Magnus Eze, Enugu
The 2022 completion date of the Second Niger Bridge has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction company handling the multi-billion project has said.
This is coming on the heels of stakeholders’ concern about the missing rail component in the design of the new bridge under construction.
President of Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA), Chris Ukachukwu, who disclosed this in an interview with Daily Sun at the 32nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Anambra/Enugu/Ebonyi branch of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Enugu, yesterday, said they got the hint in June while on a courtesy visit to the Project Director. He said that the contractor might require at least additional six months to the earlier completion date.
According to him, the Project Director, Friedrich Wieser, had informed the ONICCIMA delegation that aside the law suit slammed on the contractors by Ogbaru communities claiming N2.5billion as damages, there was also the challenge posed by the recent COVID-19 induced lockdown.
Ukachukwu stated that Wieser had lamented that the gridlock and chaos imposed on the River Niger Bridge by the Anambra and Delta State governments, while enforcing severe restrictions there to contain the spread of COVID-19, adversely affected supply of materials needed for the work.
Quoting the Project Director, he said that “what would have been taken one day to deliver took one week.”
Although, preferred movement status was later granted the company after meetings with high-ranking Anambra and Delta State governments’ officials; Daily Sun gathered that not much could be achieved by the contractors because there was no way to approach the bridge due to the heavy congestion.
Recall that the Anambra State government had, in its effort to enforce the presidential order restricting interstate movement, erected iron gates at both ends of the Niger Bridge.
ONICCIMA boss opined that with the new status of Onitsha River Port as a ‘port of destination’, whereby imported goods could be transported through tugs and barges and cleared at the port; the provision of rail transportation in Onitsha had become a serious necessity.
He, therefore, called for the amendment of the design to make provision for rail line now that the construction of the bridge was still ongoing.
Ukachukwu expressed ONICCIMA’s gratitude to the Federal Government for sustaining the construction of the new bridge through the solid funding arrangement already put in place for the project.
He also expressed satisfaction at the pace of work on the project, and disclosed that the chamber had been in constant discussion with stakeholders, especially host communities, to ensure that any encumbrances to the completion of the project are cleared.