Gov­ern­ment should check dou­ble tax­a­tion in ho­tel busi­ness --- Odunayo, GM, Bench­mark Ho­tels

Business a.m. - - NIGERIA FRONTIER MARKETS -

Imo­lites are very ac­com­mo­dat­ing and Ow­erri, the cap­i­tal of Imo State, is lo­cated in the cen­tre of the East­ern Re­gion. These Imoad­van­tages and oth­ers have made Ow­erri a thriv­ing City for the leisure and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor of the econ­omy. OGUNYEMI ODUNAYO, gen­eral man­ager of Bench­mark Ho­tels Lim­ited, spoke to SABY ELEMBA in Ow­erri. Ex­cerpts In­vestors in the ho­tel and tourism sec­tor of the econ­omy say that the tourism sub sec­tor is a tough one be­cause of the many chal­lenges faced by op­er­a­tors. Do you have a dif­fer­ent view from what oth­ers say?

TO START WITH, THERE is no busi­ness with­out chal­lenges. So ours is not go­ing to be an ex­cep­tion. We have a num­ber of chal­lenges though we are still try­ing to see how we can man­age these chal­lenges; they are such that can not close down our busi­ness. The num­ber one chal­lenge is power. In this in­dus­try, power is a ma­jor chal­lenge be­cause if you look at the cost of run­ning gen­er­a­tors it is quite on the high side.

To start with, there is no busi­ness with­out chal­lenges. So ours is not go­ing to be an ex­cep­tion. We have a num­ber of chal­lenges though we are still try­ing to see how we can man­age these chal­lenges; they are such that can not close down our busi­ness. The num­ber one chal­lenge is power. In this in­dus­try, power is a ma­jor chal­lenge be­cause if you look at the cost of run­ning gen­er­a­tors it is quite on the high side.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the pre­paid me­ter by Enugu Elec­tric­ity Distri­bu­tion Com­pany (EEDC) is an­other chal­lenge that is ac­tu­ally dis­turb­ing. This has led us to manag­ing our en­ergy ef­fec­tively; any fa­cil­ity that is not in use should be put off in other to con­serve en­ergy. So the bill we pay to EEDC is very high and that is why I say it is a chal­lenge be­cause the bill is high and for us to pay that bill, we have to sell a good num­ber of rooms, foods and drinks.

So if we don’t sell a good num­ber of rooms it will be dif­fi­cult for us be­cause ho­tel is a place you have to run 24 hours power and you don’t say you have one or two guests, that you would not power your ho­tel. No, you will power your ho­tel al­ways. So the cost is ac­tu­ally dis­turb­ing. It is a very big chal­lenge but we are just try­ing to see how we can man­age by pro­vid­ing en­ergy.

Don’t you see the in­tro­duc­tion of the pre­paid me­ters in Nige­ria as a good thing and a wel­come de­vel­op­ment for both the pri­vate and com­mer­cial con­sumers?

It is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment but the in­crease in the tar­iff is the chal­lenge. The pre­paid me­ter is not a chal­lenge but the in­crease in tar­iff of the bill is what I am talk­ing about be­cause we were on N23 per unit be­fore now but all of a sud­den it went to N45.24 which is dou­ble and al­most 100 per cent in­crease. And you can­not in­crease your tar­iff in the ho­tel to 100 per­cent be­cause of the in­crease in EEDC bill; peo­ple will go to other ho­tels. We re- ally have to do a lot to meet up with pay­ing the bills that is the prob­lem.

You have told us that power is the ma­jor chal­lenge you face, are there other ma­jor or mi­nor chal­lenges that you can tell the pub­lic?

We have oth­ers, like a lot of ho­tel man­agers are com­plain­ing about ac­ces­si­bil­ity to their ho­tels. I re­mem­ber one of the man­agers at the new Ow­erri talked about ac­cess to his ho­tels which is a very big chal­lenge. There is need to work on some of the roads in the city, a lot of roads are go­ing bad; they re­quire gov­ern­ment’s at­ten­tion.

There is an­other type of bill com­ing from the gov­ern­ment which is also dis­turb­ing, dou­ble tax­a­tion. This bill is been du­pli­cated and if you look at it crit­i­cally you will also know that we are be­ing dou­ble taxed by the gov­ern­ment and its agen­cies in the state.

