Exclusive: National Power Training Institute of Nigeria Hostel Converted to Hotel; Staff Allege Fraud, Call for Investigation; Revenue Not Remitted to TSA
The Federal Ministry of Power’s manpower training Institute Hostel, located at Adelabu Street, in Surulere, Lagos State, South-West Nigeria, has been illegally converted to a full-blown hotel, with an annual turn-over of over N300million allegedly diverted into private pocket.
Presently, referred as the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria(NAPTIN) following the privatisation of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and later, unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria(PHCN), the private hostel meant to provide accommodation for trainees only, has been illegally converted to a full hotel, with services extended to members of the public.
Investigation by our Correspondent revealed that the Reuben Okeke-led PHCN decided to renovate the two-floor building, earlier constructed by Italian Civil Engineering firm, G. CARPA, in late 1980s, to a hotel in 2013. “Since then, we have been accommodating both our trainees and members of the public for a fee. We have two sets of rooms here, the single rooms that goes for N13, 000 each and executive rooms that goes for N15, 000 per night,” said a source at the hotel.
Though the signpost conspicuously display outside the complex reads “NAPTIN Executive Suites”, perhaps to take the eyes of curious members of the public and government officials away from the place, the facility is contracted out to a private hand, CROMWELL ASSOCIATES. The Hotel has already generated over N1.3 Billion between 2013 to December 2015. “Throughout this period, the money goes into a special account, which we do not know who operates it.”
Our Correspondent checks at both Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) revealed that though NAPTIN is registered at the CAC as “Limited Guarantee Company” allegedly managed by a non-existing board of trustees, BPE on the other hand claimed ignorance of such facility, throughout its entire process of the unbundling of PHCN.
Though Alex Okoh, the spokesman for BPE, refused to answer several telephone calls put across to his mobile telephone line, an inside source told our Correspondent that following an earlier inquiry, which Okoh might have been briefed about, there has been an uneasy calm at BPE, with warning that nobody should talk to any Journalist about NAPTIN issue.
“If BPE is aware of what they are doing there, why should we contract the job out, meanwhile, the entire renovation of the place was carried out by PHCN management using government funds. I can tell you that the training school may not have been listed among assets of the former NEPA and later PHCN.”
While the main hotel is managed by CROMWELL ASSOCIATES, the tent hall outside, with a sitting capacity of over 500 people, is managed by another contractor. “Another contractor is managing the tent outside. The contractor was brought by our DG, his name is one Mr. Araah, and he built the tent with his money and equipped it. We are supposed to share the profit. We have MOU to that effect but since 2014 when he started, he has not paid us one kobo, meanwhile, members of the public hold event there almost every weekend.”
It was gathered that the tent goes for N300, 000 to N400, 000 for an average of 12 hours event, which include wedding and community association meeting. “Even when our students make use of the place, we pay. For your information, the students pay for their accommodation at the hostel and also pay to make use of the tent. We use the tent if the number of our trainees is much, such that the hall within the complex cannot comfortably accommodate them.”
When our Correspondent was able to get the Director General of NAPTIN, Engr. Reuben Okeke, for comment on the allegations, he first of all queried our source of information. “I have no right to tell you anything about that place, because I do not know who you are working for or where you are coming from. But since you have known this much, I think I would talk to you.”
He confirmed that outsiders make use of the hostel and pay the stipulated amount to the cashiers at front desk. He also confirmed that the facility has been contracted out. Asked if it was not against the law, for government property to be so commercialized without the knowledge of the relevant agency of government, like BPE, he said, “well, I am not aware of such law; in any case, what we are doing here is not commercialization. For instance, we do not sell hot drinks, beer or spirit here. Guests only sleep here and eat within the facility, that is all.”
According to him, the rooms are only leased when they are not occupied by students. He wondered why it is becoming an issue now when the facility has been running since 2013. Pressed for further information, Mr. Okeke stalled, urging our correspondent to write officially to request for more information.
But checks revealed that the facility provides full hotel services, “we don’t display our drinks, if you ask for it, you would be served in your room. We do laundry here also, and other extended hotel services. So, there is no difference between us and any other hotel”, said a senior staff of the hotel.
Okeke, also confirmed that NAPTIN has been in the Power Ministry yearly budget. “We are in this year’s budget. But the problem is that nobody remembered the place in terms of money to run it.”
But at the Power Ministry and Ministry of Finance, investigations confirmed that allocations are made to the place through the defunct NEPA and later PHCN, but the money would never be applied for the purpose it was budgeted for.
It was also discovered that NAPTIN was yet to key into the much publicized Federal Government directive on Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the time of this report. “For instance, the contractor handling the Tent Event Hall outside, blatantly refused for the facility to be merged with the main hotel, and that makes it difficult to key into the government directive on TSA account,” said a source.
But the DG, Engr. Okeke, denied the claim and stated that NAPTIN has keyed into TSA. Asked how much was in the account of NAPTIN and how much was remitted to government through TSA, he told our Correspondent that he cannot disclose such information. “I cannot tell you that, if you want to know that, you may have to apply officially using the Freedom of Information Act, and if approved by the Minister of Power, we would supply you that information.”
The Minister of Power, Work and Housing, Babatunde Fashola’s Lagos home, is just behind the facility. A source told our Correspondent that the minister has had cause to ask question about the facility, but was told it was only trainees that make use of the place. “They lied to the Minister. The moment they heard the Minister was coming around, they hurriedly checked out all the non-trainee guests and refunded their money to them”
The source added that he was not interested in whether the place is converted illegally to a hotel, “but my concern is that the money generated there should go into the government purse, because government still allocates money for the running of the place.” The workers urged the minister to investigate the account of the institute to establish where money generated from the hotel go to.