Akwa Ibom's 21-Storey Smart Building Remains Unoccupied Four Years After Inauguration

Akwa Ibom State's 21-storey smart building, inaugurated in 2021, remains unoccupied by tenants, including ExxonMobil, due to high rent and dollar payment requirements. The current government has slashed rent and allowed Naira payment, attracting interest from potential tenants like NNPC and Bank of Industry.

Trim Correspondents
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Akwa Ibom's 21-Storey Smart Building Remains Unoccupied Four Years After Inauguration

Akwa Ibom's 21-Storey Smart Building Remains Unoccupied Four Years After Inauguration

The 21-storey smart building constructed by the Akwa Ibom State government in 2021, initiated by former Governor Udom Emmanuel's administration, remains unoccupied by tenants, including ExxonMobil, four years after its inauguration. The building, constructed by VKS Construction Company, was commissioned in March 2021 as a deliberate government intervention to support and encourage oil companies to relocate their corporate headquarters to the state.

Why this matters: The failure of the smart building to attract tenants has significant implications for the state's economy, as it was intended to create jobs and stimulate growth. Moreover, the lack of interest from oil companies like ExxonMobil raises questions about the effectiveness of government incentives and the attractiveness of the state as a business hub.

In 2021, former Governor Udom Emmanuel stated at a gala night organized for stakeholders in the oil industry, led by former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, that his administration would continue to support the relocation of oil companies, including ExxonMobil, within available resources. Emmanuel emphasized that ExxonMobil processes over 15 billion barrels of crude from the state's shores, which should propel them to relocate. "We are ready to support the relocation. ExxonMobil is a very difficult corporate citizen but the Minister can give them a directive to come," Emmanuel said.

Despite Emmanuel's commitment and persuasions, ExxonMobil and other oil companies have not shown any interest in relocating their corporate head offices to the state. An investigation has revealed that the high cost of rent, set at N14 million, and the requirement to pay rent in dollars, placed by the former governor, scared away prospective tenants.

The current administration, led by Governor Umo Eno, has taken steps to address the issue. Part of the building has been donated to the Bank of Industry (BOI), and other spaces have been opened up for interested tenants. The rent has been slashed to half and payment is now allowed in Naira. The government is also making plans to bring in a marketing consultant to market the building in Abuja, Lagos, and other strategic cities.

There are positive signs of interest from potential tenants. The Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) has offered to take some floors in the building. An insider source revealed, "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 21-storey smart building, a landmark project in Akwa Ibom State, was constructed with the aim of attracting international oil companies to establish their corporate presence in the state. Despite the initial setbacks, the current government's efforts to make the building more accessible and affordable for tenants offer hope for its future occupancy and utilization.

Key Takeaways

  • Akwa Ibom's 21-storey smart building remains vacant 4 years after inauguration.
  • High rent (N14m) and dollar payment requirement scared off tenants.
  • Current gov't slashed rent to half and allows Naira payment.
  • Bank of Industry and NNPC have shown interest in occupying the building.
  • Gov't plans to hire a marketing consultant to attract more tenants.