Barely a month in office, Gov. Udom
Emmanuel inaugurated an 11-man committee, with Mr. Gabriel Ukpeh, a Partner and Risk Quality Leader for Africa at Price
Water House Cooper, as chairman and Mr.
Offong Ambah, Dr. Elijah Akpan, Mr. Ini Urua,
Mr. Akan Udofia, Mr. Andrew Jason, Mr. Udeme
Ufot, Mrs. Offiong Ejindu, Mr. Larry Esin and
Victor Bob as members. They were saddled with
the responsibility of using their contacts to attract direct investment to the state. While seeking the office of governor, Mr. Emmanuel had
promised to diversify the economy of the state
through investment in sustainable industries.
Two years later, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics
named Akwa Ibom State second, after Lagos
State as the state that attracted the largest direct foreign investment to Nigeria in 2017.
At the beginning of the Udom Emmanuel's
administration, the nation was faced with a life-threatening unfavorable economic climate.
With vast experiences in investment banking,
the governor knew that it was time to think out
of the box. The ready tool to stay afloat, create
the needed jobs and expand the economy was
the involvement of the private sector in public
private Partnership arrangement.
Speaking at the Conference of Parties to the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco
in 2016, Gov. Emmanuel had solicited the involvement of investors in the economy of the
state. He highlighted his then states five-point
agenda, adding, "our targets are job creation,
poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion, wealth creation, infrastructural consolidation and expansion.
Since then, there had been an avalanche of
investments into the state. The Yiwu International Mall Investment Limited, a Chinese firm
in constructing 62,000 square metres, having
about 3000 shops within a two-storey complex.
This investment has an initial $25m capital flow
into the state. The Turkish company, VSK Group
has since commenced operation of a syringe
manufacturing company at Onna. The Jubilee
syringe manufacturing outfit has an initial capital of $30m. Other high-end industries that have
set up manufacturing concerns in the state include the Plywood Industry at Onna, the Kings
Flour Mill, the Automobile Manufacturing Company, among others.
The idea of a shopping mall was hatched in
2008 during the Akpabio administration and
reawakened in 2015, when Median
Infrastructural Development Company, led by
Its Chief executive officer, Mr Olumide
Akinsanya heeded Governor Emmanuel's call
for investors to come and take advantage of
the existing investors-friendly environment to
invest in the state. Speaking on this, cap
Akinsanyar recollected that "we came to the
state in 2015 to build a mall. The governor, however, told us that the government would rather
prefer us partnering with them to further develop an existing, but yet to be completed mall
in the state. That was how we came into the
The Median Infrastructural Development Company nursed the idea of bringing in
Shoprite, a South African Mall chain that has
several operation areas in Nigeria. The drastic
fall in the value of naira made this proposal
unattractive for the South Africans, thus the
company's shift to sourcing for a local anchor
operator for the Ibom Tropicana Mall.
Remodeling, redesigning, and in some instances, fresh construction work commenced
in 2015. Major work was done to create a separate shop space for the anchor operator, while
renovation work was on to plug leaking roofs,
refurbish the elevators and install new electric lines, as well as correct other structural defects noticed in the mall complex.
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, another critical step was taken towards the actualization of
this dream of a world-class mall in Akwa Ibom
State. That day, Median Infrastructure Company Development Ltd, held an interactive forum with tenants and other stakeholders of the project, preparatory to its inauguration for mall
The Managing Director of the company, Mr
Olumide Akinsanya, in his remarks, told the tenants that the mall was ready to commence business on December 1, 2020, as projected. He
urged those who had made payments to collect their keys and get their shops ready for
opening. He traced the history of his company's
involvement in the mall to 2015, when work commenced on the remodeling, redesigning and
standardization of the Ibom Tropicana mall. He
noted that tenants already had value for their
money with the per square meter cost of the
Ibom Tropicana Mall.
This is the cheapest mall in Nigeria in terms
of per square meter, Mr. Akinsanya reiterated to the tenants, adding that in Tropicana Mall,
tenants are charged N5,400 per square metre,
as against N9,800 per square metre in Owerri. In
Uyo, the food court is N6,500, while a similar
food court is N18,000 in other malls.
