By Vincent Ujumadu & Chidi Nkwopara
THE Minister of Works, Senator Sanusi Daggash, has said that the construction of the second Niger Bridge will take off soon as the present administration is committed to its realisation.
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 crowd at the foot of the old bridge in the commercial town, Daggash said Acting President Gooluck Jonathan has directed his ministry to ensure the realisation 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 added that all the necessary preâ€“contract arrangements would start immediately, adding that only the most competent contractors would be invited to take interest in the project.
The new bridge with six lanes will bye-pass Asaba from the Ibuzor junction in Delta State and also bye-pass Onitsha to join the Onitshaâ€“Owerri highway at Obosi.
According to him, the commitment of the Federal Government towards the realisation 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.