Management of Harmony Holdings Limited, the investment management company of Kwara State Government, has explained that the various interventions of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq have kept the hotel afloat since 2019 when it inherited over N500 million liabilities from the previous administration.
This comes on the hills of a protest organised by staff of Kwara Hotel on Thursday over their 7 months unpaid salaries.
In a statement issued by the Corporate Affairs Unit, Harmony Holdings noted that Kwara Hotel which has 174 rooms had less than 20 percent of its rooms functioning when Governor AbdulRazaq came to power, saying this grounded its productivity.
The statement added that no less than N2 billion would be needed to upgrade Kwara Hotel and return it’s lost glory.
The management of Harmony Holdings also traced the challenges facing the hotel to what it called infractions perpetrated by a consultant brought by former Governor Bukola Saraki.
It lamented that despite inheriting a newly renovated Kwara Hotel, Saraki appointed a management consultant that did not invest a dime in the hotel in clear violation of the terms of engagement.
The management consultant was later sacked by Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed who failed to bring it to justice despite the infractions and liabilities accrued, according to the statement.
It also clarified that approval had already been granted for the payment of the outstanding salaries before the staff went on strike.
This was communicated to the staff who were requested to be patient for the relevant organs of government to process the payment approval, but that fell on deaf ears for reasons best known to them, the management explained further.
Read some excerpts of the statement issued:
“The management of Harmony Holdings Limited is aware of a protest organised by staff of Kwara Hotel, one of its subsidiary companies, over 7 months of unpaid salaries. It is therefore instructive to put some records straight despite the emotions that might be attached to the issue.
“Firstly, we regret the unfortunate situation that the hotel and its workers are currently in and it is on record that we have never abdicated our responsibility as we have been doing everything within our reach as the investment management company of the Kwara State Government with the active support of the state government to fix the challenges confronting the hotel most of which were inherited from the previous administration.
“It is on record that when the current administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq assumed office in 2019, Kwara Hotel, a 172-room facility, had below 20% of its room capacity functioning. Most of the rooms which serve as revenue line were not in a tenantable condition. The hotel had also taken a weary look with so many infrastructural ruins. Similarly, there were huge liabilities running into over N500 million inherited by our management and this government arising from the mismanagement of the hotel under the last administration.
“Our task upon taking over the management of the hotel in 2019 was therefore onerous and multi-pronged. This includes but not limited to keeping the dying hotel afloat so as to sustain the current workforce many of whom are Kwarans while seeking for the most effective and sustainable solution to the long over due infrastructural upgrade which clearly requires an investment not less than N2 billion to restore the lost glory of the hotel and reactivate its brand. In addition to the above mentioned critical needs, we had to confront the huge indebtedness many of which are in owed salaries, unremited pensions and even payment to suppliers.
“The public will recall that it was at the tail end of the administration of late Governor Muhammad Alabi Lawal that the last major investment and massive facelift was done at Kwara Hotel. This meant that the succeeding administration of Governor Abubakar Bukola Saraki inherited more or less a brand new hotel which had every potential to turn the fortunes of the state around because the structure of Kwara Hotel gave it a unique edge over its competitors in the whole of Northcentral. Unfortunately for over 16 years following the exit of Governor Muhammed Lawal’s administration, no value addition was made to the hotel other than the fact that it was passed from one set of cronies to another under the guise of private sector investment in which not a single kobo was invested but rather the revenues generated from the hotel over these extended periods were looted with impunity.
“The public is rightly reminded that it was under the Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki-led administration that Austin Peters of KH Integrated Management Services (KHIMS) was appointed as a management consultant for the hotel. The terms of engagement required them to invest a minimum of Two million dollars which amounted to about Three Hundred and Sixty million naira at that time to upgrade the hotel infrastructurally and thereafter manage it for some years before ceding it back to the Kwara State Government. Clearly, there is nothing bad in inviting a management consultant to run a company, but the misdemeanour lies in the fact that this management consultant never invested a dime in Kwara Hotel contrary to the terms of engagement. To our utmost consternation, it also went ahead to borrow over N350 million from GT Bank in the name of the hotel which was totally paid back from the cash flow of the hotel with evidences showing that the borrowed funds were diverted and never invested in the hotel. A case of double jeopardy you would say.
