By Uyoatai Etim
Sixth of February, 2016, will remain very memorable in the anal of history as the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District received, formally, their son, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, in a grand style.
The event was pomp, pageantry and celebration at the Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium. It was, indeed, a celebration of an uncommon leader, one that has received awards from far and near. Today, the history of Akwa Ibom State cannot be told without giving prominence to Senator Akpabio for his legendry odysseys, one that made his contemporaries envied him as a performing Governor.
His giant strides and infrastructural renaissance, which has placed Akwa Ibom State on the center stage in the comity of states, have become a global reference point. These and many more are what Senator Akpabio would be remembered for by the people of Akwa Ibom State.
Nevertheless, the people of Akwa Ibom State will remember him more by many of his administration’s failed projects and his spend thriftiness. One of the failed projects the people of the state would remember Senator Akpabio for is the Ibom Tropicana Complex, a mega project known to those outside the shores of Akwa Ibom State as a worthwhile project, executed and completed.
The Ibom Tropicana Complex, located along Sir Udo Udoma Avenue, has a land mass of 12 Hectares (128,227 Square meters) and it is bounded by roads around its perimeter. The Complex was originally proposed to comprise a Dome, a 250-Room Hotel (Ibom Hilton Hotels), a Cineplex, a Mall, a Theme Park, an array of Utility buildings, a Multi-Storey Car Park, and External Work Station.
The Dome, one of the contents of the Complex that thrilled the former Governor so much, was proposed to be an International Conference Centre or better still, an Amphitheatre for sports and entertainment activities. It was supposed to cover an area of 15,500 square meters with a proposed seating capacity of 10,000 persons. This structure, if used to beam a Heavyweight Championship live, according to Akpabio’s government, would fetch Akwa Ibom State Government royalties to the tone of 20 Million Dollars. That Government also said the Dome will amortize its construction cost in less than five years. Today, the Dome still remains a fairy tale despite the fact that money budgeted, evaluated and revaluated (based on its Bill of Quantity) for the project has been released up to 100%. A visit to its site shows uncompleted block work, abandoned cranes and broken fence. The site has become a habitat for rodents. Yet it was popularly said that “the Dome was made to draw international and local celebrities, exhibitions etc. it could also be rented for political conventions and the like.” The Dome exists only as a model, an imaginary image. On this and many more, the Akpabio’s administration through handlers of the Tropicana Complex Project, the then Commissioner for Special Duties, Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem, and Special Adviser on Technical Matters, Engr. Etido Inyang, have much to explain to the Akwa Ibom people on how the state’s commonwealth was spent.
The 250-Room Hotel (Ibom Hilton Hotels)
Still at its 11th floor and commissioned by the Akpabio’s administration, the Hotel, originally proposed to have 15 floors including its ground floor, has a built-up area of 13,500 square meters and was meant to have a 24 hour Café/Lounge-Bar, a Continental Restaurant at ground floor, a Banquet Hall, a Swimming Pool, Tennis Court and a Gymnasium Centre. The Banquet Hall was proposed to be at the Ground Floor in a separate structure that connects the hotel via an internal covered walkway. According to its design, the Hotel’s standard was to be certified by International Hotels like Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott etc. the design also has it that the Hotel will be expanded to provide central catering to all the facilities in the Complex.
The Hotel, though above 40% completion, shares the same management problem with the Dome. Our investigation revealed that money appropriated for the project, though revaluated twice, was fully paid before the expiration of the Akpabio’s administration. At the site, when our Team visited, some abandoned cranes and few workers were seen. The workers declined to make comment. From what we saw, a lot is yet to be done to make that project a reality.
Cineplex and Shopping Mall
This is one structure that appears to be a reality with non-utilization of a section, the mall section. The structure, which covers an area of 22,000 square meters, houses the Cineplex and the Shopping Mall. Whereas the Cineplex was designed to contain Retail Shops, Eateries, Coffee Shops, Five Cinemas as well as Atriums; the Mall was designed to house a kindergarten facility to assist parents in their daily activities as well as staff working in the mall etc. The retail facility in the Complex, according to the State Government, was expected to attract world class retailers such as Marks & Spencers; International Standard Supermarket; a Depot for Home Appliances and Residential Furniture Show Rooms. Even when structure was extended by the then Commissioner for Special Duties, Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem, to accommodate more stalls and a cargo discharged section, the Shopping Mall remains a killed dream by the arrival of Shoprite. Interestingly, Shoprite, whose ground breaking was done by Governor Udom Emmanuel, has become part of the Complex. What then is the fate of the Ibom Tropicana Shopping Mall?
Ibom Tropicana Park
Promoted to be one of its kinds in Nigeria by its handlers because of its various facilities alongside the wet and dry parks (Theme Park), the Ibom Tropicana Park remained a wild-goose chase of the Godswill Akpabio administration regardless of the amount of money sung into the project.
According to its promoters/handlers, Barrister Enoidem and Engr. Inyang, the park, when completed, would be co-managed by an experienced International electromechanical maintenance firm and Silverbird. The Theme Park was designed to comprise two sections of a Wet Park and a Dry Park accessed from two different gates. From the design, the wet park has its Administration Services/Food Outlets/Toilets/Box Office/Kiosk near the main entrance while the wet rides consist of Wave Pool, TOTS Pool Slide, Lazy River Ride, Activity Pool/Play Structure, Inner Tube Slide, and High Thrill Slide. This section of the Park will have its own mechanical, electrical and plumbing maintenance offices and team.
The Dry Park, based on its design, was to have at the main entrance the Box Office, Toilets, and Retail Kiosks. The Dry Park will have the following main structures: Mini Jets, Kiddie Wheel, Mini Tower, Tea Cups, Space Gun, Giant Wheel (33 meters), Drop Zone, Bumper Cars, Pirate ship, Jolly Jump, Top Dancer, Traffic Jam, Family Coaster, and Comic Shows in Open Theater.
The design also says the utilities building will house the Generators, the Automatic/Manual Change-Over Switch, High voltage Switch Gear, the Low Voltage Gear, The Control Room. The Transformers, the Diesel Tanks, the Site
Management Offices and the Technicians rest rooms.
Multi-Storey Car Park
Also very interesting to note in the design is the impression that the “the project will eventually have a multi-storey car park located near the Mall. This structure will provide spaces for 520 car parks, and another 800 surface car parks will be provided around the site. A car park is planned across the main road and accessed via a pedestrian overhead bridge. Additionally a ‘Park and Ride’ facility will be provided by medium buses shuttling between the adjacent parking space across the road and the Dome during main events.”
The legendry design also says main External Works consist of see-through fence to encourage visitors to access the site Gates, and a network of roads which
has been designed with proper drainage facilities. The site landscaping
plan befits the needs of the various structures in the complex and attempts
to maintain the ecosystem as much as possible. In conclusion, the promoters of the Ibom Tropicana Complex said “Eventually Akwa Ibom will become a State of Destination and not of passage through because the Tropicana International Complex, which will be used by local visitors and tourists, will be completed by the time the International Airport will be operational.”
Today, the Ibom International Airport, which will be a case study for our next work, is operational yet the Ibom Tropicana Complex, outside the Cineplex, remains a fairy tale. Its promoters, though at large, feel they owe no explanation to the people of the state on how their commonwealth was invested on what could be well termed a sham of the 21st century. A visit to the Ibom Tropicana Complex would easily convince any naive visitor that the project is yet one of Akpabio’s mirages.