Paul Osuyi, Asaba
For residents of Ovwor-Olomu and Effurun-Otor communities in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, the narrative is about to change.
Over the years, the communities, which share boundary appeared to be so close, yet so far apart. No thanks, to lack of a link bridge over the river separating them. They longed for closer intimacy but the lack of needed infrastructure did not help facilitate such desire.
However, investigation revealed that 29 years ago, the contract for the construction of a link bridge was awarded to the admiration of residents of the communities. They expressed hope that the bridge would boost their socio-economic ties.
But their hopes were soon dashed as the job was abandoned. They continued to suffer as successive administrations did not see the bridge as a priority project, hence they could not continue work on it. During the first tenure of the present administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the contract for the completion of the bridge was awarded.
Residents, this time around, received the news of the re-award of the contract with mixed feelings. They were skeptical that the project would be abandoned again.
But they were wrong, as the government matched words with action. Now, residents are singing songs of joy as a result of the completion of the bridge. The 100-meter long with 20-meter span, has a height of 45 meters above sea level and 300 meters asphalt road and side drains on both sides of the approach.
Commissioner for Works, James Augoye, said the project was a dream come true for the people of both communities, adding that it was another milestone in achieving the Stronger Delta vision of the administration.
He said the project opened up the economic landscape of both communities, and that investors were now free to invest in the area without hindrances:
“The successful completion of this project is one of the legacy projects of the Okowa administration. We are proud that it is one of the achievements of indigenous engineering in Nigeria.
“The bridge was long abandoned by subsequent administrations since 1991 when it was first awarded by the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). The completion of this bridge opens up both communities for investment as you can see that economic activities have picked up tremendously.”
Chairman of the contracting firm, Obakpor Engineering Construction, John Oguma, said: “I am the most fulfilled man today because of the completion of this legacy project.
“I call it a legacy project because my father is from Ovwor and my mother is from Effurun-Otor. This bridge was first awarded in 1991 but abandoned by previous administrations. The people of both communities and their generations unborn will long remember Okowa for this legacy project.”
Meanwhile, the people of Ayakoromo community in Burutu Local Government Area and Egbo-Ideh in Ughelli South appealed to the state government to fast track the completion of the link bridge like it has done to Ovwor-Olomu and Effurun-Otor communities.
Chairman of Ayakoromo community, Mr. Miekoromo Moses, who made the appeal, said the bridge would facilitate socio-economic activities in the area: “We, the entire people of Ayakoromo community appreciate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for embarking on this bridge project since he came into office, and has brought the project to a reasonable level.”
The project, which is about 68 percent completed. Augoye said the contract for the project was awarded in 2013 by the immediate past administration, adding that it suffered funding challenge until 2015 when Okowa assumed office. He disclosed that more funds would be released to mobilise the contractor back to site.
He said with work at 68.5 per cent completed, the project would be up-scaled in 2021 to ensure that it was completed before the end of the administration in 2023. He said: “The governor specifically directed me to visit the site to see what is happening here.
“From what I have seen, the contractor has not mobilised fully back to site, although there are some skeletal works going on here. He has assured me that they will mobilise fully soonest. I want to assure the community and the contractor that the governor has taken this bridge as a top priority project.
“This is the only project whose cost was not reduced in the reviewed budget. It has a provision of N1 billion in the revised 2020 budget and we intend to scale it up in the 2021 budget. The governor has also assured me that he is going to release funds to the contractor to facilitate the work.
“I appeal to the contractor to ensure that he returns fully to site to complete the piling work, and once that is done, the work is as good as completed.
“The project was awarded in 2013 and has been facing so much funding challenges, but when Governor Okowa took over in 2015, he decided that this is one the projects that must be completed in the life time of his administration.
“So, it is our desire that this project will be completed and inaugurated before the end of this administration in 2023.”