N1.2 billion needed to complete Akwa Ibom-Lagos lodge, N840 million used so far – Commissioner

. Premises of the new Akwa Ibom Governor’s lodge in Lagos on Friday 

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Itoro BASSEY – Ikoyi, Lagos

About N1.2 billion is still needed to complete the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge located at 36 Femi Okunnu, Street off Bourdillon Road, in Ikoyi, Lagos, Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Akan Okon, has said.

Mr Okon, on Friday, told members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Finance, who visited the new lodge project as part of the committee’s oversight duties in relation to the consideration for passage into law of the 2018 budget, that his ministry only accessed N840 million out of the N1.2 billion proposed for the project in the 2017 budget.

He said the balance of N1.2 billion his ministry is requesting in the 2018 budget will be used to complete the project in March this year, but this sum does not include furnishing cost for the lodge.

The original contract sum for the project, according to the commissioner, was pegged at N2.1 billion.

Although the commissioner would not give details of the percentage of work at the new lodge, Propellerng.com observed that the project may have advanced up to about 60 to 70 percent completion.

Mr Okon said the new building was started in June, last year, to replace the old lodge located at Bishop Aboyade Cole Street in Victoria Island, the area which is now used more for commercial purposes than residential.

The new lodge, it was also gathered, has all the aesthetic qualities of a palatial residence, including rooms in the main building, dinning, sitting rooms and an office for the governor as well as service quarters and a general common room.

Propellerng.com recalls that a group, the Akwa Ibom Conscience, led by a young lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, undertook a peaceful protest in Lagos and Akwa Ibom states, last year, where it expressed displeasure over the then plan of government to build another lodge for the governor, in addition to the former one and the state’s liaison office.

The Government, as it is now evident, went ahead with the project unperturbed in spite of the protest.

While justifying government’s reason for the project, Mr Akan Okon told lawmakers that the new lodge is “just a relocation of what we used to have before because that area (former lodge at Victoria Island) has turned into a commercial site”.

The commissioner, who was also of the opinion that the facility will serve as a meeting point between the state government and expected investors, said the project is necessary for the good Akwa Ibom State.

“Just like what is obtainable everywhere, it is going to be used for Akwa Ibom State.

“I’m sure the one we have at Aboyade Cole Street was acquired from the creation of the state, and it is still the property of Akwa Ibom State.

“Successive governments will use it. I think it is a good project for the state”.

Speaking alongside the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Finance, Usoro Akpanusoh, Chairman of the Committee on Lands and Housing, Otobong Akpan and Chairman of the Committee on Special Projects, Emmanuel Ekpenyong the House Leader, Udo Kerian Akpan, urged the commissioner to use part of the N1.2 billion proposed for the project in 2018 furnishing when accessed, instead of anticipating a fresh proposal in the future.

Mr Akpan, who represented the Speaker at the occasion, called on the commissioner to put all government property lying waste outside the state into proper use so as to attract positive benefits to the state.

He also asked the commissioner to facilitate a meeting between the House of Assembly and the contractor for the project so that issues concerning the completion of the project can be ironed out.

“For this place to be useful, Akwa Ibom will have a name in Lagos and, of course, it will be an identity for us”, said Akpan who, like his colleagues, appeared satisfied to have assessed the extent of work at the new lodge.

On Thursday, the lawmakers carried out inspections at the sub-power station and commercial building of the Akwa Ibom International Airport.

Chairman of the Assembly committee on Appropriations and Finance, Usoro Akpanusoh, who hinted that N500 million was proposed for the power station in the 2015 budget, had said that monies were paid out for it last year, and, therefore, it became necessary for the House of Assembly to see the extent of work done at the station in order to assist decisions during the markup exercise of his commitee.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Akan Okon, said the contract for the power station was initially awarded in 2005 at the sum of N900 million.

He said the contract was terminated and reawarded for about N2.1 billion in 2017, adding that plans are underway to connect the airport to the public power supply.

He said the station had been supplying power to the airport since its inception in 2009.

Later at commercial building of the airport, Mr Okon, said the expansion project in the airport was executed at the sum of N130 million.

He said project is made up of two restaurants, a pharmacy, convenience and a gift shop.

Asked how much the airport generated as revenue for government in 2017, Mr Okon said he did not have the figures offhand, but promised to send it to the committee at a later date.

In his address shortly after the exercise, the Speaker, Onofiok Luke, assured the executive arm of government of the readiness of the legislature to give necessary support in the 2018 budget to enable government complete ongoing projects in the airport.

Luke, who described the airport project as a strategic infrastructure in the state, said government’s investment in the project was a step in the right direction.

He charged Commissioner Akan Okon, the airport management and Schneider group, the contractor handling the project, to prioritise training of Akwa Ibom indigenes on maintenance of the power infrastructure installed at the airport.

“There is need for technology transfer. The power project here is handled by a very reputable power firm, Schneider. There’s need for technology transfer to get our young men and women trained so that they will be able to maintain the facility and also to fix it when things gets bad, rather than bringing in expatriates.

“I’m very impressed with the work i have seen at the sub-power station. We have to ensure that things are in the right place in this (aviation) sector so that we can derive maximum benefit.

“We will do all within our powers to ensure the expansion of facilities, and safety of passengers at the airport”.

On the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul facility (MRO) at the airport, Mr Luke stated that the project was of utmost concern to the lawmakers, saying it was expedient for necessary steps to be taken to ensure that the facility becomes operational.

The budget defence exercise continues on Monday at the assembly complex.

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