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Ahead of next week’s gubernatorial election in Imo State, the Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration has mandated all the owners and managers of hotels in Owerri metropolis to make their rooms available only to the government for a stipulated number of days.
According to the memo issued by Barr. Jerry Egbule Egemba, Commissioner for State Ministry of Tourism which was made available to The Eastern Updates, the government has concluded plans to rent and occupy all the hotel rooms, no matter their size or classification, in the state from Saturday, November 4, to Saturday, November 11, 2023, thus shutting out election observers and other political parties.
The commissioner told hotel owners to submit to his office before noon on Thursday, 26th of October, 2023, details of their accommodation bills for all the rooms covering the period for settlement.
The development has raised suspicion in the various camps of other political parties as well as civil society organisations.
It is feared that the action might be an attempt by the Imo State government to shut out election observers from monitoring the electoral process.
However, when contacted, Oguike Nwachukwu, the Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodinma told said, ‘We don’t respond to nonsense.’
In an interview with reporters, Olu Omotayo, the president of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), stated that the action was wrong because it would not promote a transparent election.
He said: ‘This is wrong because we are in a free society, in a democracy. Hotel business is like any other business; you’re free to do your business. You’re free to sell to whoever you like. This is not a military regime; the business they are doing is a legal business. Government can’t control how someone runs his private business. It’s very wrong. There’s no compulsion on how somebody should run his business. It’s highly condemnable and undemocratic.’
He added: ‘Election observers would be coming into the state for election monitoring; when government takes over all the hotels, how are they going to operate? Definitely, it will affect the credibility of the election because you have stopped the people who are coming to be able to get hotel accommodation so they can operate successfully. It’s a plan to hijack the process, which is not good for a transparent election.
‘If they are taking that step, that’s a wrong step. Hotel owners have the right to approach the court if they feel there’s an infringement on their rights to carry out their lawful business. That’s why the court is there.