Gateway Hotel… Ogun State’s pride in throes of abandonment
Its strategic location, so close to Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, was one of the hotel’s Unique Selling Point (USP), which endeared it to many, especially those desirous of serene environment, away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos.
The Guardian learnt that in the past, the state raked in huge revenue yearly from the hotel, especially during festive seasons.
Corporations, individuals and non-governmental organisations competed with one another to book for space in the hotel for such special occasions as the yearly Children’s Day outing; Independence anniversary, AGM among other first-class programmes. It was also the go-to event centre for seminars, conferences and other organised events outside Abeokuta, the state capital.
Fun seekers wanting the cinema experience were not left out in the scheme of things, as they were not only assured of watching the latest movies in town but were also guaranteed the presence of famous theatre practitioners, who were always invited to the hotel at weekends.
But all these have gone with the wind. The hotel has not only ceased to function, it has also been completely abandoned. Presently, the desolation around the hotel speaks of the many years of neglect. Its alluring mien has vanished as all activities have since come to a halt. There are no more fun events or shows. And the many guests that used to throng the hotel have had to look elsewhere.
The Guardian investigation revealed that the problem bedevilling the hotel started during the second term tenure of former Governor Gbenga Daniel when he concessioned many state-owned properties, including Gateway Hotel, Abeokuta; Gateway Hotel, Ijebu-Ode; Gateway Hotel, Ota and Olumo Rock, among others.
The former governor reportedly claimed that the hotels, which experts and political analysts described as the heritage of the state, were difficult to manage by the state, hence the concessioning move.
OGD was accused of selling large state-owned lands to investors and cronies at give-away prices. According to valuation experts, over N23b was lost by the state through mismanagement of land allocations by the administration.
Although the immediate past Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, reportedly reversed the sales or concession of the properties, while Gateway Hotel, Abeokuta and Gateway Hotel, Ijebu-Ode are being managed by private investors, Gateway Hotel, Ota is suffering utter neglect and infrastructure collapse.
Though the gigantic billboard that once publicised the location to travellers and tourists has since been removed, the sculptural sketches of symbolic image antiques, the unique building design, artworks, lawns and other forms of aesthetics, though fast deteriorating, are still beckoning to motorists and commuters.
The Guardian recent visit to the hotel showed that the place is derelict, and has succumbed to the invasion of overgrown weeds, rodents and reptiles, revealing infrastructural collapse and monumental waste.
In contrast to the past years, when security personnel were drafted to the hotel for security purposes, there were neither officers nor guards patrolling or watching over the hotel. So, the correspondent was not accosted, while embarking on a free tour of the entire premises and property unrestrained.
The current sad picture is a sharp contrast to what obtained in the past. Not only is the hotel overgrown with weeds, but every available space in front of the facility has also been appropriated by traders. While the right side is occupied by iron door merchants and mechanics, the left side is taken over by petty traders, vulcaniser, food vendors and a horticulturist, who has grabbed a large expanse of land for his trade.
Another portion of the premises has been turned into the shelter as plywood and planks were used to demarcate rooms and apartments. Some women were seen sitting in front of their apartments with their babies strapped to their backs, while others were being breastfed.
Towards the Bible College-Abule Iroko Road, the hotel’s fence has been broken and the land encroached upon. Getting access to the main hotel premises through the broken fence was quite tough, as the reporter manoeuvred his way through the dangerous bushy path that has become an abode for wild animals.
While a section of the large expanse of land has been turned into a dumpsite, which emits offensive odour from indiscriminately dumped waste, other sections were used for the cultivation of crops. It was also observed that the right flank of the tail end of the premises has been encroached upon. It was obvious that the part was carved out as part of the premises of the Shoprite store, which sits side by side with the abandoned hotel.
A close examination of the entire premises revealed that some equipment and property belonging to the hotel had been carted away. Even, some of the furniture and fittings in the majority of the rooms, including the louver windows, electronics, electrical appliances and other accessories had been looted, but for the decoration, bulbs dangling in some of the rooms, they would have been virtually empty.
Though The Guardian couldn’t ascertain the monthly rent of the makeshift houses, it was gathered that getting accommodation or space in front of the hotel is not a difficult task, once the prospective tenant is ready to part with some cash.
When the reporter pretended to be in need of space for trading, one of the occupants revealed that the sum of N20, 000 is required for space allocation and to be paid to tout in charge, for as long as an occupant wishes to stay there.
When asked if receipt would be issued as evidence of payment and into whose account the rent goes, he said: “There is no receipt. The money goes to his private pocket, not the government. Since this place has been abandoned for long, the man used his initiative to make the entire place okay. Once you pay the N20, 000, you are assured of a space till you feel like leaving this place.”
Though valuation experts have not succeeded in putting a figure to the losses, in terms of revenue that would have accrued to the state government since the hotel was shut down, reports have it that several millions of naira would have come in, as part of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
An estate valuer, Mr. Oluranti Jacob, who runs an office at Ilo Awela area of Sango, recalled the patronage the defunct hotel used to enjoy, especially at weekends, as it provided services likened to a five-star hotel.
He said: “The failure or closure of the hotel was one of the factors that have given rise to many hotels that have sprouted within this area. If you look at this Ilo Awela Road, we have nothing less than seven hotels that have taken advantage of the vacuum created by the absence of the Gateway Hotel.
“It was like a mecca of sorts for visitors, from both within and outside the country, as its location is perfect for such business. We only hope that the current administration will revive the hotel. It will not only generate income for the state but will also help to keep at bay criminals who have turned the premises into a hideout.”
For four months, The Guardian tried contacting the state government through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on the current administration’s plan for the moribund hotel.
When the Commissioner, Dr. Oluwatoyin Taiwo was contacted on phone in August 2020, he promised to call back whenever he was less busy. Attempts to get him after several weeks of silence were unsuccessful.
The Guardian also tried through the Ministry’s Press Officer, but no information was received, as at the time of filing this report.
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