Jhe second bridge over the Niger has been on the drawing board since 1976 and there has been no movement on this project until construction began on September 1, 2018.
The bridge, which is being constructed over the Niger River, will span from Asaba (Delta State) to Ozubulu and Ogbaru areas in Anambra State.
It will serve as a major link between the South East and South West regions of the country.
After four years of substantial funding, a federal government delegation led by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, carried out an inspection visit to the Second Bridge over the Niger project, the second in three weeks to learn about the progress of the work. to make sure he meets the deadline.
The high-level delegation includes the Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr. Farouk Gumel, and the Managing Director of NSIA, Uche Orji.
Just three weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari inspected the works of the project.
Buhari, who was represented by his chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, was accompanied by the minister of public works, Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; NSIA MD, Uche Orji and other senior government officials.
During this visit, Fashola said that contrary to people’s assertion two years ago that there was no bridge, the rapid pace of work at the site against all odds had shown otherwise.
“What I said is that the bridge link will be completed around February or at the latest by the end of the first quarter.
“We are now heading towards the end of the first quarter and as you have heard they will complete the eastbound link on March 15 and the westbound link on April 2,” he had said.
Speaking shortly after the second inspection, Ahmed described the bridge as a very important project for the federal government.
She said the government attached so much importance to it because of the huge development impact it would have on the lives of Nigerians.
Ahmed said he was pleased with the pace and quality of work being done by NSIA and Julius Berger.
The Minister said: “Today is a very important day in the circle of the construction of the second bridge over the Niger. It is one of the most iconic projects in the country at an initial cost of N206 billion.
“Today we were able to fund this project with 157 billion naira and I am here to see where all this money is going. And also, the significance of today is that the two ends of the bridge are being assembled, and this is the final stage of the work in the real competition of the project and the finishing work.
“So technically I can report to Mr. President that I have seen where all the 157 billion naira have gone. This is a project that is very dear to the President and it is designed to improve lives and livelihoods. livelihood of people in the Southeast and other parts of the country.And we hope that when this project comes into effect, it will facilitate traffic, improve business activities and improve the lives of people in the state.
One of the objectives of the bridge is to minimize traffic congestion on the old Niger Bridge and enhance connectivity throughout the South East region.
Under the new agreement, the scope of works has been widened to involve the construction of a 1.6 km bridge over the Niger River, scheduled for completion in August 2022, the construction of two secondary bridges at CH25 +166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which are now complete, the demolition of the existing flyover and the construction of a new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha- Owerri Road), which is scheduled for completion in August 2022.
The project also includes the construction of a 3.3 km approach road on the Asaba side and a 7.0 km approach road on the Onitsha side of the main bridge, the completion of which is planned for October 2022, toll station at CH25+700 which consists of eight lanes in each direction. , scheduled for completion in October 2022, and clearing the site of the right-of-way (right-of-way), including the removal of all bushes, trees and shrubs.
The construction works of the project also involve soil improvement including soil exchange, geotextile as a filter layer, geotextile for base reinforcement, prefabricated wick drains, sand columns covered with geotextile and the geotextile for base reinforcement.
Once completed, the project will provide significant socio-economic benefits to the contiguous states and even the country as a whole by easing traffic flow, improving road safety and creating greater opportunities for residents and neighboring states, regenerating economic life as well.
The access roads will direct traffic to the bridge via two 17.5 km access roads on either side of the bridge and improve the viability of the project.
Speaking about the project, NSIA Board Chairman Mr. Farouk Gumel said, “The Board is pleased with the quality and pace of work. Without a doubt, the 2nd Niger Bridge is a vital part of the national infrastructure.
“With the construction now over 84% complete, it will soon begin to provide this axis with reduced travel time and minimal traffic, which in turn will increase economic activities and improve the connection between the northern and southern parts. from the country. A Nigeria properly connected with world-class infrastructure is the Nigeria of our dreams and this road will help us get there.
One thing that was also a source of concern during the initial phase of project implementation was the issue of compensation.
But this is no longer a challenge as a significant number of settlements that have been affected by the project have been adequately compensated.
The NSIA says the construction of the second bridge over the Niger will be completed in 2022.
Orji previously revealed that all plans were to deliver the project before the end of the year. He described the project as one of the legacies of the government led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He indicated that the bridge will see the light of day thanks to the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (FDIP) set up to ensure the realization of such projects.
The NSIA boss has identified other projects to include Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highways.
“The PIDF was created in 2018 with the aim of attacking certain areas where we are stuck as a country. There were projects that had been on the drawing board for 40 or 50 years, no movement. So the president decided to isolate them from the current process and create a new funding mechanism to move these projects forward more quickly.
“The second bridge over the Niger, for example, has been on the drawing board since 1976 and there was no movement on this project until the PIDF was actually put in place; The Lagos-Ibadan highway faced a similar type of circumstance; The Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, these are projects that have been blocked, the Mambila hydro project is also there, everyone knows that we have to redo them to make sure that we stimulate economic activity a little more effectively.
“So the PIDF was set up as a mechanism that creates a vehicle that takes the government contribution, the NSIA contribution and opens the door for investors to make sure we complete these roads on time and progress has been quite impressive.”
Orji said all of the projects the NSIA is doing are legacy projects from the president, many of which are slated to open next year.
Speaking at the inspection site, Orji said: “As it stands, the whole infrastructure i.e. road, bridge and interchange etc. , is about 84% complete at this point, while the bridge alone is over 91% complete,” he said.
According to Orji, while in percentage terms the major works have been completed, the finishing works are quite extensive and would take a few months, extending until October this year.
Clearly, this very important project, when completed, would help fill a major infrastructure gap in the country.