“The management company continued to have a field day misappropriating all revenues being generated from the hotel on an average of N50 million monthly without carrying out as much as the renovation of a single room. By the end of 2016, the hotel was already in a full state of deterioration and it could no longer meet up with its obligations. It was in 2017 under the administration of Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed that this management consultant was shown the exit door leaving behind in its trail hundreds of million naira of owed and unpaid obligations both to staff and others.
“This is the sad tale of how Kwara hotel was systematically killed within a period of sixteen years due to greed, avarice and putting personal interest above the collective interest of the people. Despite the situation inherited at Kwara Hotel where most of the rooms had already become untenantable, with other facilities that generate revenue for it deteriorated, and in the face of a huge debt portfolio, the current administration has never shied away from taking responsibility and addressing the issue frontally. It was clear that tackling such an issue will take time and resources. Nonetheless, the government was very keen that the hotel must not go into extinction.
“It’s important to state that the hotel has been operating on a perpetual loss trajectory for over five years now and the major source of support has been from the various interventions we have received from the Kwara State government both in terms of deliberate patronage to keep us in business and also through bail out funds at timely intervals to augment salary payment. All through the COVID-19 period when the hotel like others shut down operations and had little or no income, we didn’t lay off a single staff, all salaries that were paid within that period was from the state government’s intervention. Till date, the hotel like some other ailing subsidiaries of Harmony Holdings have been beneficiaries of multiple rounds of bailout both from Harmony Holdings the parent company and particularly the Kwara State government.
“The current source of agitation which is the accrued unpaid salaries of 7 months has received the attention of His Excellency Governor AbdulRazaq who has graciously approved another intervention fund to clear the salary backlog and the funds is being processed by the respective organs of government. We have therefore appealed to the workers to continue to be calm in the face of the current trying period that the hotel is going through.
“Meanwhile, this government is also making efforts to confront the bigger challenge of fixing the infrastructural deficiency in the hotel. Following series of review, consultations and due diligence efforts, the current management of Harmony Holdings Limited deemed it fit to adopt the approach of engaging a very competent private sector investor with the requisite financial and technical capacity to rehabilitate the hotel, upgrade its status and manage it professionally. The Governor had consented to this proposal.
“Following his approval, a thorough bidding process was initiated and a preferred investor alongside an international hotel brand have been recommended to handle the hotel management. The investment plan is for the investor to put in no less that N2 billion in the hotel under a Joint Venture (JV) arrangement that would also see the total obligations owed to the staff cleared from the payment of the upfront premium.
“The process has also recently been approved by the State Executive Council. It is now on the table of the State Assembly for its legislative consent as representatives of the people. We understand that the Assembly will be calling for a public hearing to aggregate the inputs of Kwarans on the proposed concession before it makes its resolution. This explains the reason for the delay in the process of the new investment in the hotel, which has also affected the planned defrayal of staff obligations.
“Given his passion about the welfare of workers however, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has already approved the payment of over N26 million as an intervention in the interim to pay off the outstanding 7 month salaries. The approval has been communicated to the staff and they have been assured of payment as soon as the funds are processed. But it was surprising to see them going out this morning to protest when their representatives have always been brought to the round table to understand the situation of things. Notwithstanding the action of today, we have reassured them that every staff of Kwara Hotel will get their outstanding salaries in no distant time once the fund is released.”
Osun: Muslims Observe Jum’uah Prayer As Inisa Central Mosque Reopens After Three Years Of Closure
Muslims gathered on Friday and observed Jumah prayer as the Inisa Central Mosque in Odo-Otin Local Government Area of Osun State, which has been under lock and key for three years over the Imamship tussle, was re-opened today, December 1, 2023, for Muslim men and women of the community to observe Solatul Jum’ah.
The announcement of the reopening was made on Thursday at the palace of Olunisa of Inisa, Oba Joseph Oladunjoye Oyedele (JP) Fasikun II, on behalf of the Grand Chief Imam of Osun State in conjunction with the League of Imams and Alfas in the community.
