After several months of playing and toying with its multi-billion Naira tourism investment at the prestigious Obudu Mountain Resort, the Government of Cross River State has finally sent parking Zedici Capital, the company it earlier engaged to run the resort.In a letter signed by Eric Anderson, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism and made public to the media, the state government said, “the Cross River State Government has with immediate effect terminated the concession contract, entered with Zedici Capital Limited to rehabilitate, remodel, finance, manage and transfer the Obudu Ranch Resort”.
According to Anderson, “I inherited the presence of Zedici on the ranch because an initial MOU was signed by the governor on September 7th 2017 and I was made a commissioner on the September 27th of same month; 20 days after the contract with Zedici was entered into”
The commissioner also noted that a new agreement which was entered under a public-private partnership [PPP] arrangement was signed on the 1st of March, 2018 after Zedici failed to impress in the first six months of probation that ran from September 7th 2017 to March to 2018.
In the same vein, the letter noted that “also your company has failed, refused and neglected to comply with or fulfil the necessary preconditions in the said concession agreement”.
“Consequent upon the foregoing there, Cross River State government is constrained to and hereby terminates your contract entered on the 1st day of March 2018; with immediate effect”.
“You are to vacate the Ranch Resort premises and its appurtenances within 24 hours from and including the date of the receipt of this letter. You are to hand over all Ranch Resort keys, properties and belongings to the appropriate government agent or representative and put the property in the state at which it was before your forcible entry into the resort,” It added.
In a similar vein, the Attorney General of Cross River State has petitioned the Commissioner of Police for the arrest of personnel of Zedici Capital Limited for operating illegally at the Obudu Mountain Resort.
In the petition signed by G.I Okem, Director of public prosecution for the Attorney General for Justice, urgently called for the prosecution of officials of the company.
In a telephone interview with Dr. Levi Odoe, Chief Executive Officer of Zedici Capital Limited and the Honourary Consul General of Granada in Nigeria, he said the commissioner has no power to terminate a legal contract, except a court of arbitration.
Odoe asked, what happened to all the investment he made the period Zedici was in charge?.
However, something that was not clear to many in Cross River State and the entire tourism industry in Nigeria is: Who is actually in charge of the sector in the state?
African Travel Times Magazine investigation revealed that, there is a special adviser to the governor on the RANCH, Managing Director for the Cross River State Tourism Bureau and a Commissioner for Culture and Tourism.
With the above high profile portfolios, many are of the opinion that jostling for positions were responsible for the several mistakes that have been made regarding the tourism industry.
While Zedici Capital has a case that the problem confronting the ranch was enormous as at the time given it took over, the state should have looked for a more respectable manner in reaching an amicable solution.
The government action just a few months to December rush period suggests the state is eyeing what it could use the place for and make from therein this yuletide period, rather than the issue of capacity as indicated in the government letter to Zedici.
The Cross River State government cannot claim to have acted in good fate because every industry person in Nigeria knows how difficult it is for even well-known and reputable organizations with proven records like Protea and African Sun to succeed in the difficult industry.
From available record, the state government has never been an honest and responsible business partner as far as the issues of tourism in the state are concerned. For instance, Protea left in a questionable manner and African Sun was also asked to go because the state government paid the Zimbabwean company its management fee as at when due for many years.
The former managing director of the Ranch, South African, Hans Butcher, had to go to court before he parted ways with the government after several years of meritorious service to the state.
Without a doubt, the government and its official’s attitude over the years is a major concern to investors or even management companies; the situation will even be more difficult going forward.
Given this questionable circumstances, it appears nobody in his or her right senses would want to come forward with the intention of managing the ranch on a Public Private Partnership [PPP]. Nigeria is not a destination yet, much more Cross River State.
Experts have also suggested that integrating the tourism sector would be a way out, instead of the fragmented management structure that exists now. They are of the opinion that The Tourism Bureau, Carnival Commission and other arts and tourism-related assets be brought under the ministry of tourism, arts and culture for efficient and effective control.
Though, the government is right in taking back Obudu Mountain Resort from Zedici, it should also be prepared to pay whatever damages that are thrown at it because the state government has been wayward and irresponsible in the way and manner it has handled all tourism assets across the state in the last 10 years.
Zedici Capital Limited should be grateful and be prepared to smile to the bank eventually with whatever the state offers it because it was not a qualified candidate in the first place.
Now that the case is pending before Arbitration Court, the future of Obudu Mountain Resort looks rocky and problematic with Zedici Capital Limited asking for N500 million from the state government for unlawful termination of its contract.