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Akwa Ibom 21-storey smart building lies fallow four years after inauguration

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The multi-billion Naira 21-storey smart building constructed by the Akwa State government has remained unoccupied by tenants four years after its inauguration.

The Intelligent building initiated by the former Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration was constructed by VKS construction firm and commissioned in March, 2021, as a deliberate government intervention to support and encourage Oil companies including ExxonMobil to relocate its corporate headquarters to the state.

At a gala night organised by the state government in honour of a delegation of stakeholders in the oil industry led by former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the former governor had stated that his administration would continue to support such relocation within available resources

“We are ready to support the relocation. ExxonMobil is a very difficult corporate citizen but the Minister can give them a directive to come.

“They process over 15bn barrel of crude from our shores and that alone should propel them, they don’t have such excellent production anywhere in the world” The former governor had said.

It was gathered that despite Emmanuel’s commitment and persuasions, ExxonMobil and other Oil companies did not show any interest in relocating their corporate headoffices to the state.

This, according to an investigation Governor Umo Eno to donate part of the building to the Bank Of Industry (BOI) and open up other spaces for any interested tenant to occupy.

An insider source who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the high cost of rent of N14 million and payment of rent in dollars placed by former Governor Emmanuel scared away prospective tenants.

It was further gathered that Governor Eno had to slash the rent to half and allow them pay rent in Naira thereby giving room to attract tenants.

The source also revealed that politics may not allow ExxonMobil to relocate to Akwa Ibom as they will prefer to be coming from Lagos and going back same day at the close of work.

“It is all politics that is holding back ExxonMobil from coming. But we have Bank of industry. Savannah Energy is coming and one other company. The challenge why they did not come in is because the former administration insisted that the rent must be paid in dollars and at the current rate and you know the foreign exchange.”

Reacting to the development the commissioner for Special duty, Bassey Okon in an interview said Governor Umo Eno has directed the ministry to do a brochure for proper marketing adding that the Ministry was making plans to bring in a Marketing consultant that would stay in Abuja, Lagos and other strategic cities to market the building.

The Commissioner said the ministry would reach out to DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) as well as Exxon Mobil to take up a space in the facility adding that the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) has offered to take some floors in the building.

According to him, the governor has engaged facility management experts for constant supply of power in the facility, adequate maintenance and upkeep of the building as well as optimal security.

“We’ve got four tenants in the smart building. We’ve got Savanna Energy. We also have Oando Oil and Gas. We have Bank of Industry, Health and Safety as well as Ibom Deep Sea Port, so four.

“We are still trying to reach out to DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) as well as Exxon Mobil. We want to have an interface with them. So, we are working gradually.

“The Governor has also engaged the facility management experts. So, 24/7, there is power. There are people attending to requests. There are people tasked with the maintenance and upkeep of the building. We have the facility manager called Schneider Engineering.

The ministry of Internal Security has also positioned about six internal security personnel and they are running shifts. So, we’ve got internal security within the building as well.”

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