Forty-nine years after the construction and commissioning of the 1.4km long bridge across River Niger, on the Onitsha-Asaba waterway, a second one is in the offing, courtesy of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
At last, the dust that gathered around the planned construction of a second Niger Bridge to ease the increasing vehicular weight, and its heavy tonnage of wares on the existing bridge, would be cleared.
Last Monday, March 10, 2014, President Jonathan switched on automated construction equipment to perform the ground breaking ceremony of the Second Niger Bridge at Krisoral ground, Atani in Ogbaru local government area of Anambra State with an assurance that the project, which has been awarded to Julius Berger Construction Company, would be completed in 48 months’ time-on schedule and to specifications.
The cost of the project is placed at N117,860,700,741.82 billion.
The Minister of Works, Mr Mike Onolemenen who was at the site of the ceremony, said the Federal Government was executing the project under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for a concession period of 25 years through the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer model.
It would be recalled that virtually every military and civilian administration had tinkered with the issue of a Second Niger Bridge to complement the existing old one feared to be at the brink of collapse, having been overburdened by daily traffic gridlocks and trucks carrying goods of thousand of tonnage.
This project remained on the drawing board since the 80s, which moved President Jonathan, in his campaign foray in 2011, to promise that the Second Niger Bridge would be constructed before 2015. He lived up to this.
Two years after, the President came up again with the promise, after being prompted, that he would perform the ceremony for the much delayed project on March 10, 2014.
Although the 48- month completion period envisaged for the project crossed 2015 bar earlier slated by Mr. President, it is nonetheless cheery news to the people of the South-East as well as other Nigerians that this artery of commerce is being complemented with an additional arm.
We make bold to shout hurray, for the Second Niger Bridge project has finally crossed political rhetorics.
However, President Jonathan should surmount all odds to deliver on his promised date.