Four Points By Sheraton Ready For Business By April 2020 – Rt. Hon Okpolupm Etteh

… Ibom Tropicana To Be Completed Under PPP Arrangement



Rt. Hon Okpolupm Etteh, former leader and the legislator to have ever served the longest tenure at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, is the Commissioner for
Special Duties and Aviation Matters. He speaks on the tireless efforts made by the Governor Udom Emmanuel Administration to fix the Four Points by Sheraton Hotels and other major projects under the supervision of his Ministry among other salient issues in this exclusive interview with Crystal Express

Could you please kindly tell us the current situation of the Four Point Sheraton Hotels in Ikot Ekpene?

Four Points by Sheraton Hotels was constructed by the previous administration but could not be put to use due to the non-availability of operating equipments and facilities. Those are the items that the hotel managers would be using to operate the place. There were no furniture or information and communication technology (ICT) equipment. The external works such as internal roads, car parks lightings, landscaping and driver’s lobby among others were not available. All these were not there. It is the present Governor Udom Emmanuel Administration that has now put all that in place.

Additionally, since the hotel is expected to operate in line with international standards, it requires befitting facilities to be able to achieve that. The hotel, formerly to be managed by Starwood, is now run by Marriot International. When the change was officially effected, Marriot International requested that the facilities at the hotel must be upgraded to meet internationally required standards. Therefore the present administration had to take up the whole completion of the hotel in line with the required standard.

At the moment, we have been informed that the hotel will be open to public by the month of April, 2020. We still have some items under various levels of procurement.

Could you please list items and equipment which were not there prior to the arrival of Marriot?

Additional works that have been implemented by the current administration include procurement and delivery of all outstanding operatives equipment, furniture fittings and equipment, information and communication technology facilities. There is the agreed 7.2million U.S dollars released to the hotel operators by the Akwa Ibom State Government. There have been delivery and installations of many items including television sets, projectors, artworks, construction of drivers lobby.

Also, there have been installations of automatic fire prevention system, FM 200. 20 KVA inverter system and additional 3.5kilowarts equal type AC .

Equally there have been construction of 310m access/link roads to the hotel; completion of all outstanding landscaping, procurement of transformers and construction of power supply from the national grid to the hotel to ensure availability of constant power supply.

Initially, there was no electricity from the national grid, but Marriot insisted that the hotel must be linked up to the national grid.

They also requested the replacement of an already installed kitchen and food preparation area and all the fittings that were there had to be replaced.

The new administration has procured closed circuit cameras to complete the installation of the CCTV in the hotel. All these were not in place, but the present administration now put all of them in place.

There have been provisions of outdoor showers in the swimming pool area, construction of permanent fencing to seal up the rehabilitation of the general hospital fence. The fence did not have electric wire as requested by Marriott and we had to put it in place. They have even requested for the installation of retractable seal collars. This they say is to provide some level of privacy to users. All these are the facilities and services provided by this administration. We will need to go round the hotel together so you get to understand what the present government is doing.

The truth is that, as at May 29, 2015, the place was not ready for business. Whoever said the place was ready by that time was lying. We are now at the last lap of meeting the required standards set by Marriot International in terms of upgrading the facilities. Hopefully going by the assurances by Marriot, the hotel will be open for business in April, 2020

Knowing that Le’ meredien firm was sacked by this government for not offering satisfactory service, are you sure the relationship with Marriot will not turn out unsatisfactory?

The previous government had already signed an operating agreement with Starwood to run the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, although there was no payment of money. The agreement was to have them run the hotel for 20 years after which it could be reviewed. We hope that there will be no problem in terms of the hotel management by Marriott.

What does this government have in the 2020 budget for aviation and what new things are you having for the airport?

If you go to the Victor Attah International Airport, you will see the operational name of Ibom Airport Development Company Limited. You will also see a completely new international terminal. That’s what we are doing right now. We started it last year. There is a private hanger. The second runway is also under construction.

By December last year, Ibom Air had already flown over 51,000 passengers. The current terminal is interim and that is why we are constructing a permanent international terminal to be able to carter for the traffic that is increasing every day. The Ibom Air Development Company has successfully sourced for an investor that is going to complete the maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) facilities.

How about the proposed additional two aircraft for Ibom Air and the information that the airlines will soon go international?

Ibom Air is privately managed though owned by the Akwa Ibom State Government. But by God’s grace, we will have additional aircraft in the next couple of weeks. We don’t have any interference in the management.

The Ibom Tropicana seems to have been abandoned. That project should be under your supervision. What is government doing about it?

No, it is not abandoned. The state government has set up a public private partnership (PPP) model to be in charge of the project. If you go towards the back of the Tropicana, you will see an ongoing construction. That is Shoprite being constructed. It is part of the PPP. We are at the last stage of documentation and sealing the deal for the PPP model. The idea is to hand over the completion and operations of the Tropicana Hotel to an investor. These are projects that cannot be run by the government. If you need a return on investment then you must engage the private hands. We have an investor for the Tropicana. We also have an investor for the wet and dry park. None of those projects are abandoned.