Do you have ev­i­dence to prove this?

Yes, there are so many ev­i­dences even other man­agers run­ning other ho­tels will also show you ev­i­dences that some of the taxes are du­pli­cated. We are be­ing dou­ble taxed un­nec­es­sar­ily, the gov­ern­ment has to look in­side and har­mo­nize it so that the touts will not take con­trol of the sys­tem.

Has this been made known to the gov­ern­ment?

Yes, we have been talk­ing to the gov­ern­ment about this prob­lem of dou­ble tax pay­ment but they have been giv­ing us as­sur­ances that they were go­ing to look into the ac­tiv­i­ties of those claim­ing to be agents. So we hope­fully be­lieve that the gov­ern­ment will do some­thing about it be­cause we know what we are sup­posed to pay. And we will not be here and al­low touts to come and tax us un­nec­es­sar­ily, we will not take it.

You have talked about the high tar­iff from the EEDC and in most cases you tend to run your gen­er­a­tors be­cause of the epilep­tic power sup­ply to en­sure that you have power al­ways. Can you tell us how much you spend monthly on diesel?

Yes, you see on the av­er­age, you will find out that a ho­tel of our own size will be spend­ing N1.5mN3mil­lion a month to buy diesel apart from the bill of EEDC which is quite on the high side. And we were buy­ing diesel for N170 be­fore but as I speak with you now, diesel is be­ing sold for N270 per liter. So it is a very big chal­lenge.

As a sea­soned man­ager in the ho­tel and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, there­are many chal­lenges that might pull down a busi­ness of this type. Now is this sec­tor still vi­able in Imo state?

This sec­tor is still vi­able and thriv­ing, vi­able in the sense that Ow­erri has a unique set­ting. If you look at Ow­erri it is in the cen­tre of the east geopo­lit­i­cal zone of the coun­try. And not just be­cause it is in the cen­tre of the East but the Imo­lites are very ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

So peo­ple like where they go to and they are prop­erly ac­com­mo­dated. Ow­erri and the Imo­lites are very ac­com­mo­dat­ing, friendly and peo­ple like to as­so­ciate with the Imo­lites be­cause of their na­ture.

The en­vi­ron­ment of busi­ness here is not so bad but there is room for im­prove­ment, so Ow­erri is good and the Imo­lites are ac­com­mo­dat­ing so that is where I will say that the busi­ness is quite en­cour­ag­ing.

What do you think the gov­ern­ment should do to widen this sec­tor or at­tract more in­vestors?

There is the need for the gov­ern­ment to look at cre­at­ing sites that will at­tract tourists into the state be­cause if we have enough sites in the state, they will at­tract a lot of tourists. This could be done through the pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) if the gov­ern­ment feels it can­not do it alone, it could part­ner with the pri­vate sec­tor on the ar­eas that need to be tapped and which would be of ben­e­fit to the hote­liers.

When we talk about cre­at­ing sites, there is Oguta Lake and oth­ers and there is need to de­velop them so that tourists would come. Gov­ern­ment should in­vest in tourists’ at­tractions in the state and when they come to the state, they will ul­ti­mately sleep, eat and thereby pa­tron­iz­ing the ho­tels and we will ben­e­fit a lot.

How much do you see this sec­tor help­ing in ab­sorb­ing the un­em­ployed peo­ple to de­con­gest the unem­ploy­ment mar­ket?

Yes, I think the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try is a ma­jor em­ployer of labour in the state and is a ma­jor one that has re­ally helped the gov­ern­ment to cush­ion the ef­fects of unem­ploy­ment in the state. Be­cause if you look at the num­ber of em­ploy­ees in the ho­tels crit­i­cally, you find out that these peo­ple that are em­ployed in the ho­tels were out of jobs, it could cre­ate prob­lems for the so­ci­ety. When you em­ploy one per­son he will take care of the wife, brother or chil­dren. So if you em­ploy one per­son, you have ac­tu­ally em­ployed three or four per­sons be­cause you can make money alone but you can not spend the money alone.

Odunayo

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