Finally, Second Niger Bridge Is Commissioned
By Paul Nwosu
The commissioning of the Second Niger Bridge is a moment of watershed in Nigeria.
Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR, captured the essence of the feat with the following words: “I am here and personally overjoyed. I speak on behalf of my people of Anambra State and also speak on behalf of the people of South-East Nigeria.
“Today is a day of joy! We have come to express our profound gratitude. I am personally overjoyed and, in fact, this is the reason I missed the commissioning of Dangote refinery yesterday because I have to be here personally. My flight was supposed to return today but I didn’t want to take any chances because history is being made today.”
According to Governor Soludo, ‘The people of the South-East have agitated, we have complained and petitioned and about five key infrastructural projects are supposed to be the game-changer for the development of the South-East. One is obviously the dredging of about three channels that will give the South-East access to the Atlantic to be able to bring their goods down the South-East; the second happen to be the Second Niger Bridge and the third is the Expressway that will link Anambra to Lokoja. That will actually open up the East – in three hours you will be at Abuja. The fourth happens to be the gas pipeline that has largely bypassed the South-East, and the fifth obviously is the railway that we are agitating.”
Mr. Governor continued thusly: ‘Of this five, it is our pleasure and joy today in the South-East that we have come to tick Good’ to one of them and a major one at that, and that is the Second Niger Bridge. President Muhammadu Buhari, I think as you leave office, the South-East will remember you. And for my brother and friend Fashola, via the various infrastructural projects being commissioned, it is appropriate to call you Mr. Infrastructure! And for us, this is a promise delivered. We are really overjoyed – at least for the other four, with the incoming President-Elect who would be sworn in on Monday, we will come shopping for the other four and as we hope, probably, the rest of the four will be granted in the coming four years or thereabout.”
In conclusion, Soludo said: I think today there is nothing else other than to express our profound gratitude. There’s no point in deliberating on the importance of this bridge. People describe it as a game-changer for Asaba, Delta and Anambra. They are like the twin cities of New-York and New-Jersey; that’s how I comprehend it – fundamental change, creating that aligning new axis of prosperity and we hope the other ones, other jigsaw parts of the puzzle will be fixed and then the South-East will get up and bloom economically.”
The Second Niger Bridge took almost all of five decades to get constructed. Not a few Nigerians had tagged the plan of a Second Niger Bridge a jinxed project after the many false starts of building the bridge across the River Niger by past Nigerian administrations. President Buhari takes the eagles feather for ensuring that the idea of a Second Niger Bridge has at last come to fruition.
The 1.63-metre-long Second Niger Bridge that connects Onitsha City in Anambra State with Asaba, the capital of Delta State, is a key national infrastructure with immense socio-economic benefits for the contiguous states and indeed the entire Nigerian nation.
A project of the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the Ministry of Works and Housing in collaboration with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the Second Niger Bridge as masterfully constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC will ease traffic flow, improve road safety, and create greater opportunities for local residents by advancing the commercial viability of the immediate area and regenerating economic life.
The adjoining roads from Oko Amakom in Delta State to the bridge, and from the Onitsha end of the bridge to the Obosi interchange are some 12 kilometres long.
Commuters can now heave a sigh of relief with the guarantee of avoiding the hurly-burly of Onitsha township traffic. The ugly sight of ill-assorted transporters and commuters being trapped in traffic congestion for hours on end, day and night, on the decrepit old Niger Bridge will now be a thing of the past.
Being a strategic national infrastructure, the Second Niger Bridge offers great socio-economic prospects for the South-East states, Delta State and the nation at large.
It is noteworthy that the former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, during his time in office said that the Second Niger Bridge would be an important economic artery that will connect the great markets of Onitsha and Aba, as well as the industrial hub of Nnewi and beyond, to both the northern and southern parts of the country.
Such a crucial artery of commerce ought not to have witnessed the delays that attended its construction. It is a mark of President Buharis commitment to the general good that he summoned the political will to mobilize the fund for the completion of the project.
The construction of the bridge will go a long way in allaying the fears of experts who had for many years been warning that the old bridge on the Niger has become a wobbly disaster waiting to happen. Of course the old bridge will still be in use, but the traffic will be drastically reduced. But even so, palliative work still needs to be done to put the aging bridge in fine fettle.
The essence of the construction of the Second Niger Bridge is akin to saving commuters from Thomas Hobbes state of nature in which life is harsh, brutish and short.
The time is gone when passing through the old bridge to get into Onitsha reminded all and sundry of Dantes Inferno as per: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!”
It is estimated that the construction of the Second Niger Bridge consumed 14,000 tonnes of steel, which is nearly double as much iron as in the Eiffel Tower in Paris. About 250,000 tonnes of concrete were poured which is a little less than Trump Towers in Chicago at 310,000 tonnes. Some 1,468 workers were employed on the construction site while 8,000 worked elsewhere.
It is remarkable that 8,700,000 man-hours were accounted for in two-and-a-half years of construction without any accident.
The structure which is 1,590 metres long in total consists of two parallel pre-stressed concrete box girder bridges, each 14.5 metres wide.
The bridge has been cultivated using the cantilever method while the ramp bridges are cultivated with the incremental launching method.
The Second Niger Bridge indeed has a long history, having been first proposed during the Second Republic of President Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Then, in 1987, Military President General Ibrahim Babangida challenged the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) to design a masterplan for the bridge.
President Olusegun Obasanjo symbolically flagged off the construction of the bridge five days to his departure from power. President Goodluck Jonathan then approved a contract of N325 million for the bridge.
President Buhari has fnally delivered the Second Niger Bridge that is named after him. For this uplifting parting gift, the government and people of Anambra State are full of gratitude to President Buhari.
Sir Paul Nwosu
Commissioner for Information