Airtel bags triple industry awards

Posted: September 11, 2012 in airtel

Leading telecommunication services provider, Airtel Nigeria Saturday night clinched three industry Awards at the prestigious 8th edition of the Nigerian Telecoms Awards.

The telecoms operator beat off challenges from other competitors to emerge the Industry’s Most Innovative Telecom Company of the Year, Telecom Brand of the year and Consumer Friendly Operator of the year at the well-attended event marked by a huge presence of dignitaries from both the private and public sectors.

According to Awards’ citations, Airtel emerged overall best in the three categories following its enviable strides in charting new paths in meeting the demands and needs of its esteemed stakeholders through superior brand experience, a rich portfolio of innovative products and services ranging from exciting voice solutions to inventive data packages and mobile broadband.

Specifically, Airtel was commended for delighting “telecoms consumers in Nigeria with pocket-friendly and innovative offerings, bonuses, and exceptional customer relations policy.”

Speaking at the occasion held at the Incubator Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Telecommunications Awards, Chief Alex Akinyele said the awards are sustained by credibility, describing the Industry event as the most credible in the Nigerian Telecoms space.

He pledged that the Board of Trustees will continue to live above board to retain the credibility of the Awards among stakeholders.

Also speaking at the occasion, the pioneer Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, in his speech, commended the organizers of the Awards saying, “though a lot of progress has been made since the advent of telecommunications in Nigeria, initiatives such as the telecoms awards spur further development that can ensure that Nigeria keeps pace with developments and innovations across the world.”

Some of the notable dignitaries at the event were the Executive Governor of Osun State, His Excellency, Rauf Aregbesola, His Deputy, Mrs Grace Titi-Laoye Tomori, the pioneer Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Ernest Ndukwe, former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, former Minister of Communications, Chief Olawale Ige and former Minister of Defence and Communications, Bello Halilu Mohammed.

Airtel was represented at the event by Jaideep Paul, Chief Finance Officer; Awadesh Kumar Kalia, Chief Technical Officer; Ajay Bakshi, Customer Services Delivery Director; Adebayo Osinowo, Regional Operations Director, Lagos Region and Solanke Abimbola, Financial Controller.

Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading integrated telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the company ranks amongst the top 5 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers.

In Africa, the airtel brand is present in both Francophone and Anglophone markets spanning Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. In these countries, it offers 2G, 3G mobile services. Bharti Airtel had over 262 million customers across its operations at the end of July 2012

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have agreed to deepen cooperation in their core areas of engagement including;- health care delivery, trade, agricultural development, as well as regional peace and security.

Welcoming a delegation from the agency’s West Africa Regional Office and the United States Embassy in Nigeria, on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Vice-President Dr. Toga McIntosh, thanked the US Government and other development partners for their continued support to the organization towards fostering a people-centred regional development and integration.

As a reliable partner, he said USAID has supported ECOWAS in delivering its mandate in the region, which faces myriad of development challenges, adding that the agency’s contributions have been through several Memoranda of Understanding on development programmes, capacity building and advocacy to other donors, among others.

McIntosh assured ECOWAS’ development partners that under ongoing institutional reforms, the Commission’s new management team has placed a high priority on accountability, adding that suggestions would be welcomed to help satisfy the requirements of donors and meet the high expectations of the beneficiary Member States and community citizens.

According to him, other priority areas in the region include development of infrastructure such as roads, railway, power and energy. In their responses, the USAID Director, Regional Agriculture Office for West Africa, Dr. Candace Buzzard and Mr. James P. McAnulty, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Nigeria, underscored the importance and benefits of the long-standing relation between the agency and ECOWAS. They expressed the need for the strengthening of the cooperation and the desire for ECOWAS to spear head an upcoming conference on regional food security and trade.

The US spends millions of dollars annually on world food aid. Dr. Buzzard explained that in the coming years, USAID assistance in West Africa through the ECOWAS partnership would focus on strengthening the resilience of the beneficiaries. The US delegation also noted some challenges to trade and free movement of goods and services in the region, which Dr. McIntosh assured, were being addressed by ECOWAS at the highest level.