In anticipation of the first-ever Jum’ah prayers after three years, it was learnt that the Muslim youths in Inisa stormed the central mosque on Thursday to make necessary preparations including cleaning to make the House of Allah conducive for the congregation of Muslims that will attend.
Behind the news
Inisa Central Mosque came to the limelight when Ilorin-born Muslim scholar Sheikh Ahmad Labeeb Lagbaji early this week posted a video of his visit together with his disciples to the mosque on social media.
In the video, the Islamic scholar lamented how the central mosque had been locked for several years without prayers being observed there over leadership tussle.
According to Sheikh Lagbaji, community members said a spell had been placed on whoever leads prayer at the mosque to die following the tussle.
He, however, led the dhuhr prayer at the central mosque during one of his visitations, to break the ‘pray and die’ jinx, saying no evil would befall them.
“It is embarrassing that a central mosque would be shut down for years due to flimsy issues. My mission here is to ensure that the mosque is reopened for prayers. We will achieve that. I come from Ilorin every day to show I am serious about this,” he said.
The Islamic scholar who was accompanied to the mosque by one of the leaders of Inisa Muslim community said he has been enjoying support from various quarters to ensure the mosque is reopened.
“Now, we have the support of Leagues of Imams and Scholars from various parts of Nigeria including Oyo, Lagos and Bauchi, among others. They said there is a jinx that prayer must not be observed here again. We will break that jinx and spell.”
Following his video, the issue came to the front burner with netizens coming up with their versions of stories and experiences about the Inisa Central Mosque crisis.
One of the leading voices in narrating his experience was the Grand Mufti of Yorubaland and Amir of Ta’awunul Muslimeen, Sheikh Molaasan.
In a Facebook live video, the Grand Mufti said the Imamship tussle could be traced back to 2020.
He added that the tussle divided the Muslim community in Inisa town, while also alleging that Oba Joseph Fasikun II had a preferred candidate for the Imamship position despite being a Christian.
“Muslim leaders and stakeholders in Inisa all agreed to select someone with relevant Islamic knowledge, but the monarch wanted a different person who was not versatile and had a pending case in court,”
Sheikh Molaasan said.
“The League of Alfas in Inisa choose someone who had his Arabic education in Saudi Arabia and had been Imam in Canada and Osogbo for over 20 years. Although the person did not seek to be the Imam of the Central Mosque, the clerics visited him and beckoned him to be the overseer of the mosque. The king’s favourite is lower in rank to become Imam. And it is not done that way anywhere in the world.”
Molaasan advocated a competence test between the two contenders to see who is more capable of being the Imam.
He said, “This is the practice laid down by Prophet Mohammad (SAW), which entails appointing someone with a good knowledge of Islam. The two contenders should be invited and asked to sit for a competence exam.”
Also sharing information at his disposal, Dr. Sanusi Lafiagi of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, wrote that a couple of Imams have died in the course of the tussle.
“There is more to the Inisa central mosque saga than meets the eye. This morning, I received a voice note from one of our mothers on this street detailing what transpired and led to the closedown of the mosque,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I couldn’t believe my ears. I sent it to a couple of friends, and a Shaykh who is familiar with the story corroborated the narration and even added more to it. Apparently, a couple of Imāms have been spiritually ‘kpained’ (by Allāh’s permission) over the Imamship tussle.
“I heard that the last Chief Imam who stubbornly refused to be stopped from leading the Salāt didn’t have the opportunity of leading another Jumu’ah prayer after that day. He became so sick that in one day, he received about 20 IV bags (drips) and none was found in his body.”
Although Dr Lafiagi didn’t mention the names of the imams who lost their lives due to the crisis, an Osun State-based medium, Osun Defender, in a story published in May 2021, revealed their identities.
In the report, titled, “3 Imams Die In Quick Succession In Inisa, Govt. Shuts Central Mosque”, the medium wrote, One of the late Imams, Sheik Surakat Asiyanbi (81), was sick for over 10 years before he died in 2020. When Asiyanbi died, his deputy, Qaseem Adebisi (87) was installed as the new Chief Imam of Inisa.
