Noah Ebije, Kaduna

January 15, 2019, marked the 52nd anniversary of the death of the first Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. The Sardauna of Sokoto was killed by some soldiers on January 15, 1966, following a military coup.

The Sardauna was one of the three prominent Nigerians that shaped the landscape of the country in its early days, preaching peaceful coexistence among the various cultures, religions and ethnic groups.

Like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the old Western Region and Dr. Nnamdi  Azikiwe, the Igbo leader who was the Nigeria’s first president, Sir Ahmadu Bello left behind a promising future in the North, with several legacies, which, unfortunately today, are dilapidated and crumbling.

Some of the legacies of the Sardauna include Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna; Sokoto Hotel, Sokoto; Shiroro Hotel, Minna; Lake Chad Hotel, Maiduguri; Aso Motel, Kaduna, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and New Nigerian Newspaper, among others. 

However, after two years of negotiations and discussions with some investors in the hospitality industry, the New Nigeria Development Company Limited (NNDC) has secured the nod of Castles HMG Africa (Pty), a subsidiary of Africa Alliance Group (AAG) to pump life into some of the ailing legacies of Sir Ahmadu Bello, especially in the management of the hotels established by the late premier.

NNDC was established in 1949 to contribute to the economic development of the northern states of Nigeria. The company plays an active role in financing development in the northern states in particular and in Nigeria as a whole. 

NNDC’s portfolio of investments spans various sectors in addition to hospitality. Other areas are real estate, construction, agriculture, oil and gas and telecommunications. Its shareholders comprise the 19 northern states of Nigeria, represented by the respective secretaries to the state governments.

Also, Arewa Hotels (Development) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NNDC, was established in 1975 to engage in hotel management, investment, development and consultancy as well as manpower development. However, its main business focus is hotel management. Arewa Hotels has contributed to the growth of the hospitality industry in Nigeria. 

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At a recent ceremony that saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding, the acting group managing director of NNDC, Mallam Shehu Mai-Bornu, said the ceremony was a culmination of over two years of discussions, and all the stakeholders were duty-bound to make the partnership work for the progress of all. 

Mai-Bornu assured Castles HMG Africa that NNDC would be fully committed to the realisation of the project.

According to him, NNDC has entered an agreement with Castles HMG Africa to take over the operation and management of Arewa Hotels for the purpose of redeveloping and implementing a capital investment and transformation plan involving architecture, redesign, renovations, reconstructions, upgrade, revamping of its facilities and aggressive management of all assets under the ownership, management or control of Arewa Hotels Development Limited. 

“The agreement fulfils NNDCs vision for a stronger brand equity, a veritable platform for diverse revenue base through significant investments in infrastructure, assets and technology. 

“Both NNDC and AHL currently own or operate five hotels in Nigeria, including the iconic Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna, with plans to expand its operations over the next few years, a feat that it has achieved in the past across the 19 northern states of Nigeria,” Mai-Bornu said. 

On his part, Mr. Gregory Ozegbe, chairman/CEO of Castles HMG Africa Pty Limited of South Africa, a subsidiary of Africa Alliance Group, explained: “Castles HMG Africa Pty Limited targets investments in sizeable underperforming/dilapidated hotel properties in strategic locations, that can be refurbished, restructured or repositioned, and where Castles HMG’s active operation/management strategy and expertise can be leveraged. This creates the conditions for attractive financial performance and long-term value creation. 

“The partnership agreement aims to bridge the huge gap in the lack of branded hotels in the North as compared to the Southern parts of Nigeria.

“We are proud to continue consolidating and developing our collaboration with NNDC, our strong expansion partner. The mutual trust we have built up over the last two years forms the basis for the successful execution of the agreement. For us, the relationship represents a huge step forward in our growth. With this, we have the opportunity to further expand and strengthen our expertise and international hotel brand awareness in the Northern part of Nigeria. We look forward to this new challenge”.