Also on the US team were Mr. Jorge Oliveira, USAID Food Security and Natural Resources Management Advisor, Ms. Helaina Stein, Political/Military Affairs Officer at the Embassy and Ms. Aba Blankson, USAID Development Outreach and Communication Specialist. On the ECOWAS Commission’s side were the Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Marc Atouga and officials from the External Relations and Communication Departments.

The annual uMkhosi woMhlanga took place in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, with thousands of maidens descending on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s palace outside Nongoma to celebrate their pride and purity.

Security was tight this year as organisers hoped to avoid the kidnappings, rapes, and stampedes which have characterized previous editions.

Nomagugu Ngobese from the Nomkhubulwane Cultural Institute said that 10,000 maidens were expected to attend. There has been some opposition to the tradition of testing the girls’ virginity before they are allowed to attend the ceremony, but its popularity has been growing as many parents start to see the value behind it.

Ngobese said: “Given the high number of rapes happening within families, many parents now see the value of this ceremony in instilling a culture of good behaviour [in youth] and exposing the abuse of young girls by their relatives.”

Meanwhile, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) lauded the reintroduction of the reed dance and said it had decreased the spread of Aids in South Africa.

The IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was speaking at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s palace, and added that encouraging young people to delay sexual relations until marriage was a tradition which helped to fight the disease.

“Our forbearers never faced the challenge of HIV/AIDS but they understood the need to celebrate purity,” he said.

It was necessary for the similar standards to be expected from young men.

“We are abolishing the double standard that maidens must be pure, but men must be experienced… that culture breeds shame and disunity.”

“In contrast, the ceremony performed here today expresses unity and pride,” Buthelezi said.

A fight between two passengers forced a plane carrying 200 people from Zurich to Beijing to turn back at the weekend after more than six hours in the air, the airline Swiss said Monday.

“The two passengers were handed over to the police of the canton of Zurich after the Airbus A340 landed Sunday evening,” Mehdi Guenin, spokesman for the airline, said.

According to the online edition of Swiss-German daily Blick, the two passengers were Chinese citizens, aged 27 and 57.

They were set to be interrogated by police on Monday.

The plane was just east of Moscow when the pilot decided to turn it around, according to the spokesman, who said the pilot had opted to head back to Zurich instead of making an emergency landing in Moscow to avoid administrative difficulties.

Swiss put up the plane’s 200 passengers at a Zurich hotel, before placing them on Beijing flights with other companies, since its own flight to the Chinese capital Monday was already fully booked.



The main attraction for visitors to the iconic National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, last Sunday, was the highly anticipated grand finale and command performance by participants at the one month-long annual Children Creative S

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, on the set with the children cast of the play Hansel and Gretel, which rounded off the 2012 edition of the National Troupe of Nigeria ‘s Children Creative Station

tation (CSS).

And the body language expressed at the end of the nearly two-hour show was that of delight at the level and quality of artistic showcase displayed by the young minds on the stage of the jam-packed Cinema hall 2 of the complex.

Further endorsements poured in as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, expressed satisfaction with the work embarked upon by the troupe aimed at unearthing and occupying the future great talents that abound  in the country.

Now in its third edition, the annual long vacation theatre workshop organized annually by the National Troupe of Nigeria debuted in August 2010 designed essentially for children between the ages of five to eighteen to expose participants to theatre practice and appreciation of drama in such a manner that their creative talents can be fully harnessed, nurtured and developed to realize their imaginative potentials.

This year’s edition closed with a play titled; Hansel and Gretel, by Ian Faraday and Andrew Oxspring. The play was directed on stage by Coordinator of the project and Director in charge of Drama at the National Troupe, Ms Josephine Igberaese.

“We believe that by engaging them creatively, they will not only take their minds off certain known vices during the long holiday but they will be able to harness and polish their individual creative talents,” Artistic Director of National Troupe Mr. Martin Adaji explained.

Speaking on the exercise, the Artistic Director of National Troupe Mr. Martin Adaji explained that the CSS aims at engaging the children creatively during the long vacation. He also stated that it is aimed at not only fostering the imaginative skills of children which is in line with the Troupe’s objective of encouraging the development of children theatre.

Participants undertake basic dance, music, drama and puppetry routines rounded off by a special command performance, which is a product of the one month intensive training staged to close the workshop as it has become a tradition.

