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Dr. Etofolam Felix Osuji, mni, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Maranatha Suites, a sprawling edifice located at Maranatha Avenue along Port Harcourt Road Owerri. He is a member, Governing Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with The Nigeria Moment's duo of Chuks Ofurum and Ucheghara Precious, he speaks on the state of infrastructure in Imo State as it affects the Hospitality industry. And many more. Excerpts.
Can we know you sir?

Dr. Etofolam Felix Osuji, mni, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Maranatha Suites, a sprawling edifice located at Maranatha Avenue along Port Harcourt Road Owerri. He is a member, Governing Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with The Nigeria Moment's duo of Chuks Ofurum and Ucheghara Precious, he speaks on the state of infrastructure in Imo State as it affects the Hospitality industry. And many more. Excerpts.
Can we know you sir?


My name is Etofolam Felix Osuji, mni, I am a Chartered Accountant.
What motivated you to start this hotel business in Imo State?
As an Igbo man, I have my options. I am also a Chartered Accountant where we do Cost and Benefit Analysis but the issue of profit though relevant is not necessary in some ventures because you need to consider, do you want returns immediately or push it ahead? At the end you will still make money. But primarily, all the investments of most of us are located where the population is especially Lagos and Abuja. But if we say we need to encourage young Igbo graduates and avoid the issue of kidnapping, armed robbery and others, then you need to give them something to work. So I looked at it and decided to opt out to make my hotel to be located in Imo State and Owerri in particular. More so, when I had eventually decided, I had to go and buy land from my own community Nekede that has been sold several times up to the fourth generation.
Employment of those that are to work here would be located, sourced from within, if I have this hotel in Lagos, it would make fantastic money but who is going to be employed? Majority will come from those areas either in Lagos or Abuja but here; it is exclusively for people from Imo State and other peripheral states.
When you were thinking about opening the hotel, did you consider infrastructural facilities available in this place?
The issue of infrastructure is a developing and evolving issue. The normal parlance that Rome was not built in a day. Yes we have some challenges in Imo State. We have some challenges materially in ala Igbo. The Igbos have suffered since the end of the war from infrastructural deficiency. Deliberate, calculated or otherwise I don't know, and you see that there is no federal presence here, there are no major companies located here. And you see, what we do have is a situation where you have for example petrochemical. Imo State is an oil producing state, there is no petrochemical industry, and there is no refinery. So many things that would be used to generate income, generate employment is lacking in Imo State and this is a major challenge to the Igbo man. We must on ourselves, develop our own country especially Imo State. We are not going to begin to count on the Federal Government because it has been a long while the Federal Government has not made any investment since the end of the war to Igbo land.
Now looking at the environment, the Bible says 'cleanliness is next to godliness', we have seen the entrance to this place, and the road is not good, how does it affect this business that you came home to establish?
The road is a major serious constraint we do have. Truly speaking, it is the government that would help us create an enabling environment to bring in industries and companies to the state. The issue of the area here within a span of one mile radius here, we have over 30 hotels. From Maranatha Suites to Imo Concorde, from Immaculate to G-Towers Benconn, there are so many hotels. What it shows that one, Owerri is a peace loving environment that is conducive for social life. I do believe that if government decides to look at it from that perspective, government would be involved in infrastructure especially road. We can even have a cluster of energy production that would service the area because cost of doing business in Imo State is quite astronomical beyond the capacity of any existing company because on the average, we burn diesel 24 hours every day. I have not seen a situation where we have three hours light and this is taking much on our capacity to add new products to our line.
Sir do you pay taxes and other levies to the state government?
I am a Chartered Accountant and that means that my employees pay their tax. There are so many types of taxes that are available in Imo State. We have been able to achieve all that we are supposed to pay and we have paid them and we expect assistance.
Have you been able to make your grievances known either as a person or in a group to the state government about the roads?
One of the attributes I do have is, I am a member of the National Institute. I attended a course, Sect. 37 at NIPSS. It therefore means that I have opportunity to meet so many people in government. We've been doing that, but you see, the government on its own part is challenged. There is now serious diminishing returns on the part of government. The oil revenue has nose-dived, internally generated revenue is dependent on the people, quite a lot of things. I see the challenges of the government. That is not to say that if the focus is given on Imo State, Imo State is a peaceful state. What are the attributes of peace? You come out in the evening, you relax with your family, friends, the money would be spent in Imo State and once you have that in place, a lot of things would be coming to the state government. If the workforce has an upswing in employment, who gets the benefit? It is the government because they are going to pay taxes. Taxes will be coming in, the government will use the taxes to do what they want to do to help regain the economy. It is a circle.
Finally sir, we have so many hotels in Imo State, one of the largest concentrations in Nigeria now, in the business environment, how are you coping with the number of hotels in Imo State? Are you cutting the edge?
One of the things you consider in life is that there has never been an accident in the air of two birds colliding. Go and check in history. There are no two birds flying in the sky that collided. Every hotel has its niche. Like bakery, there is bread for the upper class, that is, those who eat the expensive ones, there is bread for the middle class, and there is bread for the lower class. It is the same in hotel services. We have mapped out our  strategy to channel our services to a class. I believe that in Imo State, and it is not a joke, every room in this hotel, 54 rooms, is serviced by a 42 inch LED colour television. Our keys are unique. If I put my own key in it, as you see the mobile phone is lying on it, if I go to my room and open it, the keys are programmed. Once you open it, unlike other keys that you can cut or re-size it, and it has a card that you can use to access the room, it gives all the functions in the room; the air conditioner, the water heater, the lighting system and other things. Every room has its own fridge, private safe deposit box and we don't for your information, we don't use bath tubs. One reason is that if you are in your room and you fall into the bath tub, no one will know until the house keeper comes the next day to check the room. So we avoid domestic accidents and strangely enough, in Nigeria, nobody uses bath tubs in taking his bath like the whiteman. We all put very expensive bath tubs in our rooms still we use bucket to pour water and we use shower. So let our mindset begin to change. In my country-home where I put my own edifices, there is no bath tub because I know it is sheer waste of money. Now coming again to other aspects of the business, we have potential opportunities for growth and it is coming up. We have a swimming pool, a gym, and you can see that we are almost completing our 500 capacity seater hall for weddings and events. Our cuisine is the best. If you want to eat ofe owerri kara aka,  that is solid, come here. We have confectionaries, so every hotel has its niche. There are hotels for short stay. We are looking at the clime, we are looking at the level of understanding, somebody who has worked mentally to use to relax his bones. This is the place to come.
Sir, recently the Nigeria Moment Newspaper gave your hotel an award as the most outstanding hotel in Imo State, what is your take about it?
I really appreciate it. We never knew that some people were evaluating us. It came to me as a surprise and you have now thrown a major challenge on our path because one of the things is continuity. If you take first position in a class, it is expected that others will not sit back, they will challenge you for that position. On us, it becomes a task for us to maintain our standards and to improve on our standards so that when you knock on us, you should be able to see quality at any point in time in service delivery and in anything pertaining to us. We really do appreciate that gesture and it just came out of the blues. We look forward to next year's edition and by God's grace, we wouldn't want to come second. We want to maintain our status as the first. We appreciate your management.

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