Do you have an idea when the Shoprite will come on stream?

The project is under construction and at the roofing level. The same investment model that government applies to the development of the Ibom Blue Sea Science Park is being applied to Ibom Tropicana.

The only one we are yet to have an investor for is the Convention Centre. So, government has not abandoned any project at Ibom Tropicana.

What is the situation at the 21-story smart/intelligent building which we understand is also under your office?

By agreement, the building is supposed to be completed by December. But I can assure you that the building may even be completed before December. We are working day and night on it. Already, we’ve started having tenants. Corporate entities have started indicating interest and that building will be commissioned this year.

Was the building not designed for multinational companies?

The project is being designed by the state government for multinationals. Many companies have started indicating interest in renting the place. All you need to do is give me a day, I will take you round all the projects to see things yourself.

Tell us about the international worship center. How is work progressing there?

The worship center is not supervised by my ministry. It is the Ministry of Lands that is supervising it.

There is this Liaison office in Lagos that was proposed some years ago. How is the progress there?

The building has been completed since last year and put to use. It is one of the best Governor’s offices in Nigeria. You can go there and see things for yourself. When we attended the wedding of the governor’s little niece, that was where the Governor hosted the Akwa Ibom community. Every Akwa Ibom person who was there testified that the Governor’s lodge is one of the best in the country.

Are you impressed with the Eket remodeling process started four years ago by this administration?

I am impressed. I can assure you that this administration will complete the ongoing project. There is something people don’t know that if you want to do a thorough job then you must do it well. You needed to see what Nigerpet was doing. You know the project came with payment of a lot of compensation. As the name implies the project is remodeling. Remodeling requires a lot of demolitions. People don’t realize that when you’re doing demolition, you also do compensation. You also have to run underground water channel to take out water. Of course, you know Eket is a waterlog area. Government is paying so much money on compensation. The job is taking place in an area where there were existing structures. So far I’m impressed with the level of progress.

Are you aware that just few days ago, some elders of Eket led by Prof. Asindi and Prof. Desmond Wilson came out to say that Eket has been neglected by this administration and what is your take on their position?

Is it in terms of man power? I don’t understand what they mean by that. The truth is that, if you push the remodeling funds of Eket into road constructions in other local government area you will be surprised that the whole local government may opened up. Outside the remodeling, there are so many roads in Eket tarred by this current government. Eket Township Stadium is nearly completed. How many local government areas in Akwa Ibom is the state government constructing stadium? For me, it’s wrong for a certain group of people to allege that Eket has been neglected. Eket is the headquarters of a senatorial district. The present government is doing everything possible to give it a befitting development.

There are five-star hotels in some senatorial districts. We have the Ibom Hotels in Uyo and the Four Points by Sheraton Hotels in Ikot Ekpene. Is there a plan by this government to establish one in Eket Senatorial District?

One of the policy thrust of this government is to complete all ongoing projects. Such an hotel is not a priority for now. But this government may consider doing so, depending on the needs. By the time government completes all ongoing projects and there is need for such a hotel to be constructed, I am sure this government will do so.

Recently tragedy struck in your backyard when fire gutted an entire fishing settlement. Reports say about 2000 buildings were completely razed. How do you take this disaster, as a stakeholder in Ibeno?

When the incident happened the governor was not able to visit the place physically. But he directed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) to lead the Exco members to the place. The permanent secretary in the Deputy Governor’s office was also there with us. We visited and assessed the damage done by the inferno. At this point we are also looking for spirited individuals to also assist us to ease the sufferings of the people.

You’ve always been passionate about the development of your area, Ibeno. But does it not seem this government is not really looking at the area which produces the sustainable resources for the whole country?

The government is trying. You know that part of the Ibom Industrial City is in my local government area. Right now the Governor is doing everything possible to bring more industries to my local government area. For now, we are very happy with what the government is doing. We appreciate the development plans that the government has for us.

The drumbeat for 2023 is on. Is it too early or is it okay for politicians to start strategizing?

I think it’s too early for people to start talking about 2023. The reason is that, for me as a person who has enormous assignment that requires time and energy, I can’t see myself talking about 2023.

Is it too early to let Akwa Ibom people know the kind of governor they should look forward to having in 2023?

This is January 2020. The fact is that we are in a democracy and anyone has the right to express themselves. But I don’t want anyone to drag me into it. One of my responsibilities is to make sure that Four Points by Sheraton Hotels is open for business. I have responsibility of making sure that the Ibom Tropicana Hotel is delivered and a first class international terminal for Victor Attah International Airport is also completed among other projects in my office.

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