Defending the choice of a foreign work for command performance by the participants, Adaji further explained that the choice was deliberate for both last year and this year’s edition, as, according to him,  we are proposing to be part of the Contacting The World Children’s Theatre project held annually in the United Kingdom and one of the requirement is that participating children theatre companies must present plays other than those from their countries.’

“So we shall send a recording of this command performance to the Contacting The World organizers for consideration ahead of the 2013 edition, “he said, further adding: “Recall that the National Troupe was part of the Contacting The World children’s theatre project in 2001 and we took the likes of Segun Adefila and Steve Onu (aka Yaw) to present Dr. Ahmed Yerima’s Fall of a King. The new regulation is for countries to present works written about children from other climes hence our choice of Hansel and Gretel.”

It would be recalled that the maiden and second edition closed with a command performance of Tolu Omojola’s Colours of the Rainbow and Noel Grieg’s Whispers in the Dark respectively which was staged for theatre goers, parents, teachers and students.

The drama director also said the 2012 edition will be better in scope and content compared to the previous editions. “We have expanded the content to include voice training, pantomime and the usual storytelling, singing, dancing, acting and creative writing” she said.

The play Hansel and Gretel tells the story of a poor woodcutter and his wife who had two children named Hansel and Gretel. Their mother died when they were young. Hansel and Gretel were very sad. Soon their father remarried but their stepmother was very cruel.

One day, she took the children deep into the forest and left them there. Clever Hansel had some breadcrumbs in his pocket and had dropped them on the way so that they could find their way back home. Alas! The birds ate all the crumbs and they couldn’t find the path that led back home.

Hansel and Gretel went deeper and deeper into the forest. They were hungry and tired. Finally, after walking for a long time, they saw a cottage made of chocolate, candies, and cake. Now, a wicked witch lived there. When she saw Hansel and Gretel, she wanted to eat them. She grabbed the children and locked them in a cage. The witch decided to make a soup out of Hansel and eat him first. She began boiling a huge pot of water for the soup. Just then, Gretel crept out of her cage. She gave the wicked witch a mighty push from behind and the witch fell into the boiling water. She howled in pain and died instantly.

Hansel and Gretel found treasure lying around the cottage. They carried it home with them. Their stepmother had died and their father welcomed them back with tears of joy. They never went hungry again.

As the countdown to the grand finale of the Globacom-sponsored Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa begins, top artistes led by the masked one and Afro-calypso musician, Lagbaja are set to storm the venue of the Awards to thrill the audience.

The event which is set to recognise  and reward the best of African Literature will showcase performances by other artistes which include Nerfetiti,  an emerging music group with a unique performance style and the Crown Troupe, noted for its energetic dancing steps.

A statement from the organisers indicated that the masked one,  Lagbaja who is back in Nigeria from Canada is excited and looks forward to being part of the star-studded  evening in honour of the best literary talents in Africa.

“I look forward to an exciting Night after a long time outside Lagos,” Lagbaja said.

The event which comes up at Civic Centre, Victoria Island Lagos on Saturday, September 8, 2012 will have in attendance as host, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, while Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun Sate will be the Special Guest of Honour.

In an unprecedented collaboration, arts institutions in three cities and on two continents will join together to explore the changing modes and meanings of love in today’s global society, as seen by more than two dozen contemporary artists from Africa and a select few of their counterparts from Europe and America.

From October 2012 through April 2013, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos in Nigeria, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Menil Collection in Houston will each offer distinct but related presentations of The Progress of Love, with a comprehensive schedule of related events and a major publication documenting the exhibition as a whole.

The three concurrent presentations that make up The Progress of Love constitute a narrative arc, embracing love as an ideal, love as a lived experience, and love as something lost.

The Progress of Love at the Menil Collection (December 2, 2012 to March 17, 2013) reveals how artists in Africa today are questioning, reflecting, and challenging received images and norms of love, sexual, familial, friendly, communal, as derived both from traditional culture and Western influences. The way these aspirations and expectations about love play out in the real world, between and among partners, friends, and families, is the theme of The Progress of Love at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, which will present a series of performative exhibitions, performances, and film screenings runs from October 13, 2012 to January 27, 2013.

The End of Love is the theme of The Progress of Love at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, November 16, 2012 to April 20, 2013.

