- 2nd Niger Bridge: Stakeholders doubt FG's sincerity
- The Second Niger Bridge to the future
- At last, work begins on 2nd Niger Bridge
- The dithering on new Niger Bridge
- Niger Bridge on my mind
- Abandonment of 2nd Niger Bridge: South Easterners react
- SHOCKER!!! 2nd Niger Bridge
- Second Niger bridge: Jubilation in South-East as Julius Berger moves to site
2nd Niger Bridge: Stakeholders doubt FG's sincerity
~The SUN Nigeria. Wednesday, January 25, 2017.
The latest awards contract by the Federal Government for the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State, has been described by stakeholders as a gimmick plotted by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to court the support of Ndigbo for his second term bid.
Respondents who spoke with Daily Sun, mostly from the South East, reasoned that the latest change of direction on the bridge by the President was a sharp contradiction to his earlier speech on the same matter, which could be a political statement.
One of them, Chief Simon Okafor, former Sole Administrator, Ayamelum Local Government Area, said that since action speaks louder than words, the President would have started work on the bridge in line with what former President Goodluck Jonathan put in place without making his earlier statement that gave him away as an Igbo hater.
Okafor said the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge should not be politicised because it would be an added advantage to government's drive to increase the windows of economic activities. "The way and manner government treats any project in Igboland go to create the impression that the project would be wasted. Will somebody put the project in his pocket? Will such project not benefit all and sundry? Why so much hatred when we say we are one Nigeria? It is very surprising the way officials of government think. This is why the wound of disunity will never be healed at all," he said.
Assistant Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing,Mohammed Abdullahi, whomade this known in a statement last week in Abujastated that the contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge was awarded toJulius Berger (Nig.) Ltd.at a total cost of N14.4 billion.
Abdullahi noted that 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 2nd Niger Bridge started way back in the late 1970s but its realisation has been delayed by several challenges.He added that the administration ofPresident Buhariwas resolute to ensure the completion of the project.
Another respondent, Chief John Obodoechina, said the government of the day would be doing the country a very big honour if the project is completed considering that a lot of water has passed under the bridge when one thinks about how much it will cost now compared with the budget when the idea was first muted.
He said, "we can see the difference time has brought to bear in the value of the contract even when the exchange rate hovered around N19 per dollar in contradistinction with the current rate of dollar around N400. That has been the prize we procured for ourselves due to tardiness in attending to strategic national projects with abundant economic benefits to the citizens. That is the bane of the kind of politics our so-called leaders play. The 2nd Niger Bridge project goes beyond partisan politics. The sooner we realise that, the better for this country," he stated.
"Notwithstanding, it is a good thing that Buhari has shown commitment to complete the project. If he succeeds, he would have carved a niche for himself as a leader who succeeded where others failed. Besides, he would have endeared himself to a people who have overtime, groaned under the shackles of neglect and near abandonment by successive regimes. Will he? Time will tell."
Those who have followed events surrounding the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge would have heaved a heavy sigh of relief at recent disclosure by the Buhari administration that it intends to commence work on the project. Although a lot of people have their reservations because it will not be the first time such pronouncement was made about the bridge and the Onitsha River Ports. Previous governments had made even more concrete statements, taking action saw them chicken out. If President Buhari will live by what he said, it will go a long way to correct some erroneous impression people of the South East have about him.
Before now, the government, through its Minister of Environment, Laurentia Mallam, had told an expectant nation that work on the project had been suspended because the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) law was not taken into account by the last administration. The announcement was not altogether surprising, as it did not depart sharply from the policy summersaults that had been the fate of that project in the hands of successive administrations.
Not unexpectedly, interest groups in the South East saw in it a further evidence of the hostility of the Buhari regime to the zone. They could not come to terms with the reasons adduced for the project's suspension especially given the strategic importance and overall benefits it holds for the country.
But addressing reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting just before the Christmas, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the government had given the go-ahead for work to continue on the bridge.
He said the bridge was conceived as "Public Private Partnership (PPP) with government financing but negotiations had not been concluded and it was important to continue to work there." Fashola said government officials would continue discussions to see whether they could conclude a full business case and possibly concession the agreement to enable private investors come in and conclude the remaining works.
