by A.S Fadipe
The Sheraton Abuja,a 520-room, 4-star hotel located in Abuja, has been on the market for sale since last year.
The Ibru family, who owned the magnificent hotel, wanted to cash out, and hence they put the hotel up for sale.
The selling price was 22 billion naira and not many businesses can afford to shell out 22 billion just like that without feeling the pinch, especially in these hard times.
However, a company affiliated with Nigerian and Indian investors called NIPCO PLC that wanted to have a footprint in the thriving, flourishing Nigeria’a hospitality eventually met the asking price last month. They were the Daniels that came to judgement.
22 Hospitality Limited, a subsidiary of Nipco Plc wrote the check.
For proper context, it as the same NIPCo who paid $16m in 2017 to acquire Mobil filling stations across the country in 2017.
After months of lengthy negotiations, NIPCO issued a cheque for 22 billion naira to Capital Plc, an investment vehicle controlled by the Ibrus.
After confirming the payment of their money, the Ibru’s handed over the key of the legacy iconic hotel that I enjoy staying at whenever in Abuja to the new investors, and that is where the story changed.
The former owner of the hotel did not care to carry the hotel staff along, did not inform them that they had cashed out, nor did they think they were human enough to be paid their severance package before handing over to the new owner.
The new owners, after collecting the key to their new investment, locked the hotel up for renovation in order to meet their standards and then threw the staff of the hotel out into the rain without compensating them.
After all, it is not their business to pay the severance package to the 291 staff members of the hotel that they met on the ground.
A statement issued by the spokesman of NIPCO Plc, Alhaji Lawal Taofeek, quoted the Group Executive Director of the company, Alhaji Aminu Abdulkadir, as saying that the new investors are desirous of restoring the hotel to its former glory of being the first-choice luxury hotel in Abuja.
According to Aminu, this strategic drive is also aimed at making the hotel carve a niche for itself by becoming a leading hospitality firm offering premium services to customers in accordance with global standards.
A worker at the hotel told the Daily Independent in confidence that the new owners of the company didn’t open any lines of communication with them apart from the sudden closure of the facility, sparking fears of an impending downsizing of the work force by the hospitality company.
Only a handful of gatemen are left to man the facility while the fates of others are left in the balance, including the suppliers of the company.
Having run out of options on what to do to recover their severance package, the staff of the hotel are currently protesting at the front of what used to be their former work place while appealing to the consideration of the new owners, who appear to be very ruthless in their execution.
I feel for the protesting workers a lot. I mean, we know the condition of living and how hard it is for the common man because of the inflation triggered by global headwinds, yet we treat our citizens this way.
I’m a captalist to the heart and I believe in the power of captalism in changing societies and changing lives, but I’m of the school of thought that captalism should have a human face because human beings are at the heart of the strategy of any successful business.
Before COVID came, Sheraton Abuja was a proftibale business that was making between 1.5-2 billion naira profit yearly.
As recently as 2019, the hotel had a 3 billion cash pile that it was not using for anything other than reserve purposes.
The hotel lost the appeal because of COVID because they have not declared a profit in the last 2 years, but it was these same staff who are being treated as animals today that drove the vista, the proftable business for the investors who own the hotel.
It is sad to see what they have been reduced to.
There is a place for a human face in any organization, no matter how large, and I hope that my generation of entrepreneurs will do better in this area in the future.
Human beings are not animals to be used and discarded once they are no longer relevant.
I hope another Daniel comes to justice for the protesting staff of Sheraton, who are currently protesting in the rain and sun for their entitlements.
It is just sad to watch and see.