According to Kristina Van Dyke, former curator for collections and research at the Menil Collection and now the director of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, one of the points of origin of the three-part exhibition, and the inspiration for its title, is a body of sculptural installations by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare based on paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

In these works, the artist dressed headless mannequins in “African” garb in place of Fragonard’s courtly 18th-century European figures to suggest the ways in which Africa was implicitly present in a burgeoning leisure class’s concepts of love.

“This exhibition is very much inspired by Shonibare’s exploration of how historical and contemporary forces affect people’s concept of love,” Van Dyke states. “It is particularly concerned with the question of how technological ‘progress’ is reshaping our understanding of love, in Africa as well as in Europe and America.”

The Progress of Love is co-organized by Kristina Van Dyke and Bisi Silva. The Pulitzer presentation of the exhibition was assisted by Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Central to The Progress of Love is the recognition that this most natural and universal of emotions has actually evolved over the centuries, finding different expressions, meanings, and norms in different circumstances. In the case of romantic love, the ideal of a lifelong bond between individuals who choose one another, subsuming sexual desire in an emotional compact, it is even possible to speak of love’s having been invented, popularized, and exported.

Scholars trace the literary beginnings of the romantic ideal to the 12th century and the courtly poets in the circle of Marie of France, Countess of Champagne. The visual representation of romantic love among recognizably modern people (as distinguished from historic, literary, or allegorical figures) began in the 18th century, finding one of its first expressions in the cycle of paintings that gives this transatlantic exhibition its title: The Progress of Love (1771-72) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (The Frick Collection, New York).

The Progress of Love at the Menil presents works by more than 20 artists from Africa, Europe, and America and examines the ways in which language, mass media, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic forces foster images and expectations about love. The exhibition pays particular attention to the effects of the digital era, asking whether our ideas about love are now coming into closer alignment across the Atlantic.

“With our partner institutions we are presenting an unprecedented gathering of works that prompt us to think more clearly and seriously about the meaning of love, in all its expressions and manifestations,” said Menil Director Josef Helfenstein. “The fact that the impetus for this rethinking comes primarily from artists in today’s Africa and its Diaspora broadens the understanding that our emotional lives have a history, just as our public affairs do – with similarities, differences, and cross-currents. I believe that the The Progress of Love will open eyes and hearts and minds.”

Among the 56 works presented at the Houston museum are three commissioned pieces. ONG SBOP by Romuald Hazoumé documents a new project in which the artist established a non-governmental organization in Benin and invited his fellow Beninois to express love for self and others by making contributions to help people in the West lead better lives.

This is Lagos II by Emeka Ogboh is a sound installation that brings public and private conversations in Lagos to Houston, and in particular to its Nigerian expatriate community. They Love Each Other More Than We Do by Zina Saro-Wiwa is a web project and video installation showing vignettes of a common activity—kissing—that is frequently represented to the Western public but is seldom shown when the lovers are African.

“The works in this exhibition offer a broad range of images and narratives of love that we have inherited over time and across cultures,” said Kristina Van Dyke. “The Progress of Love offers viewers the opportunity to consider how they gauge their own experiences of love through its historical and contemporary conventions and expressions  and to compare their experiences to those in Africa today.”

The Progress of Love at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos from October 13, 2012through to January 27, 2013, explores contemporary expressions of love with an emphasis on the performative, highlighting the growing interest in live art in Nigeria. The presentation also opens up the possibility for dialogue and interaction that may challenge audiences to rethink prejudices, expand possibilities, and engage with and in all the ways love can affect lives. The presentation will begin with a performative solo exhibition by Valerie Oka on the theme of romantic love, October 13November 10, 2012.

The presentation will continue with performances by Wura-Natasha Ogunji reflecting on the history of the love between her mother and her father (whom she never met), by Jelili Atiku presenting a new autobiographical work, and with film screenings by Zanele Muholi, Andrew Esiebo, and Adaora Nwandu, November 12 -25, 2012.

The presentation will conclude with an interactive exhibition by Temitayo Ogunbiyi, based on the popular Nigerian phenomenon of sending pre-formatted love notes by text message, December 3, 2012 – January 27, 2013.

Inspired by personal experiences, tradition, technology, and literature, artists represented in this presentation within The Progress of Love express loss, absence, pain, and difference, and in so doing invoke memory, challenge prejudice, and articulate togetherness in very personal ways.