The Minister had gone ahead to visit the project site to underscore the seriousness the government attached to the new commitment. He said during the visit: "I came here pursuant to the commitment of the Federal Government and that of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete the bridge."
As a further evidence of this, the Federal Government, last week, announced the award of a N14.4 billion contract to Julius Berger for early works on the bridge. In a statement from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, the contract award was said to be clear evidence of the Buhari administration's resolute commitment to the completion of the project.
For those who, before now, considered the 2nd Niger Bridge project a pipe dream given the high-wired politics into which it had been enmeshed over the years, the renewed interest of the current government to the project provides new hope for its eventual coming on stream. It is definitely something to cheer. This is more so, given the larger benefits to the nation the completion of the bridge that links the South East and the South Western parts of the country will bring about.
It is therefore a big relief that the current regime has gone beyond finding faults with the conceptualisation of the bridge project to awarding a contract for early works on it. By that, the government has gone beyond words to demonstrate in very unambiguous terms that it shares the ideals for which the construction of the bridge has been a recurring decimal, the politics of past administrations notwithstanding.
It is a good step that will go a long way to disabuse raging feelings that nothing good will go to that part of the country because the current regime did not receive huge votes from the zone in the last election. Be that as it may, it is also strategically and politically expedient for Buhari to complete the project since he or another member of his party will soon be seeking re-election.
The Second Niger Bridge to the future
Written by Sonala Olumhense
~Punch Nigeria. Sunday, January 15, 2017.
The mythical Second Niger Bridge is to be constructed, the Federal Government indicated last week in a wobbly, cagey statement delivered in every colour of deniability.
Building the bridge has been in discussion with every government for over 40 years, but none of them summoned the required political will for a project which carries massive political and economic significance for Nigeria.
And yet, when the moment finally seemed to arrive last Tuesday, it did so in a whisper. Recall that Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi conducted a tumultuous test-ride of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line in June 2016 and President Muhammadu Buhari a louder opening of the line the following month, but no major government figure seemed eager to deliver the good news about the Second Niger Bridge, even though the project is capable of determining who loses the 2019 elections, and who wins.
The news was not delivered by the presidency. Not by Power, Works and Housing Minister Raji Fashola, or by some other related Minister, such as Mr. Amaechi or Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information. Not by a permanent secretary from somewhere or another. Not even by the Director of Information in any of those ministries.
Instead, it was to Mohammed Abdullahi, an Assistant Director of Information in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, that the honours fell.
Which is normally when a vigilant press would go to work, and the public, worry.
Nonetheless, a contract for "preliminary works" had been awarded to Julius Berger for N14.4 billion, the statement said.
That was it, unless you examined the fine print. The existing Niger Bridge has "severely been overstressed (sic)," the spokesman said, and "its continued serviceability could not be assured."
What the government was saying, in plain English, is: "Good luck to all who continue to use the bridge, which is now 50 years old, for it may soon collapse."
Ominously, the statement contained no specifics about the new plan. Not what constitutes "preliminary works." Not how long the contractor would take to complete them, or whether-particularly given the condition of the existing bridge-the project is being given priority. Precisely the kind of thing that leads to incomplete or abandoned projects.
The statement was also eerily quiet on the status of the same bridge the preceding government was building.
Since 2011, President Jonathan had used the Second Niger Bridge as a major political pawn among the Igbo. Throughout his electoral campaigns in Aba, Awka, Enugu, Onitsha in February 2011, it was his main message: if elected, he would build the bridge before 2015.
"I want to be remembered for building of the second Niger Bridge and my administration's commitment to leaving our footprints on the bridge project," he said during a campaign stop in Onitisha on February 26.
It was at that same stop he made his most famous declaration: "I do not make empty promises in my campaign because whatever I promise to do, I had already carried out adequate study to make sure I can accomplish it in the next four years."
He was lying, of course, but the people of Onitsha rose to their feet, cheering and dancing.
There was more to come. Speaking at the Onitsha Town Hall in August 2012, one year after he was elected, he said, "When the first bridge was built, it was during the presidency of Nnamdi Azikiwe. The Second Niger Bridge will be built under the presidency of Azikiwe Jonathan."
He even swore to go into exile if he failed to deliver the completed project by 2015.
