The federal government has awarded the contract for the construction of Second Niger Bridge linking the South–South and the South East geo political zones in Nigeria to Messrs Julius Berger at a total sum of N14.4billion.
Mohammed Abdullahi, assistant director of information in the federal ministry of power, works and housing, who made this known in a statement on Tuesday, January 10, said the existing Niger Bridge, inaugurated on January 4, 1966, had severely been overstressed, adding that its continued serviceability could not be assured.
According to him, the idea of a Second Niger Bridge started way back in the late 1970s but its realisation has been delayed by several challenges.
He added that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was resolute to the completion of the projects.
Abdullahi said the scope of work for the emergency repairs of Tamburawa Bridge would involve the use of rock-filled gabion protection with reno mattresses, fitters and embankment protection to the abutments. He said the intervention followed what he called public outcry and concern earlier expressed by Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State over the exposure of substructures of the bridge.
The news about the second Niger bridge first came from Senator Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment. During an interview on AIT on Saturday, December 31, Onitsha, confirmed that the federal executive council had approved N14 billion to enable work to commence on the bridge. In addition to this, the federal government will release another N16 billion this year for the construction of the bridge, he said adding that the amount was accommodated in the 2017 budget.
He said that the redesigned bridge would have a railway line that would connect Asaba in Delta State with Onitsha in Anambra State to ease the pressure of heavy duty vehicles using the bridge to transport goods. However, the minister urged the people not to stand in the way of the project by making what he called unnecessary demands.
“This is a project that previous administrations played politics with and the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to ensure its realisation. Our people should not allow the issue of compensation to hinder the construction work because of its enormous benefits to the people.”
Apart from the second Niger Bridge, Ngige said work had also started on the Enugu-Onitsha and Nnewi- Okigwe federal highways, as well as the Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt expressway.
It would be recalled that the federal government had on Wednesday, August 26, announced the suspension of the previous ongoing work at the bridge for reasons ranging from the actual cost of the bridge, non issuance of the certificate of compliance, non compensation of the host community and non adherence to due process in the award of contract by the previous administration.
The suspension generated a lot of sectional, religious, and political sentiments making some people in the southeast to think that President Buhari administration has short-changed them again.
It would be recalled that the Second Niger Bridge was conceived under a Public Private Partnership arrangement, while the contract was awarded to Julius Berger PLC at the cost of N130 billion by former President Goodluck Jonathan.