Chairman of Resort International Limited, Dr Wale Babalakin SAN, has said neither he nor his companies enjoyed any preferential treatment from the regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the successive governments.
Resort International Limited is the parent company of Bi-Courtney Limited, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services and Stabillini Visinoni.
He stated this in statement issued by Mikail Mumuni, Group Corporate Affairs Manager, Resort International Limited.
Dr Babalakin was responding to a question on whether his companies were favoured by government in the concessioning of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Terminal 2 (MM2) as well as the purchase of the old Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, Lagos.
In his words, “You see, the biggest challenge in Nigeria is ignorance. All these issues you’ve mentioned can easily be verified. The facts can be ascertained. But strangely enough, nobody seems to care about the truth.
"What we have in Nigeria, which is sad, is propaganda rather than factual, in-depth reporting of situations. I’m happy that you have presented these issues because they will enable me tell the public what happened. I will start with the Federal Secretariat.”
He recalled that “There was an advertisement in the newspapers that disused government buildings that were becoming environmental problems would be converted to good use. The old federal secretariat building in Ikoyi, Lagos was advertised; it was the most hotly contested bid that I have ever participated in. At last, three bidders remained. One of the bidders was Dangote.”
He said, “The bid spanned almost two years with the government setting up at least three different committees to verify the bids. We (Resort International Group) emerged as the preferred bidder and paid for the property in accordance with the bid. I don’t know anybody who was interested in the bid that was excluded. I’m not aware that anybody who put in a bid did not have a chance to defend his bid.”
He stated that “Post-mortem, after we’ve came up with our own ideas of converting the place to apartments, interests began and these interests were negative interests. But I don’t want to go into that now. I just want to say that there was no peculiar advantage for us (Resort International Group). We paid N7bn for the property in 2005. And at today’s cost, I want you to imagine how much the value of that money would have been today.”
Stressing that the “Obasanjo’s Government gave us no preferential position on the old federal secretariat., He said “Let me tell you about the old Federal Secretariat building. It was a well-conceived project. We moved to site around December, 2015. We had completed the design, totally prepared the buildings, and removed all the partitions for construction.
“We had also created a demo room where you could see what a two-bedroom or three-bedroom flat and a penthouse would look like. We had pre-sold half of it to other people, and one day, two years after, some people claiming to be agents of the Lagos State Government overran the place and stopped us from building. We couldn’t believe that this was happening in modern Nigeria.
“So, we made entreaties to the state government, but we discovered that the government’s argument was that the building ought to have been sold to the Lagos State Government and not anybody else.
"We saw that that argument was so mundane and irresponsible because if the Lagos State Government was interested, it should have put in a bid. If it did, then it could say it wanted some preferences because it is a government. But it didn’t participate in the bid at all. It waited for two years after the project had commenced and then overran the place in the most uncivilized manner.”
He continued, “We lost an unthinkable amount of money, but fortunately for us, our lawyers anticipated the interference of the Lagos State Government, and had provided in the agreement that the Federal Government would be responsible for obtaining a no-objection approval from the Lagos State Government, if necessary.
“So, it was actually the Federal Government’s responsibility to protect us from the state government. I continue to thank the body of lawyers, Babalakin and Co; they have really supported me in my various endeavors because without that clause, today, we would have been orphans. Because of that clause, we went to arbitration against the Federal Government and we won.
“The arbitration also awarded us substantial damages and cleared the coast for us to resume our work.”
On when his company would move back to site, he said “We will resume work as soon as all the ancillary issues are sorted.”