President Jonathan did commence work on the bridge. Unlike Olusegun Obasanjo, the government of whom falsely announced in May 2007 it was commencing a 58.6 billion contract, Jonathan gathered a crowd to start off the construction.
But that was not in 2011 or at any time that would have enabled him to complete, or almost complete, it. It was in March 2014 that he did his groundbreaking, claiming the bridge he had sworn to deliver in 2015 would now be completed in four years, that is, in 2018.
His Minister for Works, Mike Onolememen, explained that the project would cost N117 billion, and be concessioned to the builder for 25 years.
Mr. Jonathan announced his government would ensure speedy completion in four years by contributing N30 billion, which was 25% of the construction cost. Again, that was three years ago.
In January 2015, after nearly one year on it, President Jonathan confirmed the project to be on course. During an electoral campaign stop as he sought a new four-year term, he told the Obi of Onitsha he had inspected the project on his way to the palace and could assure him it would be ready in 2018.
The problem is that here we are in 2017 two years after that declaration, giving a contract for "preliminary works" to the same Julius Berger which has been working on it for three years, apparently for the purpose of a new contract for the same project to the same contractor.
It is of great concern that the Buhari government, which weeps daily about lack of funds and preaches hourly about transparency, does not see that its refusal to acknowledge history to be as dangerous as the corruption it claims to fight. In another article, I have pointed out how the Abuja light rail project, for instance, is being re-contracted as if there isn't an existing contract. I don't see how anything can encourage corruption more than parallel contracting.
By all means, let the government review the Second Niger Bridge project, but it is dangerous to pretend that a N117 billion project that ought to be three-quarters completed does not exist at all.
And if the government is reviewing the project, it must consult with stakeholders, particularly the Igbo. Let us be clear that not only has the world, and Nigeria, changed dramatically since the first bridge was built, but also since Jonathan's version was designed.
The new bridge should be bigger, stronger and more ambitious. It should be aimed at Nigeria in the next 50 years, not of the present. To that end, the bridge should be at least four lanes on each side, and should preferably be built on two levels to accommodate growing traffic and economy. The bridge should provide for rail and pedestrian traffic as well, and modern technical appurtenances to ensure security.
Think big or think not at all. Build the bridge right, or don't build it at all.
At last, work begins on 2nd Niger Bridge
Written by Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
~Vanguard Nigeria. Friday, January 6, 2017.
AFTER years of uncertainty, work has finally begun for the construction of the controversial 2nd Niger Bridge that would link the South -South and the South East geo political zones to support the existing one.
Following a statement by the minister of labour and employment, Senator Chris Ngige Saturday in a television programme in Onitsha, that the federal executive council had approved N14 billion to enable Julius , the contractor handling the project, to commence work, Saturday Vanguard visited the site and found out that there were serious signs that work would begin in earnest.
Some people, who looked like construction workers were seen yesterday, surveying the area where former President Goodluck Jonathan performed the ground- breaking ceremony during the twilight of his administration. Many job seekers were also seen in the area, although there was nobody to attend to them yet.
The bridge had been enmeshed in politics over the years such that it had remained on the drawing board for a period that spanned several administrations.
Ngige had said during the television interview that in addition to the N14 billion, the federal government would release another N16 billion this year for the construction of the bridge, 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, one nagging issue facing the project is the payment of compensation to people whose property would be affected by the bridge. Though arrangement for the compensation had been made, Ngige 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 realization. Our people should not allow the issue of compensation to hinder the construction work because of its enormous benefits to the people," the minister said.
He said that apart from the 2nd Niger Bridge, work had also started on the Enugu-Onitsha and Nnewi- Okigwe federal highways, as well as the Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt expressway.
The dithering on new Niger Bridge
~The SUN Nigeria. Thursday, July 14, 2016.
FORMER Prime Minister Late Margaret Thatcher once said, "You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure." The statement underscores the importance of infrastructure in any nation's economic development. In essence, Nigeria's economic growth will not occur in the absence of critical infrastructural developments.
Also, Maya Pillai succinctly illuminated the significance of infrastructure as a function of government. In her synopsis of five main purposes of any government, Maya Pillai identified infrastructure as one of the critical functions of the central government. She wrote, "One of the main purposes of the government is to provide good infrastructure to all its countrymen in the form of roads, bridges, drinking water, electricity and communication networks."
