8 February 2008

Nigeria: Country Loses N219b Yearly On Tinapa

Calabar — Nigeria may be losing more than N219 billion annually to Dubai due to the failure of the Federal Government to approve the procedures and guidelines for the take-off of the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort in Calabar, Cross River State.

THISDAY checks reveal that about 500 Nigerians travel to Dubai daily to shop and each of them spend about $10,000 (about N1.2 million) per trip to cover their airline tickets, hotel accommodation, local transportation, feeding, purchase of various goods and services as well as cargo insurance.

This shows that about $5 million (N600 million) leaves Nigeria each day or $1.825 billion (N219 billion) yearly, to improve the economy of Dubai. This is mainly because the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort, built at an estimated cost of $450 million (about N54 billion), is not operational.

When THISDAY visited the project located at Adiabo in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, the place looked deserted with only a few shops open. Even the few open shops would not sell their wares to people for fear that they would incur the wrath of men of the Nigerian Customs Service.

At one of the shops rented by Vlisco, the management of the company pasted a notice on its doors that they they had been forced to suspend operations on the directives of Customs.

The notice read in part, "We are unfortunately unable to sell you any goods. We have been closed by Customs due to the non-gazetted situation of Tinapa Shopping Centre as a whole." They however said the management of Tinapa had assured them that the issues would be resolved soon.

Some officers of the Customs were also seen moving around the Site apparently to ensure that the few shops stocked with wares did not sell to people who troop in to the Resort to shop.

The Managing Director of Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort limited, Mr. Bassey Ndem said in Calabar Friday that the failure of the Federal Government to approve the Procedure and Guidelines for the operation of the Resort was responsible for the delay in the take-off of the project.

According to him, "the construction of Tinapa has been completed and all that remains is for the Federal Government to approve the Procedures and Guidelines that were jointly prepared by the same Government and private stakeholders since October 2007."

Ndem noted that while the Federal Government was foot-dragging in approving the regulatory framework for the project, the Cross River State Government was losing N3000 billion annually from economic and commercial activities that would have been generated at Tinapa.

"Indeed, the TINAPA project is sure to be a NEPAD Project for economic integration in the continent with an estimated cost of USD 450 million. With this capital base TINAPA is clearly one of the biggest investments on the African continent," he said.

He noted that the Dubai Government had realized that a sizeable portion of their revenue would be affected by the successful take-off of Tinapa and was already taking steps to shore up its revenue by investing in similar projects in Senegal and Ghana .

He noted that Dubai Government was investing $800 million (short term) and $3 billion (long term) on developing a tax and duty free leisure and business resort in Dakar and also taking over the Port in Dakar to make Senegal their trade hub in West Africa .

Dubai he also said had concluded arrangements to take over and rebuild the Ghanaian Free Trade Zone.

"What the Dubai Government has done is bring Dubai closer to Nigeria so that the $1.825 billion being spent by Nigerians remains within their control," he said considering the nearness of the two countries to Nigeria .

According to the Tinapa Managing Director, the two projects are a direct economic threat to Tinapa, Cross River State and the Federal Governemnt.

He said Tinapa was threatened because the entire investment of over N45 billion cold be wasted because of the non-approval of relevant federal authorities while Cross River State would lose the multiplier effects on the local economy and employment of more than 12,000 jobs.

The Federal Government, he said would also lose because as the single greatest beneficiary of Tinapa, it would lose custom duties, taxes, fees and tariffs for shipping lines, airlines, licenses and other sources of revenue.

"It appears indeed that there may be an official conspiracy to kill the Tinapa project even before it starts. While we play our Nigerian Geopolitical games and allow personal interests becloud the vision of Tinapa, the Dubai Government is moving forcefully to provide good roads, education, health, housing etc to its citizens using Nigerian resources in addition to its own," he said.

He called on the Federal Government to take appropriate steps to approve the Procedures and Guidelines so that the Tinapa project would take off fully.

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