Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The people of Imiringi, in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, are in pain. The oil-producing community, with more than 15 active oil wells and 10 gas wells, cannot understand why a major bridge that connects the community to other Ogbia towns, built in the 1970s when Ogbia was still under Brass Local Government Area in old Rivers State, would be left uncompleted.
The Imiringi Bridge was lost to the devastating flood of 2012. Since then, the people have been looking forward to when it would be reconstructed.
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson had lamented that the recession that hit the state prevented it from accelerating work on it but promised that his administration would complete it before leaving office.
“As we speak, the bridge has been abandoned. I think I can boldly say that the Imiringi Bridge is one of those projects that would be abandoned by the outgoing government to be inherited by the incoming government. Since 2019, the contractor has left because of complaints of non-payment of funds. The rays of the bridge and the flooring have been completed, what remains is the stepping down and the embankment,” said Ranami Afagha, a native of the community.
“The non-completion of the bridge has affected the people of Ogbia and Imiringi. For those driving, whether it is a vehicle or motorcycle or tricycle, it means that, to get to Imiringi, they would have to go 180 degrees turn. This has not helped economic activities, especially those coming from other towns of Ogbia. The bridge is the main entrance to the community. For almost eight years it has been hell for the people.
“There have been enough people that have spoken from Ogbia and those outside about the bridge. But should people talk before government would do what is right? The Imiringi Bridge was the biggest monument that was destroyed during the 2012 flood. It is expected that government would take that as a priority.
“Aside from that, Imiringi as a community is contributing to the monthly allocation accrued to Bayelsa State as an oil producing community. Imiringi has 15 oil wells and 10 gas wells. Government should not be told before it does the right thing.
“We are not going to blame the Federal Government because the money that that has been used to reconstruct the Bridge is from the ecological fund. The fund was only channelled through the state government.”
Another resident, Mrs Gift Adaka, said: “It is pathetic that our people and visitors heading to the old Imiringi settlement. Driving from Kolo-Emeyal end is also difficult as you would need to make 360-degres turn to access the community through narrow steel constructed by the Shell Petroluem Development Company (SPDC).”
“When this bridge collapsed in 2012, we were devastated. We lost farmlands and crops like people in other parts of the state but we also lost our bridge. We thought we could recover from the loss because we believed government would come to our aid. But it is seven years now that it has collapsed and we are still unable to use the bridge,” Collins Inafe lamented.
He added: “Imiringi is an oil producing community. We have contributed to the financial status of Bayelsa State with the federal allocation. It is unfortunate that we would be allowed to suffer like this. We had thought that by June 2018 it would have been completed but here we are. It is sad that it is abandoned.
Edwin Mofedari said: “Our community is endowed with oil and gas resources and we have made enormous sacrifices for the country and state. We have 15 oil wells, which are enough for the government to show this project deserves attention. The pace of work on the project at a time was encouraging before it fizzled out. It is sad that the completion target has not been met.
“Our hope now is that the incoming administration would reward us by paying attention to this project. Farmers from Imiringi are finding it extremely difficult to convey their products to the markets. We have high expectation that the new government would leave up to expectations.”
Programme Officer, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Morris Alagoa, said: “My concern is that the bridge is one of the major infrastructure damaged during the 2012 unexpected 2012 flood, which we all know was not man-made. It is also painful when you consider the fact that the Otuasega- Imiringi was also completely damaged by the same flood and the Federal Government through FERMA and other agencies repaired that road.
“Even the bridge on the road that was completely destroyed has been repaired by the Federal Government. It is, however, surprising that the state government that took about three years to go into the replacement of the unity bridge after the devastating flood is yet to complete the project.
“When we were thinking about two years ago that they were about finishing for us to clap and celebrate them it has been abandoned.”
Mr Rueben Amitdor said: “The Imiringi Bridge is an open sore that should not be abandoned. As it stands, we now look up to the incoming government to salvage the situation and return Imiringi to its place of pride. The Dickson government, which has taken the project to this level, should complete the payment so that the new government can monitor its completion.”