“However, Adebisi was able to lead one Jumat Prayer before he fell sick and later died in 2020. Another Imam, Sheikh Mustafa Baruwa (85), who was installed after Adebisi did not spend three months before he gave up the ghost in 2020, according to some residents of the community.”
The medium also noted that since the death of the three Imams, there has been a crisis in the Inisa Muslim community on who to fill the vacant Chief Imam position, adding that the Eesa of Inisa, Chief Enoch Ajiboso, slumped and died while settling rift among the Muslim community members, late December 2020.
Realizing the danger in the trend of the crisis, the immediate former governor of the State, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola shut down the Inisa Central Mosque indefinitely and also banned any central congregation at the Mosque for Eid prayers.
The announcement read, “Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, as part of efforts to ensure the security of lives and properties in that axis of the state, directed that the central mosque be shut indefinitely to forestall further religious or communal crises. Already, the mosque has recorded the death of two Imams in quick succession.
“Security operatives have been deployed to the town to enforce the closure and ban on Eid prayers. This directive will be in place until reconciliatory process towards amicable resolution is concluded,” it read in part.
Also, The Punch, in her report published on Wednesday, quoted the President of the League of Imams and Alfas in Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Sheikh Jamiu Bello, represented by Sheikh Iskeel Lawal, saying that the mosque was locked on the order of the court and not by Muslim elders in the community.
He noted that the state’s governor, Ademola Adeleke, is the only one who can solve the lingering Imam crisis in the community, adding, “The Islamic scholars should continue to push for an end to the issue so that the community can begin praying there.”
However, the representative of the Grand Chief Imam of Osun State, while clearing air on the issue on Thursday, November 30, at the palace of Olunisa, stated that the central mosque was not shut down due to the Imamship tussle.
He said that, from findings, it was established that the court ordered the closure because one of the parties in the tussle was charged to court for allegedly falsifying his educational qualifications.
He added that the delay in the trial of the suit account for why an Imam has not been appointed.
In his efforts to ensure that the mosque is opened for Muslims to pray starting today, Friday, after three years, Sheikh Labeeb Lagbaji during his resolution mission paid visits to stakeholders involved in the central mosque tussle, including the Olunisa of Inisa and Iya Sunnah of the community.
He wanted to ensure that the Jum’ah prayer was re-established at the mosque this week.
During Sheikh Lagbaji’s visit to the palace, the Olunisa of Inisa denied having an anointed candidate for the imamship, noting he is a Christian with little knowledge about the appointment of an Imam.
He said the two feuding parties in the tussle have met him severally, noting he only stood by the decision of the majority of the ratibi Imams, who also form members of the League of Imams and Alfas in the community.
“I don’t have any hand in the closure of the mosque. Four Imams have successfully been installed since I ascended the throne of my forefathers and I never went against the decision of the ratibi.
“But the problem is that people are becoming more interested and exerting influence unnecessarily in recent times. From time immemorial, the decision on who becomes Imam rests with the Muslim community in Inisa. So, I don’t interfere. It was the Ratibi Imams that selected the Imam of Inisa Central Mosque which led to the crisis. Out of 36 members of the ratibi, 30 came to me to support and choose an Imam. The advisory I got from my consultations within and outside Inisa was that I should queue behind the ratibi. That’s what I did,” the monarch said.
The issue was, however, later resolved at the palace during a meeting held on Thursday, November 30, with the involvement of Grand Chief Imam of Osun State and other critical stakeholders in the crisis.
It was learnt that with the approval of the grand Imam of Osun State, Jum’ah prayer began at the mosque today, Friday, December 1 and an Imam from Oyan, a member of League of Imams and Alfas in the zone, lead the salat.
As stated by the representative of the Grand Imam of Osun State at the reconciliatory meeting held on Thursday at the palace, “By the permission of the grand Imam of Osun State after consultation with the members of the League of Imams and Alfas, Inisa Central Mosque will be open for jum’ah prayer today. Pending the selection of a substantive Imam, each community under the zone is to present representative Imams that will lead jum’ah prayer at the central mosque rotationally every week,”
Kwara Hotel for modern reconstruction, not ever for sale: Govt
Kwara Hotel is a legacy public property that will not be sold for whatever reasons, Kwara State Government asserted in a statement on Friday, adding however that the facility is to undergo a massive reconstruction and efficient management.
