By Favour Nnabugwu
The Julius Berger-Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, consortium, the contractors handling the 2nd Niger Bridge, has promised to complete the project on schedule.
This position was contained in a statement signed by the Managing Directors of Julius Berger and the NSIA, Messrs Wolfgang Goetsch and Uche Orji, respectively, in Abuja, yesterday.
The duo described as untrue reports that there were plans to abandon the project, which was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan recently.
They denied reports that work on the project was suspended due to non-compliance with environmental laws .
The statement read: “Julius Berger-NSIA consortium wishes to clarify that reports suggesting that work on the bridge has been suspended due to non-compliance of environmental laws represent inaccurate and misconstrued information.
“Contrary to recent reports, work on the second River Niger Bridge project continue to progress according to schedule, to ensure timely completion of the bridge, which is set to be executed under the Public Private Partnership, PPP, arrangement for a concessional period of 25 years through the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer, DBFOT, model.
“The consortium also highlights that compliance with Nigerian Environmental Laws continue to be deemed a paramount priority and that Environment Impact Assessment, EIA, is an intrinsic part of the project, which is carried out in compliance with the environmental laws that govern Nigeria and in collaboration with the relevant ministries.”
The cost of the project was negotiated down from N138,530,896,346.72 to N117,860,700,741.82 (VAT inclusive) and certified by Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP.
Of this amount, the Federal Government will be contributing N30 billion as its equity participation in the project.
In one of the reports on the suspension of the bridge, Mr. Osita Okechukwu had told delegates during All Progressives Congress, APC, Enugu State, congress that the 2nd Niger Bridge had been suspended.
Okechukwu, who is the spokesman of APC South-East, had stated that the 2nd Niger Bridge was a strategy by President Jonathan to deceive the Igbo community.
He had reportedly said: “Now that the 2nd Niger Bridge has been suspended, we call for international competitive bidding and due process to govern the award of the contract.
“This is why the Minister of Environment, Mrs Laurentia Mallam, in line with due process and best international practices has exposed the grand deception by refusing to issue certificate to resume work, because there is no Environmental Impact Assessment Report.”
It would be recalled that the poor state of the bridge, constructed in 1963, had been a major concern of Nigerians from the South-East.
This is because the bridge, which is the main link between the South-West and South-East, and connects two large cities, Onitsha in Anambra State and Asaba in Delta State, had been in a bad state.
The bridge, which forms part of the Arterial Route A232; Enugu-Onitsha-Asaba-Benin-Shagamu, is 1,590m in length and located 1.7km downstream of the existing bridge on a new alignment.