By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
THE Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, has rolled-out the commercial and economic trajectories of its investment action on the second Niger Bridge, linking South East economic region to South West and Lagos.
The Managing Director, Mr. Uche Orji, said that the project would bring about significant increase in economic activity in the region and beyond.
According to him, it would be a toll bridge to recover investors’ funds, while increasing the efficient use of man-hours, as the usual traffic on the bridge would become a thing of the past.
He stated: “We expect this to be tolled and we expect this to be profitable. We expect all the commercial benefits that will accrue as the bridge and road are done to lead to higher traffic and as a consequence, we expect that the toll revenue over 25years of the concession would more than pay and earn the return that we expect from the project, that is number one.
“Number two, the alignment, it goes rounds a little bit before you get to Asaba airport, it goes all the way round through the right side of the current bridge and it comes out at the Onitcha-Owerri interchange and goes all the way down heading to the Onitcha-Enugu Express interchange.
“The Chinese always said if you want to develop your country build a good road and they built many roads in their country and you can see how many people were lifted out of poverty.
“It is everything from the person who finds it difficult to take their goods to the market, suddenly with the road transportation cost will come down, that is one aspect of economic benefits. It is also a sign of fiscal integration.
“The third aspect is the industrial nature of this part of the country; many companies, some of them I know very well, moved out of here because of the inadequate infrastructure. The industrial concern here will benefit from this and I expect many of them to come back and restart because the skill sets here is quite significant in terms of supporting that industrial concern.
“Fourthly and this is for the preliminary studies of traffic that we have done shows that a significant chunk of the traffic on this road isn’t just South East and South-South. It is also for North Central and from North Central to people from, as far as, Ogoja in Cross River North, Taraba many of them taking their goods tend to cross here. So it is something that is of a wide economic benefit,” he explained.
What the bridge means to us – Obi of Onitsha
An elated Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, at the occasion of the inspection visit of the on-going project by Orji recently, described the bridge as “strategic” to the commercial city, as well as, commuters who traverse the area on a regular basis.
He said, “This bridge is very strategic, connecting all parts of the nation. It will save the time of travelers. It will open up the whole area. We ask for fairness to all parts of the nation. Until it is done, it is not done.
“We have waited for so long and nothing was done. It had been promises and more promises. But this time around, something is being done. We will keep praying that the work is sustained because it is a win-win projects that will benefit all Nigerians.”
We have waited for long
— Iyase of Asaba
The Iyase of Asaba, Chief Patrick Onyeobi, the traditional Prime Minister, said that Asaba people had waited for the Second Niger Bridge for many years and were glad that, work had started on the project. According to him, the old bridge which was constructed in the early 1960s had become grossly inadequate , resulting in gridlock and waste of man hours among those who had to commute across it regularly.
The new bridge, he said, would greatly impact on the nation’s economy and especially in the area. He urged the construction firm and the federal government to consider Asaba indigenes in the employment for the construction work and other job opportunities that might arise from the entire project.
The Project Manager, Mr. Friedrich Josef Wieser, told Orji, who was at the project site on an inspection recently, that the bridge would be delivered on February 28, 2022.
Successive governments had used the Second Niger Bridge as an election campaign point but they almost always reneged on their promises after using it to secure the electorate’s votes.
That story has, however, changed with the coming on board of the NSIA.
The authority’s boss told journalists at the site that his organization meant business with the construction of the bridge which connects Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre and the South West region to the South-East, South-South and up to the North Central region.
Orji, put the cost of phase I of the project, consisting of the bridge and the approaching parts of the roads from the two ends, at N220 billion.
He disclosed that the NSIA had paid the sum of N33 billion to the contractors, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, which has already raised many pillars and other super structural works of the bridge.
The NSIA boss expressed renewed commitment to funding the project, as according to him, the receipt of $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) had boosted its capacity for fund the Second Niger Bridge and other national priority projects.
He was confident that besides the PIDF and NSIA funds, private sector investors would also be attracted the multi-billion Naira project as it progresses.
Project delivery update
On the progress of work at the construction site, the NSIA boss said, “In terms of where we are now on the Second Niger Bridge, the contract was signed and the contractor was paid his advanced in August and that is what is pushing us to feel very confident that from where we are we are on track for what is scheduled handover in 2022.
“The total project, the part of it that we are responsible for in phase one is 11.9 km and that is 1.6 km water crossing plus all these pillars you are going to see for yet another almost 10 km.
“The idea as you can see is that no matter how high the water level rises in the raining season, the bridge is above it. When rain fall gets to a certain point these whole area turns into a flood plain, so we have elevate it over a very long stretch.”
Mr. Orji said he was confidence that the project would be adequately funded to meet the February 28, 2022 deadline set for the contractors.
His words, “We are very confident with the new funding mechanism which increases by way of support from the federal government.
“When it gets to the part when we are going to need private sector participation which we are hoping the fund would be raised sometime in 2020, it would not be difficult to raise that private sector portion of the funding.
“We are pleased; we have gone from early works 1, 2, 3, 4 to now main works. The commitment we have secured form the contractor is that you will start to see what looks like a visible sign of the bridge shortly. You can already see that a lot of work has already gone on but slab and the part of the bridge that is now coupling all these pillars we expect that to start next year.
“It is not a cheap project, we are looking at something in the neighbourhood of N220 billion as the cost of the project.
“We have done most of the structuring, there is a lot of money we have spent on project preparation and the sequencing of the fund are such that we have started with PIDF, NSIA money will come and third party funding will come. We want to make sure that it is sequence properly so you don’t burden the project with a huge amount of cost.”
The funding structure is very simple, the idea NSIA, third party from the market, so we would give you more details on that but at the moment we are very comfortable with what the plan is.
PIDF first phase has inject 650 million dollars but that is for the five projects. PIDF will also significantly inject yet another sum, we are expecting another 650 but that again is for the five projects.