* 2nd Niger bridge takes off soon
By Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkwopara and SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY-THE Federal Government has assured that the N9.7billion Benin-Shagamu dual carriage way would be completed in November 2011, just as it disclosed that after the completion of the road, it would last for at least 25 years, which it said would bring to an end the protracted hardship being experienced by Nigerians along the road.
The Minister of Works, Senator Sanusi Daggash who embarked in an on the spot assessment of the entire stretch of the Benin-Ore road, in company of his Minister of States for Works, Engr Chris Ogienwonyi weekend, hailed the quality of work being done by the contractors, but warned the police against mounting illegal road blocks which according to him, was inflicting more pains on road users particularly at the spots where one lane is being used due to the on- going repair works.
Senator Daggash explained that 25 kilometers of the Benin bound of the dual carriage way had been completed while 50km Lagos bound is on-going. He regretted that inadequate release of funds to the contractors had also affected the progress of the job but expressed optimism that the National Assembly would assist the Ministry in the release of funds owed to the contractors so as to compliment the efforts of the contractors, who according to him, has been working despite the slow release of funds by the Federal Government.
His words: â€œFirst of all we have to be thankful to the Almighty that the dualization project of the Benin-Ore-Shagamu road, is steadily moving ahead. The contractors as far as I can see are doing a good job. There are a few challenges as regards to timing.
The contractors have shown good faith, I am also fully aware of the pace and the rate of what we are paying them apart from the down payment; the contractors have not received any money. We as a government owe them, the money is there and they will be paid shortly.
â€œThe contract is N9.7billion. We know that there is being a lapse period because of appropriations but for now, we have over N3billion for the year 2010 and then there is also a short fall from 2009 that is owed the contractors. We will find ways to arrange may be through a supplementation through the National Assemblyâ€™s approval to ensure that we meet up our own commitment that is why I mentioned it on record that the contractors in good fate has kept on working despite the fact that we have only paid the down paymentâ€ he stated.
Senator Daggash recalled that â€œas you see where we are here, (referring to the spot where the former Minister, Diezany Allison-Madueke wept),three years ago, this particular spot, the former Minister of Works, a colleague of mine, had to weep when she saw the state of repair of this road. Today as we can see on both sides of the dual carriage way, traffic is moving freely, meaning at this point in time progress has been achieved and its been like this for the last one year.
â€œThere is still work to be done, but as it is you will see that the work is very good that the binding force it self looks as if it is a finished product. And for infrastructures we are still very committed in doing the best for the over all interest of this country.
You may have seen some sections of the road that are yet to be dealt with. This contract should effectively end in November 2011, so you can imagine the amount of work that the contractors have before them despite the raining season fast approaching. There will be a low season for about three four five months before work will kick off in earnest.
We have asked them to continue to work on the remedial aspect of the job that they can through the raining g season and work will kick off earnestly before the end of 2010â€ he asserted.
The Minister who stopped the convoy when he noticed several roads blocks by the police after Okada junction, stopped his convoy and expressed his disappointments over the way they hold on to traffic in the name of checking vehicles.
He accused the officers of inflicting more pains on Nigerians and also sabotaging the efforts of the Federal Government is ensuring free flow of traffic along that road.
Reacting to the presence of policemen, Senator Daggash told newsmen that â€œ unfortunately some sections of the dual way that are shut, the traffic needs to move one side of the road, and we still have what I can say as illegal check points still closing the dual carriage way into a single lane, thereby causing a lot of traffic. I personally had to come out from my car to instruct that one of the check points should be dismantled.
â€œThese are part of the troubles and challenges that we have as a Ministry. That we will be working on strategies as regards to safety, as regards to security, as regards to protecting the over all integrity of the roads, as we are trying to achieve the standard that we designed the road, people are working contrary to it. But with the quality work that is being done here, we hope that this road will last for about twenty-twenty five yearsâ€ he stated.
The Minister had earlier visited the Edo state Deputy Governor, DrÂ Pius Odubu and the Benin monarch, Oba Erediuwa and assured that before the end of the administration of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, the problems being faced by Nigerians along the Benin-Lagos road would be a thing of the past.
2nd Niger bridge takes off soon
Also Senator Daggash has said that the construction of the second Niger Bridge will take off soon as the present administration is committed to its realization.
The minister, who inspected the site of the new bridge and the existing one in Onitsha, described the project as the first among all priorities of the present administration.
Addressing a mammoth crowd at the foot of the old bridge in the commercial town, Daggash said that the Acting President, Dr. Gooluck Jonathan has directed his ministry to ensure the realization of the project, adding that all the necessary issues, including design, feasibility, soil test and award of contract would be sorted out within the next few months.
He said that all the necessary pre â€“contract arrangements would start immediately, adding that only the most competent contractors would be invited to take interest in the project.
The new bridge, expected to have six lanes, will bye- pass Asaba from the Igbuzor junction in Delta State and all bye- pass Onitsha to join the Onitsha â€“ Owerri highway at Obosi.
According to the minister, the commitment of the federal government towards the realization of the bridge this time is absolute, genuine and real and urged the people to be patient.
â€œWe are fully aware of what is happening as regards this bridge. We have reviewed all the iissues and have been given marching orders by the Acting President to come and assess the situation and to assure you that this is the most important project that will be undertaken by the federal government.
â€œFor the records, the second Niger Bridge is not a bridge for Anambra State . It is not a bridge for the South East or the South South, but a bridge for Nigeria . It is a bridge that affects people who produce in Lagos and those who distribute goods and services from Onitsha to all parts of Nigeria . It is a metaphor.
â€œBeyond moving goods and services, it is a bridge of unityas it binds two sections of the people of this country together. By this bridge, we can interact, move freely, engage in business, create wealth and employment,â€ the minister said.
He described Onitsha as one of the most important centers of commerce in the country, noting that it was for that reason that the federal government build a sea port there after dredging the River Niger and hinted that the town also has prospects of benefiting from the proposed East â€“West railway line.
He explained that while arrangements were being made for the take off of the construction of the second Niger Bridge , the rehabilitation of the existing one would continue.
Governor Peter Obi who accompanied the minister on the visit appealed to the federal government to ward the contract to a very competent contractor.
He commended the federal government for finally taking a positive step towards the construction of the bridge because the existing one could no longer cope with the number of vehicles plying it.