Work on the second Niger Bridge linking Asaba in Delta and Onitsha in Anambra, has reached 50% completion, Mr. Wkscont Ajani, Federal Controller of Works, Anambra, has stated.
Ajani informed the NAN in Awka on Thursday that 310 out of the 615 piles in the project had been driven in addition to one pipe culvert and 4 box culverts.
He stated that seven pile caps at 100, 110, 120, 290, 300, 310, and 320 had additionally been completed.
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“At the Asaba end, abutment has been completed while preparation of reinforcements for the piles, pile caps, pier stems and box culverts are in progress at the Onitsha main yard,” he stated.
Ajani who didn’t state the present value of the project stated it was awarded to Julius Berger construction firm in 2014 at the preliminary cost of N200 billion.
The federal controller of works stated that the contract had 4 years period and was awarded under Public-Private-Partnership.
He noted that the first Niger Bridge was constructed in 1965 to realize Federal Government’s policy of expansion and upgrading of transport facilities.
He stated that the bridge was constructed to support the nation’s development and economically link the then regions.
“However, since the construction, commuters and vehicles travelling on roads in the South-East have increased as a result of population growth, increased income and urbanisation,” he said.
Ajani stated because the present Niger Bridge could no longer sustain the rising volume of traffic, government decided to construct a second one.
The federal controller of works stated the new bridge would form an important link inside the key national transportation corridor.
He stated it would provide a strategic access point for people of the south-east and the south-south zones in particular, and Nigeria in general.
“The advantages of the bridge include reduction in the pressure on the current bridge infrastructure and easing traffic flow.
“It’s going to enhance safety and security in the area by potentially lowering traffic congestion; and improve the business viability of the immediate states and the nation.
“Local residents will have opportunity to work on site during the construction phase, thereby improving their financial prospects.
“This will enhance capacity building for young Nigerian engineers in different areas of engineering, particularly highway engineering,” he stated.
Ajani stated the bridge would go a long way in improving the local content throughout its construction.
He additionally stated that on completion, farmers in the area would have more access to a bigger market within a reduced time frame.
NAN reports that the construction firm has commenced constructing of a new website yard at Ogbaru in Anambra to make sure ease of work.
However, the heavy rains recorded in the space in recent the weeks have slowed down work on the project.
A workers of the company who pledged anonymity informed NAN at the project site that work stopped around 12 noon on Wednesday because of the rain which began as early as 6.00.
He stated that the water level in the river was on the rise and added “as soon as the water level reduces, full work will proceed.
“We’re working on some access roads while the federal ministry continues to be negotiating with land and building owners over compensation,” he stated.
In the meantime, the people of the riverine communities of Amakom and Oko-Analu in Delta have appealed to the federal government to expedite action on the project.
In keeping with them, the slow pace of work on the project isn’t desirable and disappointing.
Mr. Uzoma Achidike, a teacher at Amakom Primary School, stated the pace of work was a major source of concern to the people because that they had expected government to give it priority consideration.
“Right here in the community, we’ve expected that government would take this project very seriously by ensuring prompt provision of logistics and strict supervision to allow the contractor deliver.
“Regrettably, the reverse is the case right here. As you may see, the entire place is just sand and sand pilling day by day. There has been no major work happening right here.
“For example, the slow pace of the sand-filling is presently causing a huge pain to us because it has triggered heavy flooding in our communities.
“Flood has sacked many people in Amakom and Analu, and many of them, largely farmers, have deserted their farms to seek refuge in either Asaba or Onitsha,” Achidike stated.
Additionally Mr. Boniface Okelue, a youth leader in Amakom, stated the pace of work had not been encouraging.
Okelue stated that the locals had anticipated fast action on the project to solve the perennial traffic problem on the 53-year old first Niger Bridge.
“We had thought by now massive work will be going on right here, however that has not been the case over the past two years.
“Go and see people suffering at the old bridge day by day as a result of heavy traffic. Sometimes people sleep there till the next day,” Okelue stated.
A farmer, Mr. Donatus Ebenuwa, stated work on the road connecting the bridge to Oko mainland had been slow.
“The work is very slow; the sand-filing job is not even going on regularly. If you see them today, you’ll not see them again for the next three days.
“Our roads and primary school have been over-flooded; government should ensure that the project is completed quickly,” Ebenuwa stated.