—As Gambari, Fashola, Ngige, others inspect Bridge, record milestone of walking from Asaba to Onitsha end of Project.
The Federal Government has assured that the Second Niger Bridge will be completed by April 2022 and would be commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari before the end of the year.
Describing the Second Niger Bridge as a national infrastructure with immense socio-economic benefits for the contiguous states and indeed the entire nation, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari who in company with the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, his Labour and Productivity counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige and the Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji inspected the bridge on Tuesday March 8, 2022, said that the project has once again demonstrated the President’s commitment to the bridging of the infrastructure gap in the country.
He said that the project being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing is funded through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
On tolling of the asset when completed, Prof. Gambari said that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had developed a National Tolling Policy for the entire nation and that whether or not the bridge would be tolled was not the key issue, adding that the priority of the government was to get the project delivered. He added that if the road was eventually tolled, there would be alternative route.
“So, when this bridge is tolled, the old bridge is an alternative route, so you have the choice to make between speed and price,” he said.
Speaking on the possibility of managing the bridge through a concession arrangement, the Minister of Works and Housing said the major responsibility of the government was to deliver the project in collaboration with NSIA saying, “Once we have finished, if they choose to concession, they can concession.”
Fashola said that the Ministry has secured the approval of the Federal Executive Council on a National Tolling Policy that is of international standard. “Concessioning of projects is regulated by law. There are rules on how it is done. We are currently supervising the concession of 12 highways across Nigeria through the Highway Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) and the process is opened to the general public. “So, if we choose to concession this one, it will also be opened to the general public,” he said.
He stated that the Chief of Staff to the President was on tour of the project to see that what the Ministry has been reporting is in consonance with what is happening on the Bridge so that he can brief Mr. President appropriately.
The Minister said work on the bridge had reached appreciable level and appealed to the communities around the impressive Second Niger Bridge project to bear with the Federal Government as power supply was going to be interrupted for two weeks to put finishing touches to the project, adding that adequate notice would be given ahead when that would be done.
The Federal Controller of Works in Anambra State and the Engineer Representative of the 2nd Niger Bridge, Engineer Ajani Adeyemo said that the existing Niger Bridge was built in 1965 noting that it has remained the crucial East-West link over the years. However, due to age and excessive axle load and the heavy traffic congestion arising from the enhanced economic activities in the South-East and South-South transport corridors, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing initiated the second Niger Bridge which has attained 93 percent completion under the leadership of President Buhari.
According to him, the bridge when completed would reduce the strain on the existing Niger Bridge, improve traffic flow, improve health, security and create opportunities for the host communities as well as Nigerians to improve their socio-economic activities.
The highlight of the inspection visit was the historic walk of the Chief of Staff to Mr.President, the Honourable Ministers of Works and Housing, the Honourable Minister of Labour and Productivity and others including senior journalists from various media houses from the Onitsha end to the Asaba side of the Bridge.
Director (Press and Public Relations)