According to Bisi Silva, “The Progress of Love marks an important curatorial and thematic shift in the presentation of contemporary art from across Africa by highlighting the complexity with which a universal emotion is expressed  as well as revealing how societal changes affect the way we engage with love today.”

The Progress of Love at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, is presented within the contemplative architectural spaces designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, and explores the end of love’s spectrum under the theme of Love as Mourning.

This section of the exhibition, on view November 16, 2012 – April 20, 2013, will feature works by the Nigerian artists Zina Saro-Wiwa and Yinka Shonibare (both also included in the Menil presentation) and by the French artist Sophie Calle.

Two parts of Yinka Shonibare’s Addio del Passato (2012) will be shown: a photograph based on Henry Wallis’s painting The Death of Chatterton (1856, The Tate Collection, London), and a film scored with an aria from Verdi’s La Traviata. Shonibare substitutes images of Lord Horatio Nelson and his betrayed wife Frances for the doomed young poet and heartbroken courtesan in the original works, turning these romantic tragedies into eulogies for the death of the imperial West. Mourning Class (2010-11) by Zina Saro-Wiwa is a multi-screen video presentation of a lamentation ritual devised by the artist, in memory of her brother and her renowned activist father, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Finally, the exhibition will present Take Care of Yourself (2007) by Sophie Calle, a multimedia installation first shown at the 2007 Venice Biennale, documenting the responses of 107 women to a break-­”up letter the artist had received from her lover, via e-mail. This will be the first presentation of Take Care of Yourself in a U.S. art institution.

According to Francesca Herndon-Consagra, “These works, and the architecture in which they are shown at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, were created within the last ten years as a way to help people feel and think about their own conditions and struggles regarding loss during a time of catastrophe – financial, political, and environmental – partially caused by Western modes of consumption and greed.

“Tadao Ando, Yinka Shonibare, Zina Saro-Wiwa, and Sophie Calle all seem to ask, ‘What really enriches an individual’s life in an age such as ours?’ It is important to discover what is essential to human life as a way to constitute a challenge to contemporary civilization.”

The Progress of Love will be documented by a fully illustrated catalogue, including essays by Van Dyke, Silva, and Herndon-Consagra. Other contributors include Elias Bongmba, Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University; and Banning Eyre, Senior Editor at

A series of related events  including films, lectures, panel discussions, and gallery talks with curators and artists  will be presented in conjunction with the exhibitions; details will be announced closer to the time of the opening.

In addition, a series of web-format exchanges will strengthen the connection between the three presentations.

The Progress of Love is being underwritten at CCA, Lagos by The Menil Collection and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Bharti Airtel, a leading telecommunications company with operations in 17 countries across Africa, has announced that it has entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with top South African financial services group, Sanlam, for the distribution of insurance and health funding products.

This agreement covers seven African countries, on a non- exclusive basis, in which both companies have a presence, namely Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria.  The agreement is aimed at enhancing value for Airtel customers and increasing access to insurance which will enable Sanlam to market and sell its Life, General and Health insurance products through Airtel’s extensive telecommunications networks in the seven countries.

Commenting on the transaction Chidi Okpala, Airtel’s Director & Africa Head, Airtel Money, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Sanlam on this exciting initiative. This will offer our customers in Africa access to a broad range of sophisticated products and services to support their lifestyles and aspirations, and this partnership will enable us to significantly enhance the value we offer our loyal customers. Our customers stand to benefit from access to Sanlam’s world-class Life, General and Health Insurance products.”

On her part, Margaret Dawes, Executive Director for Africa at Sanlam Emerging Markets, remarked:“We are passionate about supplying sound financial solutions to the wider African market and are delighted by this opportunity to provide our services and solutions through Airtel’s network. We look forward to providing competitive products that meet the client’s needs – drawing on our collective years of experience and research in these markets.”

With operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa and headquartered in New Delhi, India, Bharti Airtel Limited ranks amongst the top 5 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers with over 257 million customers across its operations at the end of June 2012.

Sanlam is a leading diversified financial services group, originally established as a life insurance company in 1918 and listed on the JSE Limited (primary listing) and Namibian Stock Exchange (secondary listing) in 1998.  Its head office is in Bellville near Cape Town in South Africa and the Group has offices throughout South Africa and business interests elsewhere in Africa, Europe, India, the USA and Australia.

The Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) cluster is responsible for Sanlam’s financial business services (life assurance, general insurance and asset management) in emerging markets outside South Africa with the aim of ensuring sustainable delivery and growth across the various businesses that make up this cluster.  As part of the Group’s vision, it strives to lead wealth creation in those markets. SEM has business interests in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Swaziland and India.

Mushin, Ajegunle, Obalende and Oshodi are among 10 Lagos communities that would do battle in three games as the maiden Community Games tournament kicks off from September 10. The other s include: Bariga, Surulere, Ikorodu, Agege and Orile-Iganmu.

They will compete in football, draughts and table tennis, the first three games of the maiden tournament.

Lagos Football Association Chairman Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi flagged off The Community Games Monday, September 3 at 500 Citi Events Centre, Ilupeju, Lagos, a few blocks away from the headquarters of sponsors Nutricima Limited.

Olympic Milk from Nutricima is powering the maiden Community Games, modelled after the original Olympic Games concept.

Akinwunmi announced the support and endorsement of The Community Games by the Lagos State Football Association. Former Eagles midfielder and current Manager of Shooting Stars FC of Ibadan Mutiu Adepoju, aka Headmaster, also endorsed the Community Games, asking the organisers to ensure the Games quickly extend to other towns starting with Ibadan.

The Community Games powered by Olympic Milk is a multi-sport recreational activity aimed at fostering sportsmanship and healthy living and enthroning the spirit of community among citizens in the country.

In the words of Head Marketing, Nutricima Limited, Mrs Wande Oluwasegunfunmi:  “People in communities naturally engage in these games while relaxing with friends and family. Olympic Milk is giving people at the grassroots the opportunity to showcase their talent by representing their communities in this one-of-a-kind sporting competition.”

Senior Brand Manager, Olympic Milk, Chiaka Eluchie while calling for mass participation in the games, revealed that participants and spectators would win many prizes.   Mrs Eluchie stated, “If you know you have the talent and the skill, now is the time to come and showcase yourself in Lagos. Spectators and fans also have the opportunity of winning exciting prizes ranging from generators, phones, bags, to water bottles at the venue of the events.”

The organisers say that this year’s event is a pilot scheme because other parts of Nigeria will stand a chance of tasting of Olympic Milk’s goodness via the Community Games sponsorship from next year. There are also chances that the scope of sporting activities featured might be expanded based on this year’s performance.

Following the recent listing of hotels in Lagos as second most expensive in terms of room rates, some hoteliers in the country are in disagreement on claims by the survey firm that the high room rates of Lagos hotels were largely induced by insecurity and brand loyalty.

It would be recalled that penultimate Tuesday, a survey conducted by a global corporate service group, the Hogg Robinson Group plc (HRG), had surprisingly placed Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital city as the city with second highest room rates for hotels, in a poll that saw Russia as highest among world’s leading business destinations.

Citing insecurity and brand loyalty by international guests visiting the city as major criteria for the listing, the survey, however noted that average hotel room rates in Lagos have decreased by 6 per cent in British pounds and 5 per cent in local currency following an appreciable number of new hotel openings which have gone some way to ease pressure on capacity.

“Lagos emerged as the second most expensive destination due to the high volume of inbound business travel connected with the oil industry.  Travellers to Lagos are also conscious of the city’s well-documented security issues and are more inclined to stay in five-star accommodation,” according to the HRG survey.

With rates averaging N60, 000 per night for single classic rooms, Lagos also topped the room rates figures for hotels in Africa ahead of top tourists’ destinations like South Africa’s Cape Town and Johannesburg and Kenya’s Nairobi.

Speaking at the one-day second edition of the annual West Africa Business Travel Conference and Expo that ended in Lagos, recently, Mr. Amaechi Ndili, the Golden Tulip Hotels West Africa’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Christian Tomandl, the General Manager, Four Points by Sheraton, Lekki, Lagos, and Mr. Olatunde Oluloye, chairman, Institute of Hospitality, United Kingdom, all argued that the high room rates in the city had more to do with the absence of basic infrastructure than insecurity and brand loyalty as claimed by the HRG report.

