Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hotel Presidential Portharcourt Resumes Payment Of Protection Fees To Armed Groups

The restiveness in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria have been taking serious tolls on businesses in Portharcourt, a major city in the oil bearing region.

When the crisis started, the focus of the armed groups were the oil majors and subs, whom they kidnap their expatriate staffers for ransom and attack their facilities to make them pay protection fees.

This development made these oil companies to withdraw mainstream services from the zone. This withdrawal of services caused serious economic downturn as well as dwindling the resource base of these armed groups, who depend on the protection fees and ransom to maintain their fighters and replenish their armoury.

With the withdrawal of these oil majors and subs, these armed groups turn their attention to other areas for survival. This resulted in kidnapping of children, wives and relatives of wealthy individuals for ransom. The hospitality industry in Portharcourt was not spared. With threats of attacks on high profile guests of major hotels in the city, the management of these hotels resorted to paying hefty protection fees to these armed groups.

Investigations by chidi opara reports revealed that the Hotel Presidential, the flagship of five star hotels in Portharcourt, owned by Rivers State and managed by the Chagoury group, started payment of protection fees to these armed groups.

One of our contacts inside the Tom Ateke group insists that "hotel presidential was paying ten million naira monthly to our group." Our contact continued, "but they stopped when Amaechi became governor, then we attacked them and now they have started to pay again, even more."

We also learnt from a source inside the hotel management, that the hotel not only pay protection fees to the Tom Ateke group, the management, according to this contact, have added two other groups, the outlaws and the marauders to their payroll. These payments we further learnt, are being disbursed through one Koko, an Okirika Rivers state indegene, said to be in his early thirties. Koko's status in the hotel have not so far been unravelled, but our contact volunteered, "I doubt if he is an employee, only the GM deal with him."

It will be recalled that earlier in the year(2008), when the Tom Ateke group attacked the hotel, we reported that the main reason for the attack was that the hotel management stopped payment of protection fees to the group. The hotel management then in a rejoinder denied such payments.

An e-mail sent to the management of the hotel for comments have not been replied at the time of posting this report.