In the 1960s, the federal government realized its obligations to the people, thus it awarded a contract in 1964 to DUMEZ for the construction of River Niger Bridge. The Niger Bridge, completed in 1965 by DUMEZ-a French construction company, links Southeast and West by road.
The bridge suffered a major structural damage during the civil war and has since deteriorated and has been certified to be unsafe for dual carriage. As a result, past administrations had promised on numerous occasions to build a second bridge, but to no avail. The Obasanjo administration promised to complete the construction of the second Niger Bridge before leaving office, but it turned out to be an empty promise. While alive, President Umaru Yar'Adua made the same promise. A transformational leader with list of progressive reforms to embark on, former President Umaru Yar'Adua died at age 58 without constructing the second Niger Bridge. He probably would have fulfilled his pledge if he had completed a full term in office.
Well, realizing the importance of the second Niger Bridge to both the local and national economy, particularly the Southeasterners' emotional attachment to the project, during the 2011 electioneering, President Goodluck E. Jonathan promised that he would build the new bridge in his second year in office if re-elected. The region undoubtedly provided him with a huge political capital trusting that this time the promise will not be a ruse. The people are waiting patiently.
During his presidential visits to Anambra State in August 2012, President Jonathan reiterated his campaign promise of building a second Niger Bridge. It was reported on FRONTIERSNEWS.com on August 30, 2012 that President Jonathan said, "On the second Niger Bridge it must be commissioned because we have no choice but to transform Nigeria. That is why the Minister of Works and Finance Minister are here." He continued, "We will surely deliver on our campaign promises. We ask for maximum cooperation from you and thank God the members of the National Assembly are here, so the second Niger Bridge must be built." But Jonathan left office without completing the construction of a new Niger Bridge.
Now it is President Muhammadu Buhari's turn to build or abandon building the new Niger Bridge.
Talking of the cooperation of the National Assembly, Adetutu Folasade- Koyi reported on Friday, February 8, 2013 in The Sun that the Upper Chamber urged the federal government and the Ministry of Works to take immediate action on two bridges, Niger Bridge and Third Mainland Bridge because of the dilapidated condition and unsafe nature of the bridges.
On a motion introduced by Senator Hope Uzodimma (PDP, Imo West), the Senate advised the Federal Government and the Ministry of Works to commence work immediately on the construction of the second Niger Bridge and reinforce the old bridge to avoid its looming collapse. The general public, including the National Assembly understand the ominous danger the present Niger Bridge presents to the populace. The Niger Bridge is structurally unsafe to ply on and mere travelling on it brings excruciating pain to the passengers in so many ways. The emotional statement made by Sen. Hope Uzodimma to bolster his motion underscores the dire consequence of inaction.
Sen. Uzodimma is reported to have said, "Because of the aforesaid state of the bridge, commuters have since the Christmas season, been subjected to excruciating ordeals wherein only single lanes are allowed on the bridge at a time for fear that the normal double lane carriage could lead to an instant collapse of the bridge, consequently, endless traffic across the bridge from all parts of the country." Nevertheless, while the delay in constructing the second Niger Bridge goes on, the federal government continues to put peoples' lives and properties in a greater danger. This suggests that the federal government has an indifferent attitude about the ominous danger the current bridge poses. The condition of the bridge has not only been a clog to the wheel of economic activities, but has now imposed a high level of frustration and hopelessness on the passengers who must wait for seven to twenty hours before crossing the Niger Bridge, especially during the holiday season.
With each passing day, the imminent collapse of Niger Bridge is sooner than later. The calamity will pale in comparison to the catastrophic collapse of an eight-lane steel truss arch I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 1, 2007. When the Niger Bridge caves in, lives and properties will be lost, as well as economic devastation in the region and nation. Thus, possibility of the collapse of the Niger Bridge should, perhaps be heightened concern to federal government.
Unfortunately, the second quarter of 2016 ended without any construction activities in the area. Regrettably, delaying the construction of the bridge is tantamount to a deliberate negligence on the part of the federal government. The dereliction is stupefying and unbelievable.
Niger Bridge on my mind
Written by Chimaobi Nwaiwu - Vanguard.
SHOCKER!!! 2nd Niger Bridge
Second Niger bridge: Jubilation in South-East as Julius Berger moves to site
From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
Publish date: 7th August 2013