Akwa Ibom Governor Attracts Investor To Abandoned Ibom Science Park
Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel has attracted investor to the abandoned Ibom Science Park
The Commissioner for Science and Technology, Prof. Nse Essien has disclosed that work will soon commence at Ibom Science Park towards its completion as a Science Park of international standard.
Prof. Essien dropped the hint in an enlarged meeting with a consortium of foreign investors led by a representative of SERGE Capital Investments Company Limited and the management of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation (AKICORP).
He commended the investors for their noble initiative to invest in the Science Park which is seated in a free trade zone and assured them of the cooperation of his Ministry and relevant government agencies in fast tracking the procedures for them to move to site without delay.
Prof. Essien who said Akwa Ibom people have been very passionate about the Science Park called on the people to continue to keep hope alive by supporting the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel as the Governor is committed to the transformation of the State into a global ICT hub.
He said with the initiative, the completion of the Science Park project which was started in 2006 will place the State in the international scene in science, technology and innovation and promised the youths of the State that they will be beneficiaries of the digital evolution going on around the world.
The leader of the team, Mr. David MclLwrath said SERGE Capital Investments Company Limited is ready to pull investors across the world to Akwa Ibom to do business at the Science Park which they intend to resume construction as soon as documentation is completed.
He expressed the hope that with the reputation of Akwa Ibom State as a centre of excellence in Nigeria and the status of the Science Park as a free trade zone, doing business there will be a worthy venture.
Mr. MclLwrath who said SERGE Capital Investments Company Limited is an Australian Company in partnership with Chinese and Nigerian firms thanked the State Government for the opportunity to invest in the State.
On his part, the Executive Chairman of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation (AKICORP), Dr. Elijah Akpan said the completion of Ibom Science Park will bring a lot of investment opportunities to the people, enhance capacity building and exposure to technology.
He expressed gratitude to the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Prof. Nse Essien and management of the Ministry for partnering AKICORP to midwife the investment deal.
Meanwhile, the new Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Engr. Richard Ekpe has charged workers of the Ministry to continue to exhibit the ethos of punctuality, cleanliness, discipline, decorum and dedication to duty, as a way of reciprocating the priority attention the State government has given to welfare of the workforce.
Engr. Ekpe who gave the charge while addressing the staff during his maiden meeting with them advised them to acquire the Civil Service Handbook to study the rules in order to keep abreast of the ethics of the service. He also admonished the staff to approach their assigned duties with diligence and utmost dedication in order to ensure that the Ministry fulfills it’s ministerial mandate.
Engr. Richard Ekpe was until his appointment as Permanent Secretary by the State Governor, Director of Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Akwa Ibom state in 2006 toed the line of strong world economies to build a science park which could serve as centre for integrated technology incubation and development.
The project was pioneered by ex Governor Obong Victor Attah and targeted to be completed in 2007 after former President Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned it on August 11, 2006. However, it was later to become one of the abandoned projects in the state which attracted an ad-hoc committee set by the state assembly to probe into some allegations of financial misappropriation in the handling of the project.
The committee in its report, indicted Juul and some other persons for allegedly abuse of office and misapplication of the N2.1bn funds for the project. The House, after evaluating the report, also directed an American based company run by a Nigerian and another based in Lagos Nigeria, to refund N196m and N30m respectively, being payments they allegedly received as consultancy fees.
Meanwhile, in its recommendation, the committee had directed that the state executive council terminates the contract awarded to SBT Juul for the development of the project, in line with clause 18(1a) of the contract agreement, alleging that the development manager abandoned the project without lawful justification. However, Aluko & Oyebode Chambers, attorneys to the project contractor, denied the allegations, saying there was need to state the real facts.
According to the law firm, SBT Juul had previously written on two occasions to the State to appoint an Arbitrator to settle the pending disputes between it and the State but the State did not honour such requests. This according to the attorney, was even after the Federal High Court, by an order dated 16 November 2006 directed the state to do so.
Ïn December 2007, at the point of the exhaustion of the Project funds made available by the State, SBT Juul estimated that about 70% of the Project had been completed and SBT Juul had handed over three operational Uyo Metropolitan Area Network, MAN, sites to the State through the Ministry of Science and Technology represented by the Commissioner, Honourable Samuel Efanga. The Commissioner expressed his satisfaction on the extent of work executed so far.
“Upon the assumption of office in 2007, the new administration of Gov. Godswill Akpabio, at various times between 2007 and 2009, appointed in-house Consultants and different audit firms, to review the Project and SBT Juul co-operated with these Consultants and audit firms despite the reservations it had about the independence of some of these entities. Juul however provided them with all documentation in its possession relating to the Project and never received any report in respect of the exercise”.
According to Ekwochi, the dispute and abandonment of the project due to lack of commitment by the State, had caused extensive damage, leaving both the building and IT components of the project in danger of collapsing.
He however believed that it can also be salvaged if an urgent step was taken to redress the situation. This is even as he confirmed that the contractor was also willing to amicably resolve the differences relating to the execution of the Project with the state despite what it considers the State’s reluctance towards any attempt at settlement.