By Babajide Komolafe
Nigeria’s economic development aspirations will receive a major boost come October when the 2nd Niger Bridge is commissioned.Located in the south-east region of Nigeria, the 2nd Niger Bridge is expected to boost economic activities and open up development in that part of the country.
Impact on Economic Development
The importance and expected impact of the 2nd Niger Bridge on economic activities and growth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, is reflected in a World Bank study by Isreal Arturo (1991) which indicated that transportation investments, particularly roads, are among the most productive.
Furthermore, in another World Bank study, Cesar Queiroz and Surhid Gautam (1992), projected that $1 of investment in paved roads can lead to about a five-fold increase in a country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
Elaborating further in this regard, they stated: “A rationale for the equation above is that “infrastructure investments contribute to economic growth by increasing the productivity of other economic inputs.
“Road transport is particularly important for developing countries, where it provides about 80 to 90 percent of the total inland and/or border crossing transport of people and goods. “An effective road network can hasten progress in agricultural and rural development, industry and trade, the viability of urban areas, and the expansion of jobs, education and personal opportunity”.In Nigeria, road transport contributed N826 billion or 1.75 per cent to the nation’s GDP in 2021, according data by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.
Thus, the N206 billion projected investment in the 2nd Niger Bridge is expected to enhance the contribution of road transport to Nigeria’s GDP to the level of countries like India where it accounts for about 3.6% of GDP.
Prior to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the 2nd Niger Bridge was an aspiration, a political promise, and at best a plan in the drawing board. The journey to its actualisation started with the creation of the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund in 2018. The PIDF was created to accelerate the execution of certain critical, strategic infrastructure projects essential to the rapid growth and modernization of Nigeria’s economy. The PIDF is managed by the NSIA.
The NSIA brought some of its own capital, the capital provided by the federal government and the fund returned to Nigeria as Abacha loot. Projects executed under the PIDF include the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road, and Second Niger Bridge (2NB) Project Thus, the 2NB is being implemented by the NSIA with funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The bridge aims to minimise traffic congestion on the old bridge and to strengthen connectivity in the entire region.
The project is being constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. and involves the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in Q3 2022, construction of two secondary bridges at CH25+166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which have now been completed, demolition of existing flyover and construction of new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha-Owerri Road), scheduled for completion in August 2022.
According to Uche Orji, Managing Director/Chief Executive, NSIA, the 2NB is 91 per cent completed with N157 billion spent so far.
“The total project cost is estimated at N206 billion. So far, about N157 billion has been expended on the project. It doesn’t mean that the outstanding sums won’t be utilised. This is just the expenditure to date.
“As it stands, the entire stretch of infrastructure i.e. road, bridge and interchange etc is about 84 per cent done at this point while the bridge alone is over 91 per cent done,” he said.
According to Orji, while in terms of percentage, the major works have been done, the finishing works are quite extensive and would take a few months, stretching into October this year.In this regard, the linking of the Second Niger bridge was done on April 2nd, marking a major milestone towards completion of the project.
The feat was witnessed by top officials of the federal government led by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; the Chairman, Board of Directors of the NSIA, Mr Farouk Gumel, the NSIA Managing Director, Uche Orji; and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State Gilbert Ibezim.
Speaking at the event the Minister, Ahmed said, “Today is a very significant day in the construction cycle of the second Niger bridge. This is one of the most iconic projects in the country at an initial contract cost of N206 billion.“Today, we have been able to fund this project with N157 billion and I’m here to see where all this money is going to. And also, the significance of today is that the two ends of the bridge are being put together and this is the final phase of the work in truly completing the project and the finishing work of the bridge.
“So technically, I can report to Mr. President that I have seen where all the N157bn has gone to. This is a project that is very dear to the President and it is designed to uplift the lives and livelihood of the people of the South-East and other parts of the country. 2nd Niger Bridge: A development Aspiration Actualised
“And we do hope that when this project comes on stream, it will ease traffic, will enhance commercial activities and improve the lives of the people of the state.
Describing the 2NB as a very significant project for the federal government, Ahmed said the government attached so much importance to the Second Niger Bridge project because of the huge developmental impact which the project would have on the lives of Nigerians.
While expressing satisfaction at the pace and quality of the job done by both the NSIA and Julius Berger, Ahmed also noted the employment generating impact of the project with the creation of about 20,000 jobs.
“I am happy to see women working at the construction site and not only men. Julius Berger has brought some very unique innovations in the construction of this project and I want to on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria applaud the skills of the construction workers that have been working on this site.“This project has been going on 24/7 all year round with people working in shifts and that the workers are operating from within here and in the surrounding states. Many jobs have been created. So up to about 20,000 people are working on this project.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Mr. Farouk Gumel, Chairman, Board of Directors, NSIA said “The Board is pleased with the quality and pace of work. Undoubtedly, the 2nd Niger Bridge is a vital piece of national infrastructure. With the construction now over 84% done, it will soon begin to confer on this axis, reduced travel time and minimal traffic which will in turn increase economic activities and enhance the connection between northern and southern parts of the country. A Nigeria that is suitably connected with world class infrastructure is the Nigeria of our dreams and this road will help in achieving that.”
A major fallout of the 2NB project is compensation for Nigerians, whose lands were affected by the project.
In this regard the NSIA CEO assured that a significant portion of the compensation has been settled by the government though more assessment was still being made with a view to compensating those that would still be affected as the project progresses.He said: “Regarding compensation, this is an ongoing affair, we had paid significant sums earlier. However, there are still some more compensations to be made. We expect to close these as we continue to work.
“As you can see, the bridge itself is 11.9 kilometres, there still remains 17 kilometres of road on this side and the Asaba end of the road that will be paid for. “Assessment is still being made for compensation. What I can assure you is that the directive we have from the President and from the Minister and our Board is that adequate compensation is to be paid to everyone who is affected.”