The government said the bidding process began over two months ago through an advertisement published in different newspapers, including but not limited to the Herald of September 8, 2023 and Tribune of October 18, 2023.
The open bidding process has been completed and the cabinet is to consider and approve a successful company to finance, remodel, and reconstruct the hotel on behalf of the state within terms that will never include sale of the property and will ensure maximum values for the state. However, the hotel will retain its iconic outward stature, as handed to us by the illustrious founding fathers of Kwara State.
The public may recall that Kwara Hotel was last given a major facelift over two decades ago. Virtually everything in it has become spent and unusable. They needed to be taken out completely to allow for the rebuilding works. It is for that reason that the government began a few weeks ago the legal process to auction off these spent items and utilities. The process involved all relevant government agencies and registered auctioneers who are allowed under the law to partake in such. Four registered auctioneers were approved in all. The due process of valuation had also been done. The auctioneers have since begun the auctioning of these spent items and utilities to the general public after making relevant payments for same to the state coffers.
To that extent, the ongoing gorging of the spent items is to clear out the facility for the massive construction works that will begin soon. An exercise of that magnitude is best held in an open environment to avoid stampede. Even so, the police have been deployed to maintain law and order, and prevent opportunist behaviours as much as possible.
The public is assured of the government’s commitment to make Kwara Hotel the pride of the people once again.
Hon. Damilola Yusuf
Commissioner for Business, Innovation and Technology (BIT)
December 1, 2023
Tinubu commissions TETFund projects in Ebonyi, reiterates commitment to education
President Bola Tinubu has reiterated his administration’s commitment to the development of the country’s education sector.
The president also pledged continued support to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) so that it would continue to play its role in the development of Tertiary Education in the country.
He stated this while commissioning some TETFund-sponsored projects at Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.
Tinubu represented by the minister of works, David Umahi, noted that his administration has demonstrated commitment towards the development of education since the commencement of his administration on May 29, 2023.
He listed some actions and policies of his administration in this regard including the introduction of the students’ loan initiative to ease access to tertiary education for indigent students, and meeting personally with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to discuss the welfare of Nigerian students.
His administration, he said, also approved a waiver of the No Work, No Pay order on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which would pave the way for members of the union to receive part of their withheld salaries.
He said: “These are part of conscious efforts being made by his administration to address challenges and create industrial harmony between staff unions and Government.”
He lauded TETfund led by the Executive Secretary Arc Sonny S.T. Echono for their efforts at effectively discharging the mandate of the Fund for the continuous development of public tertiary education in Nigeria.
He stated: “As we all know, education plays a critical role in the socio-economic development of nations. I wish to reiterate that education forms an integral part of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration’s Renewed Hope agenda, hence the Federal Government would continue to provide necessary support towards making our educational institutions globally competitive for economic and technological development.
“It is on record that over the years, TETFund through the support of the Federal Government has performed exceptionally in the provision of physical infrastructure, support for academic staff training and development, book publication, ICT, Research and Development amongst others in public tertiary educational institutions across the country.
“I wish to assure you that the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu remains committed to providing greater support and the enabling environment to enable the Fund to improve on its performance.”
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono said the institutions have so far enjoyed allocations of over N10bn for infrastructure-related interventions cutting across the Annual, Special, Special High Impact, and Zonal interventions amongst others.
He noted that about 88.24% of these funds have been accessed and deployed to address infrastructural deficiencies in the university.
He commended the Management of the University for assiduously monitoring and ensuring the successful delivery of the various intervention projects executed from inception.
He added: “We do not doubt that the projects undertaken with these funds have remarkably impacted the mandate of the university in facilitating teaching, learning, and research.”
“We are optimistic that these projects will strengthen the efforts of the university to become a global player in the tertiary education subsector and significantly contribute to research and development.
“Our resolve as a Fund is to ensure that our interventions are sustained and improved upon as much as possible to enable our institutions to undertake bigger, and more laudable and impactful projects that will make them become globally competitive and situate them in enviable positions among their peers both nationally and globally.”
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