By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA—AFTER initial skepticism about the sincerity of the Federal Government to construct the 2nd Niger Bridge, many residents of Onitsha in Anambra State are now showering praises on the government, as the project is indeed becoming a reality. South- East Voice visited the bridge weekend and observed that the tempo of work is increasing by the day.
At the rate the work is going, the project might be completed before the targeted date of 28th February, 2022.
Elated by the progress of work on the bridge, those who spoke to South-East Voice said the work had come to a stage that it would no longer be abandoned. Mr. Chijioke Nwamadi, a welder at the Onitsha-Atani road said he never believed that the 2nd Niger Bridge would be constructed in his lifetime after years of playing politics with it until he started seeing serious work going on.
“For years, we were hearing of 2nd Niger Bridge, especially when elections were drawing near, but now the project has become a reality. I hope God will keep me alive to drive on this bridge when it is completed and I want to commend the current administration for giving us this landmark project,” Nwamadi said.
His worry, however, is that with his workshop very close to the bridge, he might be sacked from the place sooner than later as the people have been warning him to leave the place. He added that he was already looking for a safer place to relocate before it is too late.
A trader, Mr. Johnson Nnadiugwu said he has been following the progress of work on the bridge with delight, adding that apart from the fact that some of his relations secured employment with the construction company handling the bridge, he is looking forward to a day vehicles would start plying the 2nd Niger Bridge. Nnadiugwu said even if toll gates would eventually be mounted on the bridge, it would still be better than what motorists were passing through on the existing bridge.
The decision to construct another bridge across the River Niger was informed by the fact that the existing Niger Bridge, which was built in 1965, had become somewhat of a risk due to age, excessive axle load and immense traffic congestion arising from enhanced economic activities on the South-East — South-West transport corridor. The new bridge is intended to reduce the strain on the existing Niger Bridge, improve traffic flow, reduce vehicle running cost and generally enhance socio-economic activities in the South- East region.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the 2nd Niger Bridge was performed on 10th March, 2014 signaling the take-off of the construction of the very important national infrastructure, with the construction giant, Messrs Julius Berger (Nig.) Plc as the main contractor.
The construction of the main works of the 2nd Niger Bridge is one of the three phases of the new alignment conceived to originate at the Benin-Asaba Expressway Interchange and terminate at the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway Interchange.
The total length of the project is 11.9Km, which includes the construction of the Second Niger Bridge located 1.7Km downstream of the existing Niger Bridge, with a length of approximately 1.6Km from the Asaba end to the Onitsha -Owerri interchange.
Construction commenced on 1st September, 2018, with projected completion date of February 28, 2022. As at last weekend, percentage completion of the main works was 20.66 per cent while the overall percentage completion was 23.81 per cent. Sand filling on both the Onitsha and Asaba ends of the bridge is in progress and the new bridge would be about three times wider than the present bridge.
The length of the main bridge is approximately 1,600km across the River Niger, while a total of 10.3km of approach roads is being constructed. This is made up of 3.3km on the Asaba side and 7.0km on the Onitsha side of the main bridge. The existing flyover on the Obosi bypass of the Onitsha- Owerri interchange is to be demolished for a more convenient interchange. On completion of the bridge, travellers to and from the South –South and other parts of the South-East would no longer have to enter Onitsha unless by choice.
Federal Controller of Works in Anambra State, Mr. Mr. Adeyemo Ajani said weekend that over 80 per cent underwater piling had been completed, while only few pillars were yet to spring up, after which the main panels would begin to take their position.
According to him, the design of the bridge is such that it could stay over 100 years before showing any sign of decay underneath.