From Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Abuja
- 200-bed facility to be handed over today
- Ex-First Lady strikes deal with Aisha Buhari
Former First Lady Patience Jonathan has struck a deal to release her 200-bed hotel as COVID-19 Isolation and treatment centre.
The Abuja hotel, which is believed to be worth about N2 billion, is under interim forfeiture secured by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the court on April 30, 2018.
The former First Lady, it was learnt, struck the deal with First Lady Aisha Buhari, which led to her release of the hotel, under litigation, for use by the government at the critical time.
The First Lady, through her pet project, the Future Assured Programme, entered into separate agreements with Mrs. Jonathan and the Ministry of Health to convert the hotel into a COVID-19 treatment centre.
Mrs. Buhari made an offer to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to equip it as a treatment centre to international standards.
Although the hotel will be formally handed over to the Minister of Health on Monday, it will be managed by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) COVID-19 committee.
The Future Assured Programme is providing facilities like water, furniture, beddings, fittings and modern health equipment used to manage COVID-19 cases.
It was gathered that the “deal” between the First Lady and her predecessor was struck at a recent meeting by the duo at the Presidential Villa.
A source quoted Mrs. Jonathan as saying: “This is the time we must all come together, irrespective of political differences, to assist this nation to fight the pandemic. It is a time to shun politics.
“I will do everything to help this great country that has also given me the opportunity to serve.”
Investigation revealed that the First Lady decided to collaborate with Mrs. Jonathan to avoid the Future Assured Programme running into any legal crisis.
A highly-placed source added: “Since the dispute over the property is still in court, the First Lady opted to seek the consent of Mrs. Patience Jonathan on the temporary use of the seized hotel. This mutual understanding has removed all legal hurdles.
“After the nation has overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel will be handed over to the Federal Ministry of Health, which will in turn revert back to the EFCC. Those involved are, therefore, the Future Assured Programme, the Ministry of Health, the EFCC and ex-First Lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
“All the existing agreements are without prejudice to the final decision of the court on the property, which the First Lady said is owned by a separate entity, Aurora Foundation.”
About 1.15pm on Sunday, about 30 workers were seen putting final touches to the centre.
A 20-man team of mobile policemen was on the alert to secure the sophisticated equipment already installed.
A source said: “It is a five-storey hotel which can actually be upgraded into 300 bedrooms. But so far, we have fitted the ground floor and three out of the other five floors.
“All things being equal, the hotel will be handed over on Monday by the First Lady. We have been working day and night on this project.
Asked to be specific on the cost being expended on the upgrading of the hotel to a medical centre for COVID-19, the source added: “Only the First Lady and the Future Assured Programme could account for such.”
The hotel is located in a valley in Mabushi part of Abuja, off the ever busy Mabushi Kado Expressway.
By the description of Abuja Geographic Information Systems(AGIS), an agency under the Federal Capital Administration, the property is located at Plot No. 1758, Cadastral Zone, B06 Mabushi, and Plot No.1350, Cadastral Zone, A00 Central Business District.
Being a reseved area, the five-storey hotel is unique with its ash colour paint.
It is easily noticed by shoppers who take the route to one of the biggest shopping complex in Abuja, the Jabi Lake Mall.
Less than two kilometres to Jabi Lake, the breeze from the lake at night provides additional ambience to the facility.