This is just as they further maintained that the challenge of poor infrastructure was one faced by the industry as a whole and not just in Lagos, as the effect of it in terms of high room rates was also a problem for hotels operating in the major travellers’ destinations in the country.

Despite a seeming influx of international brands into the city, like the Best Western, Intercontinental, Golden Tulip, Radisson Blu Anchorage, Southern Sun, Whitbread, Starwood’s Four Points by Sheraton, and with the expansion of existing brands like Protea, Rezidor, rooms rates have barely dropped despite expectations by experts that an increase in supply would force down rates in not just Lagos, but also for major cities in the country like Abuja, Port Harcourt and Calabar where rates have been priced out of the reach of the average domestic leisure tourist.

Commenting on the high rate of hotel rooms in the country, Ndili described the cost of operating hotels in Nigeria as ‘astronomical’, adding that some 3-star hotels in the country were simply operating as 5-star hotels in terms of running the costs.

“Hotels in Nigeria are unintentionally pricing themselves out of the ordinary Nigerian’s reach by operating 3 star hotels at the price of 5 star hotels and it may not necessarily be their fault. It is the economy. The cost of running hotels in Nigeria is astronomical what with cost of electricity generation and other amenities and facilities.

For Oluloye, the issue is complicated further as it negatively impacts on the system of grading the hotels in Nigeria as, according to him, when some 3 star hotels run as 5 star hotels it becomes an issue for the grading system.

“The cost of running a hotel in Nigeria is such that some clients now start to question the rationale behind spending $300 for a room in the country when less than half of that amount can guarantee you similar services or even better in Ghana or Gambia. And because these clients are lodged here they expect to get such services commensurate with the star rating you have given to yourself,” Oluloye stressed.

On his part, Tomandl, noted that the challenges of operating a hotel business in Nigeria were unique, adding that the high cost of providing basic amenities for the guest impacts negatively on the room rates charged, and may continue in that direction unless there a big lift provided by the government by way of improvement in infrastructure for the industry and business generally to heave a sigh of relief.

However, while the survey did not report the quality and state of the rooms in questions, many in the country have expressed worry that the services provided by these are not commensurate with the amount they charged as room rates.

At a recent United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) Slave Routes Committee conference in Calabar, the Cross River capital, foreign delegates openly carpeted hoteliers on what they perceived as ‘a rip off’ by the hoteliers.

According to them, the equivalent of $500 dollars charged for a single room in the city was too much and did not equate to the quality of service received.

“You should see the rooms they are charging us over $500 per night for. In the United States, that kind of money can get a real five star hotel with a five star treatment. But here, it’s just you and your room,” said a Nigerian U.S-based university professor who was also a delegate at the conference that held in February, this year.

Out of 50 major travel destinations surveyed, the Russian capital has had the highest average room rate for eight years straight. HRG trends revealed Moscow as the priciest city for hotel stays, with rates climbing to 3 per cent in local currency since 2011.

The survey showed a year on year increase in 2012, compared with 33 cities in 2011. All results are based on a combination of industry intelligence, actual room nights booked and rates paid during January to June 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

In the overall, trends noted by the HRG survey include: For the 8th year in a row, room rates in Moscow are far and away the highest of any destination monitored by HRG.  Hotel prices in the Russian capital have risen 3 per cent in local currency over the past year.

Now in its 20th year, HRG’s biannual hotel survey looks at hotel room rates for key business destinations across the world to provide a dynamic insight into global business travel behaviours. Data presented in the 2012 half-year survey is based on a combination of industry intelligence, actual room nights booked and rates paid during January to June 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

HRG is the award-winning international corporate services company.  Established in 1845 and headquartered in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK, HRG specialises in travel, expense and data management underpinned by proprietary technology.   With a worldwide network that comprises over 120 countries, HRG provides unparalleled global expertise and local knowledge in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, Latin America and MEWA.

The list of 10 most expensive cities to stay in and their average hotel room rate include:1. Moscow, Russia: US$407; 2. Lagos, Nigeria: US$34; 3. Geneva, Switzerland: US$340; 4. Zurich, Switzerland: US$332; 5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: US$323; 6. New York City, New York: US$320; 7. Sydney, Australia: US$312; 8. Hong Kong, China: US$306; 9. Paris, France: US$304; and 10. Washington, D.C, United States: US$302.