By PETER OKUTU, Abakaliki
RESIDENTS of communities in Ishielu Local government area of Ebonyi State are presently living in fear of an imminent disaster. Their fear derives from the belief that the Eguho-Ebonyi bridge in the area would soon collapse if urgent steps are not taken to either rehabilitate or reconstruct it.
Presently no vehicle of any class, including motorcycle, is allowed to ply the bridge any longer to avoid mishap.
The Eguho-Ebonyi Bridge which links the whole of Ishielu LGA, including Ntezi, Ezzagu Ezekuna, Ezzagu, Azuinyaba, and Agba-Ezekoma communities, with its counterparts in the area failed last week as residents, commuters and motorists were compelled to take alternative routes to their various destinations.
Vanguard Metro, VM, learnt that the bridge which was built over 40 years ago became weak as a result of huge water pressure on its abutments during the last heavy down pour that lasted over three days in the state. The bridge also failed because of the huge traffic on it during the last Ezza-Ezillo crisis in the state.
During the crisis which started in 2008, the bridge served as the safest alternative escape route for those fleeing the insurgency in Ezza-Ezillo communities.
The state of the bridge wouldn’t have worried most people in the area if not for the delay in the completion of the ongoing Bridge of Unity embarked upon by the Governor Martin Elechi-led administration since 2008.
This project suffered setbacks allegedly because of the poor engineering design and death of the former contractor who handled it from inception.
This development, VM gathered, did not only paralyse socio-economic activities in the area but also hindered free flow of goods and services into the state. In addition, it has also affected the supply of medical services as bereaved families now carry the corpses of their loved ones during burial ceremonies through alternative routes, while women undergoing antenatal are also suffer the same fate.
VM gathered that a popular market in the area, Nwafor Eluoji Market, which is popular for items like garri, okro, yam, groundnut, among others, is no longer booming as a result of the collapsing bridge. The market which is older than the state usually attracted marketers from other states in the South East geopolitical zone of the country.
Assessing the level of defects on the bridge in company of a team of engineers, the State Commissioner for Works and Transport, Chukwuma Nwandugo, assured the people of government’s commitment to ensure that the bridge was repaired and made passable by both commuters and motorists in no distant time. He affirmed that the reasons for the failure of the bridge were traceable to the level of traffic on it during the last Ezza-Ezillo war in the state and also due to the heavy down pour in the area which soaked both the soil and abutments of the bridge.
He said: “What we have there is a failure of the abutment which has made it, of course, impossible for people to pass.
From my assessment, we discovered that it required metal reinforcement that will be welded on both ends that will now make motorists and vehicles to pass through it easily. For now, vehicles cannot pass because of the vacuum created and I believe that in no distant time we will be able to rectify the situation and the bridge will be put to use again.
“From my findings, there is no single casuality from that because no vehicle was on the bridge when that happened and nobody was also on top of the bridge. My discovery is that it was as a result of hugewater pressure that came on the abutment and this abutment is not the type we use now; it is the colonial type which is not reinforced at all and so due to water pressure the concrete became weak and gave way and that is why we have that failure on the abutment. It is not a difficult job to do. All we have to do is extend the abutment away from the failed spot. Everything has to be in alignment with the big centre abutment. I hope that within a short period this anomaly will be solved; I’m appealing to the people to reduce the pressure on this metal bridge to avoid any casuality”.
As soon as we connect this to that, everything is metal; metal work does not take so much time, the state government is swinging into action immediately.
“We will swing into action as quickly as tomorrow (today); we are going to commence all sorts of metal work and when you are doing metal work, it doesn’t take time and very soon the bridge will be put to use” Meantime, the member representing Ishielu South Constituency at the State House of Assembly, Hon. Julius Nwokpor noted that with the failure of the bridge, the people of the area could no longer come into their communities again except through Enugu state.