Like the fa­bled Cheshire cat in Lewis Caroll’s lit­er­ary clas­sic, Alice in Won­der­land, Jim Ovia’s Mar­riott Ho­tel project is turn­ing into a white ele­phant. Few peo­ple will forget the un­usual buzz news that the ho­tel’s emer­gence in the high­brow hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor gen­er­ated few years ago.

The end might have come sooner than ex­pected for chair­man and founder of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia’s am­bi­tion to play big in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. For a man who has suc­ceeded in many of his en­deav­ours, Ovia’s Mar­riott Ho­tel project might be a still­birth af­ter all. In 2012, Ovia’s Quan­tum Lux­ury Prop­er­ties Lim­ited en­tered into a multi-bil­lion naira agree­ment with the global ho­tel brand, Mar­riott, to have one in Nige­ria.

Primed to be lo­cated be­side the Civic Cen­tre, also owned by Ovia, on the Ozumba Mbadiwe wa­ter­front Vic­to­ria Is­land, La­gos, the pro­posed five-star ho­tel, he had said, would com­prise 150 star rooms with a 2014 launch date al­ready set. “We iden­ti­fied a gap in the mar­ket­place within the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try to sup­port the bur­geon­ing sec­tors. Nige­ria is well known for its hos­pi­tal­ity and La­gos as a mega-city de­serves a world-class fa­cil­ity to com­ple­ment its sta­tus. We are proud to have the op­por­tu­nity to part­ner with a world-class brand like Mar­riott,” Ovia said ex­cit­edly, adding that the Nige­rian econ­omy con­tin­ues to be an at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion for For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment (FDI), par­tic­u­larly with the boom in the tele­coms in­dus­try and the at­trac­tive­ness of the bank­ing sec­tor.” That was in 2012. What many didn’t know per­haps is that it wasn’t just Ovia that got the Mar­riott fran­chise; Taiwo Afo­labi, the ship­ping mag­nate be­hind SIFAX Group re­garded as one of Africa’s fastest­grow­ing multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions with di­ver­sity in Mar­itime, Avi­a­tion, Haulage & Lo­gis­tics, Oil & Gas, also got ap­proval to site one in G.R.A, Ikeja, La­gos. Un­like Ovia’s which seems to be dead and buried, Afo­labi’s 300-room Mar­riott Ho­tel is near­ing com­ple­tion and would soon open for busi­ness. Dif­fer­ent strokes for dif­fer­ent folks.

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