Gyang Bere, Jos
Saturday, June 27, 2020 would for long remain a sad day for residents of Duamkwan-Haambiak villages in Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State. It is a border town between Plateau and Taraba states.
It was a day a downpour caused the collapse of a major bridge linking the two states.
The day had started on a boisterous note for residents of the community. The residents, who are mostly peasant farmers, woke up that fateful day in high spirits ready to proceed to their farms despite the bad nature of the roads in the area.
But their joy would be short-lived, and the lively atmosphere soon beclouded by agony as they soon discovered that the downpour had washed away the only bridge linking the two states.
One person was confirmed dead in the incident while many others sustained various degrees of injury.
Besides the heavy rains, the bridge also suffered its sad fate as a result of old age. The collapsed bridge and the road were constructed in 1970s and have both become dilapidated, begging for rehabilitation and reconstruction. The people have, at various times, pleaded that the road and bridge needed attention, but the Federal Government has largely ignored their pleas.
Since then, life has become a hellish experience for people of the affected communities. Right now, they cannot go to their farms, neither can they move freel between their community and neighbouring towns and villages within Plateau and Taraba states.
Chairman of Shendam Local Government Area, Alex Miskoom Naantuam who visited the bridge, regretted that the life of a promising young man was cut short by the unfortunate incident.
He regretted that the collapsed bridge also left several persons injured and cautioned members of the community to be conscious of their movement particularly on market days, in order to avoid more deaths.
“Our pain is the cutting away of communities that are within this areas. Another major unfortunate thing is that this sad incident led to the death of a promising young man and few others who sustained various degrees of injuries.
“We are here first to sympathies with the families of the dead and to also pray with those who sustained injuries for fast healing.
“This incident has clearly affected the socio economic life of the people and we will ensure that we go back to do the needful to reduce the hardship caused as a result of the unfortunate incident.
“We are calling on the people to be very careful because the season is here and the road is bad. We want those who will want to go and celebrate during some market days to be very careful because the road is bad.
“We want to use the opportunity to call on the Federal Government to come to our aid because the road is long over due for rehabilitation. It was constructed in the 1970s and we want people to continue to have hope in government,” he said.
A few days after the incident, Governor Simon Bako Lalong undertook an on the spot assessment of the damaged Lantang-Wase Bridge. He admitted that the collapsed bridge has cut off travel between the two local governments and also with other parts of the State as well as communities in Taraba State.
Governor Lalong, who was accompanied by Secretary to the Government of the State, Prof Danladi Atu, Cheif of Staff Noel Dongjur and some members of the State Executive Council, said he was at the site to personally assess the situation and also reassure the people that the state government would not neglect them.
Lalong said: “Although this is a federal road, we have to immediately intervene in order to ameliorate the suffering of the people since this road is a major commercial corridor in this area. This is one of the roads that I submitted to the President for Federal Government intervention, and it has been approved. I will soon be in Abuja to intimate him on this development so that the bridge can be rebuilt immediately,” the governor said.
The governor also ordered the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy to immediately provide boats that would be ferrying people across the river while intermediate works were being carried out on the bridge.
Lalong went further to visit the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola at the Ministry’s headquarters to seek an immediate solution. He said the people of Wase, Langtang and others plying the road up to Taraba State had been completely cut off as a result of the collapsed bridge.
“I took a personal visit to the area to see things for myself last week. And as you know, it is a federal road. From what I saw, it is something that needs the federal government’s financial might to fix.
“I have asked my people to provide boats as alternatives for now, but this cannot be sustained for a long time considering the economic activities that take place in the area. We need the quick intervention of the Federal Government which is why I decided to pay this visit to you.”
Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola sympathised with the people of Plateau State and the immediate local Governments of Wase, Lantang and other areas who have been negatively impacted by the bridge collapse.
He said already, the Federal Controller of Works in Plateau State has filed a report with a recommendation for the replacement of the bridge since the collapsed one was old.
He said the ministry has commenced designing and costing of the new concrete bridge, which will take two months to complete.
He directed that immediate palliative work should be carried out to restore temporary connection for people of the area while the permanent solution is being worked out.”
Emir of Wase, Alhaji Muhammadu Haruna Sambo commended Governor Lalong for showing concern and coming to see things for himself despite sending teams earlier. He said the collapse of the bridge has cut off Wase Local Government from some parts of the state and is greatly affecting economic activities.
He appealed to the governor to impress it on the Federal Government to expedite action on the rehabilitation of the entire road as well as the bridge in order to save his people from economic deprivation.