Dr. Akintola omigbodun
The Federal Ministry of Environment, FMEnv, has released for public comments the report of an Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, study with respect to the planning, construction and operation of a new bridge project across the River Niger at Onitsha.
The new bridge is to be located at a distance of about 1.6km downstream of the existing bridge. The project is to be executed in three phases, Phase I, Phase 2a and Phase 2b. The route for the project takes off from the Benin to Asaba expressway at a point west of the Asaba airport, it is located south of the existing route, it crosses the Onitsha to Owerri expressway and comes to an end on the Onitsha to Enugu expressway for a total route length of 42km.
Phase I lies between Phases 2a and 2b and it consists of a road length plus toll plaza on the Delta State side of the river, a 1.59km long bridge and a road length on the Anambra State side that links the bridge to the Onitsha to Owerri expressway. Phase 2a is about 23km long and it connects the western end of Phase I to the Benin to Asaba expressway while Phase 2b links the eastern end of Phase I to the Onitsha to Enugu expressway.
Phase I is to be realised through a Public Private Partnership between the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, and a consortium made up of NSIA Motorways Investment Limited and Julius Berger Investments Limited. The consortium will design, build, finance and operate Phase I during a 25-year concession period after which Phase I would be given back to the Federal Ministry of Works. Funding for Phases 2a and 2b would presumably come from the FGN.
The report of the EIA study gives a description of Phase I. The carriageway would have six lanes of traffic, three lanes in each direction. The toll plaza would be 500m long and 115m wide and allow for 20 lanes of traffic, 10 lanes in each direction.
It is assumed that vehicles passing through the toll plaza are in the ratio 50% cars to 50% heavy goods vehicles. Time for payment is assumed to be 10 seconds for cars and 15 seconds for heavy goods vehicles. Traffic studies at the existing bridge put total traffic count for a 24-hour period at 13460 vehicles eastbound in the ratio 75% light vehicles to 25% heavy vehicles while westbound traffic was 13786 vehicles in the ratio 83% light vehicles to 17% heavy vehicles.
The EIA report does not indicate the levels of toll charges nor how these charges would be determined. However, the report states that the stakeholders consulted during the study indicated that they were apprehensive about the tolling system and that they were willing to pay reasonable rates for using improved infrastructure.
The report went further and stated that the envisaged reduction in travelling time might not translate into cost reductions for the general public if the cost reductions are outweighed by exorbitant toll fees that are incorporated into the cost of goods and services.
The report of the EIA study is a draft report and a final report is to be submitted after a public presentation of the draft report to stakeholders and a panel of experts. The public reaction to the charges in the power sector shows that people are interested in knowing what they are paying for.
The cost of the capital employed is a major factor in the charges in the power sector. Road construction costs in Nigeria appear relatively high and with high interest rates, the public may find the toll charges high. The final report of the EIA study should therefore give an idea of what the toll charges would be.