Among the stakeholders are those in the hospitality industry who are not just happy that the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, took the bull by the horn and injected over N2 billion towards the construction of the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, a feat that paved way for the successful hosting of the championship. They want more of such event, saying that beside other gains, the economy got a boost.
Okowa’s critics had condemned him for what they described as a waste of resources in hosting the event. The criticisms came following some challenges which they said arose as a result of poor organization. The collapse of the overhead water thank that was constructed in the stadium seemed to have made the critics have stronger reasons to condemn Okowa for spending multi-billion naira in constructing the stadium.
Most Deltans and other participants at the event seemed to be overwhelmed by the spirit of the competition and the state government’s commitment towards successful hosting.
Even Solomon Dalung, minister of sports, had described Okowa as a performer who saved Nigeria the shame of failing to host the tournament. He saw the construction of the stadium as a source of hope for the future generation, saying jobs could be provided for the teeming unemployed youths of the country.
He believed that if the stadium would be replicated in every part of the country, no Nigerian youth would pass through Sahara desert to look for greener pasture because they would be engaged with sports activities.
Solomon Ogbah was the chairman of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the championship organized by the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) in partnership with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).
He had disclosed that over 20 hotels were secured by the committee for the accommodation of the athletes and the officials just as there were trainings of the hotel staff in readiness for the championship.
BDSunday went round some of the hotels to get their reactions on the impact of the championship. First, they were happy that there were no rain and so there were no flood to contend with in Asaba metropolis within the five days,. The conducive weather enabled Deltans to demonstrate their hospitality to the guests.
“Delta State government has tried its best and I want to really say that hosting of the championship in the state has boosted the economy”, said Egwu Peter, Deputy General Manager, Orchid Hotel, Asaba.
He disclosed that Orchid has 54 rooms of suits and single rooms and that the occupancy rate rose from 41 to 70 percent within the period. “Like we in the hospitality industry, it is not easy getting occupancy of that nature on ordinary day. So, if such events are happening in Delta State once in a while, the people in the industry would make some good money thereby boosting the economy o f Delta State. I want to say kudos to the Delta State Government, especially the state governor. Despite the lean resources, he still ventured into it and still come out successfully”
“As a matter of fact, we started earlier because the crew that came for the event lodged in our hotel, Orchid Hotels. So, we had eight days while those who accommodated the athletes had five days. Because there needed to be advanced team to prepare ground for the competition, they lodged in our hotel for about eight days and that eight days were super good”, he confessed.
Continuing, he said, “It was a real hardwork and they (crew members and athletes) need to take some rest, now business has returned to normalcy. In economics, you say abnormal profits, we were able to know some of the abnormal profits within the period”. He exclaimed, “We have no regret participating in the event. It was a wonderful experience!”.
Also, in a chat with BDSunday, Asuai Chuks, Accountant, Top View Hotel, Asaba, appreciated Governor Okowa for what he described as “ wonderful hosting of the championship events.” He appreciated the fact that the governor was able to host the African continent successfully in the state capital despite the prevailing economic challenges.
He said the CAA2018 held in Asaba led to huge economic boom to them. He said they participated eventhough the hotel commenced operation in Asaba January this year.
“We were just privileged. We had a lot of guests from all over Africa. We played host to the international press. So, economically, we benefitted from the whole thing. It offered us the opportunity of showcasing ourselves to the international world. And to a standard we are trying to operate, I would say we did well. It was plus to our company, to our revenue and to the standard we set. We were able to have a very good successful outing. I think to other hotels that benefitted, it was a very big exposure and a very big event and we look forward to that kind of event in Asaba”, he expressed.
In comparison, he said, “We had very low turnover before this period because it was rainy season. But this period (no rain) and the turnover was very high. We had good sales. We had improvement on our services and we have areas that we would have to work on because we were exposed based on that event. It was a very big boom for the hospitality industry in Asaba because most hotels benefitted and we also belong to the hotel association in Asaba”, he said.
Eze Abuchi Oscar, Hotel Manager of Leisure Castle Hotel, Asaba also commended the governor and the leadership of the state: “It is commendable because it actually boosted the revenue and businesses within Asaba and its environs. There is no doubt that the event brought about the kind of guests we have never seen before. We were able to meet with different kinds of persons who had not been here before. Some people who had never visited Asaba were able to do so. It actually boosted our revenue”, he exclaimed.
All the people who spoke also revealed how they ceased the opportunity to market Delta State and Nigeria to the world. The guests, they said were happy about the peaceful atmosphere in Asaba but that they advised that more infrastructure be put in place to reflect the true picture of the state to the outsiders.
In defence, Patrick Ukah, Delta State Commissioner for Information, told newsmen in Asaba, that the hosting of the tournament by the state government was not a waste of public fund.
He tackled the governor’s critics, saying: “If the Okowa administration can put together a stadium which has been abandoned for over ten years…, if a stadium of over22, 000 audience can be evacuated less than one hour thirty minutes.., the type of medical equipment at the stadium during the championship could not be found anywhere, all the hotels in Asaba were fully booked, then that government must be commended.”
According to him, “There is no Okada man who believed the traffic can be controlled the way it was. All over the world, no host takes responsibility for transporting athletes but if Delta State went out of its way to do that, the least it deserve is commendation but these cynics chose to pour their serpentine vituperation on a government that has performed excellently well.”
He said the critics failed because Deltans appreciated what they saw and that that was why they were willing to pay to watch even when tickets were not available. The crowd that witnessed each day’s events tells it all.”
AFN’s president , Shehu Gasua also described Okowa as a blessing to Delta State, saying no one had hosted bigger championship in the country like the governor.
He foresaw Asaba hosting the world championship in the future because of the facilities in the stadium which experts said are is of world class standard.
From the interaction from other business men and women, they want more of such events that would make the environment busy and lively “ As a matter of fact, that’s what we are looking up to and thank God the government of the day is moving towards that direction”, said one of the businessmen.