PLEDGES COMMITMENT TO DEPEENING OPPORTUNITIES IN TOURISM SECTOR
- ·Says answer to more jobs lies in continuous local investments
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Sunday commissioned the first Five Star Hotel in Lagos, the InterContinental Lagos, pledging commitment of his administration to deepening the opportunities in the Tourism Sector.
The multi-billion Naira InterContinental Lagos, is a 352-room, 23-storey Five Star Hotel belonging to the Milan Group and the InterContinental Hotels Group and is situated on 52 Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Addressing the audience comprising business executives, investors and entrepreneurs, members of the State Executive Council, prominent Lagosians and Nigerians as well as traditional rulers, Governor Fashola said Nigerian entrepreneurs should begin to look inward to bridge the deficiency of hotels, roads, bridges and other utilities that make life better for the citizenry.
“I want again to invite our entrepreneurs that we do not yet have enough hotels. We also do not have enough roads and bridges. So they should begin to look inward because really that is where the money is – retails, public utilities and infrastructure”, the Governor said.
Governor Fashola, who pledged to give full support to such entrepreneurs by providing enabling environment for investment in the State, said beyond infrastructure, in the medium term, Tourism represented a major sector in which the nation could create economic growth, create jobs and expand opportunities.
“Of course, the support that we give here is not a fluke. It is a well-envisioned support that beyond infrastructure, in the medium term, Tourism represents a major sector in which we can create economic growth, create jobs and expand opportunities”, he said adding that the answer to job creation lies in continuous investments.
Urging Nigerian professionals to seize the opportunities for economic growth currently sweeping through the African Continent, the Governor declared, “My colleagues in the State Executive Council of Lagos State have listened to me time and time again that if professionals in this country raise their game no nation can beat us on earth. The prosperity of this nation lies in what the professional does”.
“It is clear that there is growth on the African Continent. But growth is a cycle as Economists will tell you and if we do nothing with the cycle of opportunity, it will move on. It is here now but we are dealing with growth without enough jobs. There is no miracle about it, the answer lies in continuous local investments, continuous pushing of the frontiers of commitment, continuous investments at home and emphasis on the possibilities that lie here”, the Governor said.
The Governor paid a glowing tribute to the architect and other Nigeria professionals who worked on the conception, design and construction of the hotel saying, “As a professional myself, on behalf of all of us, I say thank you. But this is, perhaps, one of many of this life-defining infrastructure that we expect Nigerian professionals, Nigerian entrepreneurs to lead. I visited this site during its construction and nothing delighted me more than to learn that most of the financing was local, the design was local, the construction was local and the labour was local”.
“Of course, one cannot but pay tribute today to the group of local consultants, Nigerians who put their professionalism to this project. And that group was led by Mr. Odunlami whom we have listened to, a man who claims to be very reserved on the microphone but who has made, perhaps, the loudest statement about the professionalism of Nigerians in this edifice that hosts us tonight”, he said.
Governor Fashola also thanked the Milan Group and the InterContinental Hotels Group for the confidence they repose in the Lagos and the Nigerian Economy adding, “The Milan Group, the InterContinental Group, especially Mr. Ramesh Valechha, did not make this investment because the Lagos State Government went to look for investors. They made this investment because the environment was enabling”.
“I salute the commitment and the belief of the Milan Group in the Lagos and the Nigerian Economy. Some have alluded that commitment to the persistent stubbornness, stubborn persistence was the word I heard about Mr. Valechha but I think it is passionate persistence. It is persistence driven out of conviction.
“And if you want to know how deep that conviction is, you need to take a turn to the basement of this building. You will see that persistence and that conviction expressed in several metres deep of concrete and steel and it shows you how difficult it was to get this project underway. But they did not give up because they were convinced that this was the place to put their money”, the Governor said.
According to him, “The hotel represents the increasing number of hotel brands that are making Lagos and Nigeria their preferred destination and we expect to see more because the market can certainly take a lot more”. He, however, expressed sadness that Nigerian entrepreneurs are not sufficiently rising to the opportunities provided in the Tourism Industry.
On the opportunities for job creation, Governor Fashola said apart from the number of direct jobs already created, indirect jobs including supply of food items such as vegetables and other condiments for African and Nigerian dishes, curtains for windows and doors, beddings and pillows and so on would benefit numerous Nigerians.
“This hotel will need tonnes and tonnes of food, vegetables made in Nigeria to keep it going. The opportunity is here now, we must seize it. All of the bedrooms will need linen, bed sheets, pillows, mattresses, cases. The answer to the opportunities which this kind of investment brings lies in three words “Made In Nigeria”, the Governor said.
Governor Fashola made clarifications on the State’s Consumption Tax Law saying the tax is levied, not on the hotels but “on those who consume articles and items of luxury only”. “The role of the hotels will be to collect on our behalf and remit to us”, he said.
“Let me repeat for the avoidance of doubt, the consumption tax is not levied on the hotels. It is by making such collection promptly and voluntarily that you support and enable us to keep the infrastructures that keep your business going. It is by taking and collecting those taxes promptly that you empower us to provide education in schools free for the human capital that will come and give support to the management of this business”, he said.
He continued, “Similarly, the tax that will come from the incomes of your employees, is not tax on your business; it the tax from the income of your employees, your role is to collect and remit to us. The Federal Government is the only government that is entitled by law to tax your profits”.
Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Chairman of the Milan Group, Mr. Ramesh Valechha said the hotel which, according to him, “is built to reflect all international standards”, was built in Lagos in recognition of its status the centre of Nigeria’s business and financial hub adding that it is built to change the skyline of Lagos.
He thanked the Lagos State Government “for creating the environment for the investment”, Governor Fashola for his support and the Skye Bank Plc for its financial support and the local contractors for the design and construction of the hotel”.
Also in his remarks, the designer of the building, Architect Bayo Odunlami who led the other professionals in the construction of the building, said the project took seven years to complete, adding that in spite of the challenges faced in the construction, the contractors pushed on to the completion of the building “because of a clientele who is tenacious, who has vision and commitment”.
Also present were the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Sola Oworu, other members of the State Executive Council, Managing Director of Milan Group, Mr. Rajesh Valechha, General Manager, InterContinental Lagos, Mr. Didier Coeln, Executive Director, Milan Group, Mr. Vikram Valechha, the Group’s Architect, Architect Bayo Odunlami, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu 1, the Oniru of Iru Land, Oba Idowu Oniru, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo and other top government functionaries.