By Samuel Oyadongha
IMIRINGI —Work on the reconstruction of the collapsed Imiringi community bridge in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has reached advanced stage sparking hope that it would be completed on time.
Residents of the serene but fast growing settlement were forced to build a makeshift wooden channel, popularly known as Monkey Bridge, across the Kolo Creek to link the community, when the bridge built over four decades ago buckled during the 2012 flood disaster and the long distance of the narrow SPDC iron bridge from the heart of the community.
The SPDC steel structure, community sources told NDV, was built by the company to enable personnel access its many locations in the community.
Interestingly, the predominantly agrarian community, host to the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, has over 15 functional oil wells and 10 gas wells and the company logistic gas base with ongoing gas turbine which is expected to supply electricity to its residents and that of Elebele, Otuasega and Oruma communities when completed.
Though the reconstruction of the collapsed bridge was started in 2014, it was however, stalled due to funding constraint caused by the drop in the state allocation from the federation accounts during the recent recession experienced in the country.
But the contractor handling the project returned to site about three months ago after it was mobilised by the state government in fulfilment of its promise to the people of the area to construct a new bridge to link the community. When NDV visited the area weekend, work was in progress as the fixing of the beams was ongoing.
The community, it was observed, is a classical case the people saw the project as dear to them and have continued to troop out in their numbers to the project site to see whatever assistance they could render to ensure the speedy completion of the project.
“This is one project we have been yearning for over the years and thank God it is gradually becoming a reality. It is our project and we shall continue to support and protect the workers at site and their equipment. The flood season is fast approaching and it is our expectation that the project will be completed on record time and save us the pain of expending time and resources on our dilapidated Monkey bridge to access our homes,” said Pastor Afagha Ranami, a youth leader in the area.
Another resident of the area, who simply identified himself as Tony, said: “Things are finally taking shape and we are looking forward to the completion and inauguration of the project. As you are aware, the only link to our community presently is through a narrow steel bridge built several years ago by SPDC to enable its personnel access its numerous facilities in the area.
“Our people are mainly farmers and it has been a herculean task carrying their harvest and going through the rigours of passing through the Shell bridge, which is far away from the community, to access our homes and market.
Our appeal not in vain
According to Ranami, “Good work is ongoing. I want to say that our talking and crying and asking the state government to send the contractor back to site instead of keeping the project as an abandoned project, were not in vain. Thanks to the restoration government for listening to the voice of reason. With the speed of work going on, I want to believe the restoration government will meet up their target of commissioning the bridge in the month of June 2018.
“We have made enormous contributions to the national and state coffers and have suffered the hazards of oil and gas exploration in our environment and as such, deserve much more in terms of infrastructural development.”