Stop high electricity tariff now, hoteliers beg Buhari

Some stakeholders in the hospitality industry in Abuja have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in regulating the high electricity tariff and incessant power outage that are forcing some of them out of business.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews on Friday in Abuja that the development could cause a setback to the hospitality industry if not quickly nib in the bud.

The President of Hotel Owners’ Forum, Abuja, Mrs Bola Onigbogi, said the tariff increase and incessant power outage had constituted a setback to the hospitality industry.

Onigbogi, the Managing-Director of `Hotel de Horizon, Wuse II, said, “We have met with the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the distribution companies several times, but nothing has been done in that regard.

“Some hotels are not metered; the new tariff regime is not sustainable for the hospitality industry across the country.

“We are calling on President Buhari to intervene urgently because hospitality is an integral part of tourism and if the power crisis continues; tourism will not thrive in the country.’’

Also, Chief Tomi Akingbogun, President of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) and Chief Executive of Hotel RoseBud, Area 11, said the tariff increase was exploitative.

He said, “NERC was only interested in the profit it can make from the electricity generation and distribution companies regardless of other sectors of the economy.’’

According to him, the privatisation of the power sector by the previous administration is a disaster.

The FTAN president called on the Federal Government to immediately review the privatisation of the sector to avoid further crisis.

“I know of about three hotels in Abuja that have folded up; the owners converted them into full time residential facilities.

“They cannot pay their electricity and other bills as well as their workers’ salaries; it is just unfortunate,’’ Akingbogun said.

Similarly, Mr Eteng Ibiang, the Managing Director of Neighbourhood Guest House at Kado told NAN that electricity companies were billing hotels with impunity.

Ibiang said that the companies were confused about how they would interpret their mandate of providing power to Nigerians to grow every sector of the economy.

“My guest house has 18 rooms; we used to pay N125, 000 monthly, but after the first increment late last year, the distribution company started to bill us N400, 000 monthly.

“Sometimes, for a week, we would have only 10 guests, and the power supply was terrible; as at Dec. 29, 2015, we were disconnected from public power supply.

“After the disconnection in December, they brought us electricity bill for January and February when we were not connected to public power supply; it was just crazy,’’ he said.

Mrs Nnene Nwachukwu, the Director of Agura Hotel at Area 10, said that the hotel had about 140 rooms.

“Occupancy rate is low and we pay high electricity bill; anytime we have up to 40 guests in our hotel, it will be as if it is a miracle.

“Even, after we turned off all appliances in unoccupied rooms, the electricity bills continue to increase and our room rate is still the same.

“ We use to pay N2.2 million monthly, but with the recent increase, we are now paying N5 million as electricity tariff monthly.

“It is sad and discouraging; government has to do something about this because it is really killing the hospitality industry,’’ Nwachukwu said.

Mr Emeka Ezekwesili, the Director of First Forty Hotel, Wuse II, said that the hospitality industry was the highest employer of labour after the government.

He explained that the electricity companies in the country were making hotel operation challenging.

“Even with the meter, they still exploit hotel owners; for February, we paid N1.2 million and in March we paid N2.2 million.

“Our occupancy rate was lower in March than Feb; since the beginning of this year, other levies have been increasing by 30 per cent.

“Electricity companies and other revenue generating agencies look at hotels and feel that they are a cash cow; it is unfortunate, Ezekwesili said.

Narrating his experience, Chief Frank Enekebe, the Managing Director of Maitama Guest House, Maitama, said electricity supply was poor coupled with fuel scarcity.

“This situation is not good for the hotel business.

“There are 32 rooms in my guest house; for the past two months, I have not got up to 10 guests.

“Due to the incessant power supply from the public source, I use my private power plant which is also expensive.

“President Buhari should come to our aid and do something about this incessant poor power supply,’’ Enekebe said.

Mr Chike Chegene, the Director of Savana Guest House, Abuja, said that the economy of the country in the last six months had taken a down turn.

According to him many people did not patronise hotels in the last six months.

“The frequency of hosting seminars and conferences in hotels has reduced; the cost of energy today is over 60 per cent of the overhead cost of running hotel.

“No business can be sustained in this sense; the increment of electricity tariff is ill-time.

“We are asking the government to reconsider these increments because the economy is not looking good and the people are suffering,’’ he said.

Mr Aliyu Badaki, the Managing Director of Kapital Club and Apartment in Asokoro, said that hotel business in the country was at the receiving end of the hike in electricity and fuel prices.

Badaki said that the Federal Government had what ‘’it takes to provide conducive environment for tourism and hospitality industry to thrive.

“Government should take decisions that will alleviate the sufferings of the masses and promote the development of tourism and hospitality industry in the country,’’ he said. (NAN)