Photo: Chima Chukwunyere, Chairman of Nigeria Hotel Association, NHA, Imo State Chapter.
By Athan Agbakwuru, Owerri
Hotel operators in Imo State have threatened to close shop in the coming weeks if what they called ‘the unbearable excesses’ of revenue routs and taskforce operatives of the state Environmental Transformation Commission, ENTRACO, is not urgently checked by the statd government.
The hoteliers acting under the aegis of Nigerian Hotel Association, NHA, Imo State chapter, who issued the threat last week disclosed that the national leadership of NHA will arrive the state soon for a crucial interface with government, sister associations like eateries, restaurants etc and other stakeholders to decide the way forward.
Addressing newsmen last week, Chief Servant of the association, Chima Chukwunyere stated that all hotels, eateries, restaurants, beer parlours and other allied establishments will close shop in protest over the overt maltreatment of its members by ENTRACO and Imo Internal Revenue Service, IIRS, agents.
He decried incessant invasion and harrasment of hotels in the state by way of unlawful sealing of business premises, contravention of operational vehicles as well as outrageous and multiple taxation among others.
The Chief Servant lamented that despite complaints made to government authorities, vehicles belonging to Hotels have being impounded serverally with the some amount of money collected without receipt.
Chukwunyere accused one Emeka & Family, Consultant to ENTRACO, of being the brain behind the incessant attacks on hotels, the staff and property and called for an end to the ugly trend.
Recounting the serial threats to the hospitality industry in Owerri, the Chief Servant disclosed that the latest is the invasion of Amosito Hotels in Owerri where the touts carted away televisions, laptops, undisclosed amount of cash and other valuables worth several millions of Naira.
Chukwunyere also mentioned that the revenue touts acting as agents of the government impound vehicles belonging to hotels for lack of emblems despite warnings by the Commissioner for Tranport to the consultants not to tamper with hotel vehicles.
Insisting that the harrasment and invasion after assurances from Governor Hope Uzodimma, the transport commissioner and ENTRACO boss, the Imo NHA chairman revealed that the menace threatening the survival of hospitality industry in the state has persisted.
“We have written letter to them and we reminded them that the Governor was specific when he declared that nobody should use that avenue to perpatrate crime.
“The same consultant Emeka & Family Firm who claimed to be staff of Imo ENTRACO when he is not, brags that nobody can stop him.
“It is very worrisome that government is folding its arms and watching its agents carry out illegal act that will further kill the hotel Industry that is almost in comatose.”
Also contributing, the Secretary of the association, Mr. Michael Mbakwe regretted that the association had before now cried out to the government to intervene on incessant harrasment of hoteliers and multiple taxation in Imo State, bu nothing has changed.
He appealled to Government to constitute special a committee that would resolve the issue bearing in mind the hoteliers are also helping government to reduce unemployment.
“It appears the situation is more in Imo State than any other states in the country. Imo State is a place where you see the touts going about molesting people,” he submitted.
When contacted, the consultant Emeka & Family, denied that his men invaded Amosito Hotel or any other in the state or impounding hotel vehicles as alleged by the association..
The spokesman who refused to disclose his name denied being a consultant but rather a Co-cordinator of Environmental Pollution Unit of ENTRACO whose duty is to control and regulate environmental pollution in the state.
According to him, “before now the Hotels have beeen written and were asked to tackle pollution in their hotels but instead of the hoteliers to do the right thing, they are hiding under the association.”