1970s with over 200 rooms, restaurants, conference halls, swimming pool, lawn tennis court, bamboo bar, discotheque, modern laundry shop, spacious car park and other facilities.