"We are happy that His Excellency, Mr. Udom
Emmanuel had to bring his investment
savviness to bear on the project by providing
the enabling environment that has led to Ibom
Tropicana Mall being the only mall in Nigeria
indexed in naira. The rest are all indexed in dollar. That is why our rent is easily the most pocket
friendly in Nigeria. Mr. Akinsanya noted.
Originally, Ibom Tropicana Mall had less than
5,000sq lettable area, but with the remodeling, it
is now about 9,800sq and 56 rentable shop, with
80 per cent of the shops already rented out,
ready to commence business by December 1,
2020, as it was then slated.
There is enormous excitement in the air as the
people of the state anticipate a major lift in the
economic life of the state following the commencement of business by the mall. The Ibom
Tropicana anchor operator, is Port Harcourt
based chain, Market Square, with 13 Shops
spread all over the nation. The Uyo mall brings
their chain to 14.
The marketing manager of market Square, the
anchor operator, Mr. Emmanuel Patrick, told this
reporter at the tenants' forum that his company
was ready to open its doors for business in
December. Even though this date was not feasible, the people of the state were given a foretaste of the pudding when thousands thronged
the mall to celebrate Christmas. It was such a
sight, seeing excited members of the public taking out time to enjoy the trappings of a modern
mall facility in Uyo.
"I am excited to announce our preparedness
to commence business in Uyo. It is a major
achievement for us as a chain. This is our first
mall experience; all the other shops we run in
other states are standalone shops. So, you can
see what this place holds for us. Mr. Patrick
He further stated, "We are coming to add economic value to this state. We are going to create employment opportunities and open value
chain opportunities for vendors for the supply
of groceries, poultry, agricultural produce etc.
Speaking also on the economic prospects of
the mall, Mr. Akinsanya said, "the mall will provide jobs for at least 600 people when it is
opened for business. It will definitely be more
than that number when you look at the multiplier effect. The people must key into this project
as there is so much value addition coming with the mall.
The government of Akwa Ibom State is already planning big for the mall. The chairman
of the Akwa Ibom State Committee on Foreign
Direct Investment, Mr. Gabriel Ukpe, says that
the state is ready for Tropicana Mall to commence business. To him, employment of the
youth, of the state remain one of the cardinal
reasons why the state governor, Mr. Udom
Emmanuel is committed to industrialization and
push for investment capital into the state.
"To be sure that our people are employed in
the mall, we are going to publicly advertise for
jobs in the mall. This will form a pool of qualified persons of Akwa Ibom State origin, who
will be shortlisted purely based on their qualification and competence for the jobs businesses
in the mall would require. That way, we are sure
that our people are not left out in job opportunities at the mall. Mr. Ukpe told the prospective tenants.
On the fears expressed by operators on multiple taxes and levies, Mr. Ukpe assured them
of favourable operating environment, adding
that government will only take the required taxes
and protect the operators from any illegal and
At its conception in 2008, the Ibom Tropicana
Entertainment Centre was touted as one of the
queens of projects of the Godswill Akpabio era.
Conceived to sit on 82 hectares of land, the
centre comprised of six-screen cineplex, a shopping mall said to have 59 shops, a convention
centre that could seat 5000, a 14-floor five star
hotel with 250 executive rooms and a theme
park, complete with both dry and wet rides,
covering three hectares of land. It was an ambitious project said to have been modeled after
the South African Sun City. Contract for the
center was awarded in September 2008 to
Silverbird Galleria for N33billion, by the Godswill
Akpabio administration. However, before that
government left office, over N120billion had
been expended on the project, before it was, at
the twilight of that government's departure,
commissioned on May 22, 2015, while failing to
deliver on the promises expected by the people.
As the mall officially came alive last Thursday, it signposted another remarkable success
story in the Udom Emmanuel administration
towards making Akwa Ibom State an economically viable state and a model for the country.
Congratulations Akwa Ibom State. Congratulations Gov. Udom Emmanuel. Congratulations
to Mr Akinsanya and the Median Infrastructural
Augustine is a Journalist and Public Affairs