By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Succour will soon come the way of motorists plying the ailing Okoso Bridge on the East-West road along the Kaiama-Zarama stretch of Bayelsa State as the construction firm Setraco has commenced work on the rehabilitation of the collapsing structure.
To this end, the bridge has been closed to traffic to enable the speedy completion of the rehabilitation work so as to avert its imminent collapse.
Interestingly, the structure, one of the several bridges connecting the troubled East-West road almost collapsed sometime in 2004 due to erosion before it was rehabilitated by Julius Berger which reinforced its weak base at the instance of the Federal Government intervention agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
But over the years, the reinforced base again started giving way due to neglect and erosion and was on the verge of caving in prompting the intervention of the Niger Delta Ministry this time around.
The ministry directed Setraco Construction Company, the firm handling the dualisation of the road to effect the speedy repair of the collapsing bridge before proceeding with the other segment of the road.
This reporter who visited the ailing bridge, which had claimed the lives of several road users in the past because of its tricky surface, especially during heavy downpour observed a large presence of security operatives (soldiers) and the deployment of heavy duty equipment to the site.
Though vehicles were still passing through the sagging bridge when Vanguard visited the area in the early hours of the day but a construction worker who spoke anonymously, said the route would be closed to traffic for a specific period of time daily to ensure the speedy completion of repair work on the bridge.
The exercise, he noted would be completed on schedule because of the strategic nature of the road to the populace and the nation oil and gas industry.
Some motorists who spoke to Vanguard described the intervention of the Niger Delta Ministry as long overdue saying the measure would no doubt save the bridge from imminent collapse.
They, however, pleaded with the relevant authorities to carry out periodic maintenance not only onÂ the ailing structure but also all the bridges on the route so as to save cost of building new bridges in the event of outright collapse of such structures.
â€œIf only government would ensure the periodic maintenance of its structures the Okoso Bridge would not have degenerated to this sorry state,â€ lamented John Owei, a Sagbama based civil servant.
Another concerned commuter, who simply identified himself as Stanley Pereko said, â€œPart of our problem in this country is that we lack maintenance culture. How do we expect a bridge that was constructed almost three decades ago in this type of swampy terrain to stand the test of time without routine maintenance?
â€œIt is not possible especially with the large number of heavy duty haulage trucks that passes through the route. The federal government owes the citizens the responsibility to embark on periodic repair of the road and the bridges because of the swampy terrain.â€
It would be recalled that the Niger Delta Ministry had last week announced plan to close the route to traffic to enable the firm handling the dualisation of the road to effect repair work on the collapsing structure.