Experiencing Calabar: The Ruins Of Tinapa

The Big Dream 

So the year was 2007 and Calabar under the leadership of Donald “Fine Boy” Duke who could do no wrong at the time; with his defined plans to make Calabar a tourism hub for Nigeria.

He introduced Calabar Carnival in 2004 (read about my experience here) which is still the largest street carnival in West Africa- KUDOS! and in 2005, he introduced the Obudu International Mountain Race an annual mountain race touted as the “world’s richest mountain race” to raise awareness for Obudu Cattle Ranch- Double KUDOS!!

Fine boy governor had us hooked and so the $450 Million dollars (60 Billion Naira) project which was commissioned on the 2nd of April was welcomed with much fanfare- this project was going to get Calabar out of the hood and was the perfect parting gift “The Duke” could give to the state after serving for 8 Years between 1999-2007. 

Tinapa Lakeside Hotel-min

A Little History (if you’re interested in that) 

This project that was “too big to fail” was Tinapa – it sits on approximately 86,000 square meters of land. The grand plan was for Tinapa to be a 360 degrees business and tourism resort with 5 major areas: a 243 room 3 – Star International Hotel, An Entertainment strip containing everything you want; casino, children’s arcade, restaurants, a mini amphitheater, a night club and pubs, a Business Strip, a movie production studio called Tinapa Studios, a water park/leisure land and finally a parking space that could accommodate 4,000 cars. 

In a nation of many white elephant projects, Tinapa stands as the ultimate. Many things caused the downfall of Tinapa; The Duke points fingers at his successor, his successor says Tinapa failed before The Duke left office and on and on it goes.

The fact remains that it’s the face of white elephants in Nigeria. A “white elephant project” is a phrase used in reference to a financial endeavour that fails to live up to its expectations. An aesthetically pleasing facility that sums up the failures of post-civil society. So why have I called this article the ruins of Tinapa and what is it really like in Tinapa these days. 


My Tinapa Experience

In December 2019, 12 Years on, My friend Baba Seye and I visited Tinapa and although it was common knowledge at this time that Tinapa had become a shadow of its former self, I was optimistic regardless which is a trait I have picked up on the road. “Don’t knock it off until you try it abi? Abi”.

The closer we got to it, the clearer it was to me that *wonti lazzident*. This was peak holiday season and Tinapa was almost completely deserted. With Nigeria Jaga Jaga playing in the background, I could not help but wonder how this massive project was run into the ground so fast- even for Nigeria’s nonexistent standard. 

Tinapa Resort Bridge Calabar-min
Tinapa Business Resort Calabar-min


Ruin 101 – The Hotel

First on the list is the hotel, the interiors looked like the abandoned house of a wealthy man but not in a classy vintage way. Only one floor was operational and not much seemed to be going on in there. You could feel a sense of past glory from the abandoned shops which were meant to house some big brands. The building was slowly fading away, you could almost hear it beg for some type of rehabilitation.

We went to the dinner area to book for their evening buffet but that was also a futile feat. The lake behind the hotel which would normally have been “view goals” was more of a swamp than anything else. The lake looked like a breeding ground for all sorts of diseases. 

Tinapa Hotel Entrance
Tinapa Lakeside Calabar-min

Ruin 102 – Tinapa Studios/Amphitheatre 

I think this one amongst all the other ones hurt me the most. In a report by PwC, Nollywood was ranked the 2nd largest film producer in the world. The Tinapa Studio which is still Nigeria’s most modern film production studio is completely locked, not an iota of activity. I mean it serves as a dope backdrop for pictures– but a backdrop that has gulped about N4.3 Billion Naira is a very expensive one.

This particular project had seemed like a very promising one, so much so that Ebonylife TV Africas first Global Black Entertainment and Lifestyle network launched their production studio there. They’ve since moved operations to Lagos and left Tinapa Studio kilome kilome kilome Kilometresss away in the mud. The amphitheatre is suffering the same fate as well. 

Tinapa Amphitheater-min

Ruin 103 – Tinapa Water Park

One of the few parts of this project with a bit of life left in it. We paid a gate fee of 1500 Naira to gain access. We spotted few people making use of the swimming pool however, most of the water slides looked in a very bad state. This water park was a first of its kind in Nigeria, it really embodied the Mini-Dubai idea because you only see structures like that outside the shores of Nigeria.  

Tinapa Waterpark

Ruin 104 – The Business Strip 

Like the name implies, this was supposed to be the business arm of the Tinapa project where holidayers who typically travel outside Nigeria could get products from high-end brands at duty-free rates. Multinational organizations were excited about the prospects as well and a few of them backed it up by renting shops for 2 Years and above.

Many reports claim that the death of this arm eventually put the nail on the coffin of Tinapa. Goods were to be exempt from import duties because Tinapa was a “free-trade zone”- however, they claim that Nigerian Customs who have a reputation for corruption blocked containers destined for Tinapa at the ports, crippling business from its roots. Honestly, the business strip is non-existent now; I could not even point to the area that was reserved for it.

Mono Rail Link at Tinapa

Ruin 105 – The Entertainment Strip

At this point, I am sure you can imagine what the fate of the Entertainment strip was. CaSiNo?? CiNeMa?? NiGhT ClUb?

*I laugh in Japanese*

Obviously, it was channeling its inner John Cena.

On our way out of Tinapa, all sad and gloomy, we picked up one of the workers at the Waterpark Mr Uduak and he told us some of the issues they were facing as staff. He said that businesses left because of a lack of power supply, custom duties and complete neglect from the government.

There’s barely any revenue source, so as a result, they are lagging in the payment of salaries as well. The remaining staff source their daily bread from the few people that come to visit the waterpark and only stay because– having given 12-14 years of their lives to the cause, many of them have nothing better to turn to. He told us how the introduction of a new government spelt a total abandonment of projects by the outgoing government.

Everyone is trying so hard to be The messiah- but at what cost. 

With Baba Seye at Tinapa-min

This post is not to point fingers at who messed up or give advice on how all these many monies could have been spent (laughs in carrying hoe and going to plant Maize i.e Meffys Master Plan or 50 Million of us grabbing our guns to support the fight against the insurgents i.e Asiwajus Master Plan), it’s just to give an exposé on the sorry state of one of the more promising projects a state government embarked on.

Btw I read that it’s in an even worse condition now following the End Sars Protests Current State.

So finally, it will be wrong for me to end this piece without appreciating other white elephant projects from across the nation starting from; The Monorail in Calabar “baby white elephant”,  Roaches (I mean Rochas) City of Statues in Owerri, Ebonyis N2.7 Billion Naira Ecunumical Center, Asabas Dome, DuTsE InTeRnaTioNaL Airport (WTFlippingFreak) and honorary welcome to one of the new white elephants who is a spitting image of the current government i.e A1 content but 100% vibes EKO ATLANTIC CITY!!!! *Round of Applause*.

I’ll leave you with this quote.

Your pride for your country should not come after your country becomes great; your country becomes great because of your pride in it.

Idowu Koneyikan.

I hope you enjoy reading this.

Please leave a comment, like and share with people wondering what is really left of Tinapa.

Hobo Out!

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