…As Fashola visits abandoned projects in S/East
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
In the six years of Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency, the people of the South-East region had hoped that the Second Niger Bridge would be completed to no avail.
President Jonathan performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the bridge believed would help the existing bridge ease off traffic.
Jonathan had at the occasion and at different fora in the South-East assured the people of the region that he would complete the new bridge on record time.
But during the time Jonathan was in office no serious work was carried out on the bridge, making the people of the region not to trust promises made about the bridge.
As President Jonathan left office last year, the people of the South-East completely lost hope on the Second Niger Bridge.
However, there appears to be a new hope on the Second Niger Bridge after the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, visited the place and promised that work would soon begin on the construction site again.
Fashola gave this assurance during his recent visit to Anambra State to access ongoing and abandoned Federal Government projects in the state.
The minister also said that the completion of the late Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Mausoleum and the reconstruction of the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway would equally take off as soon as possible.
At the site of the Second Niger Bridge, the minister said that it would be completed very soon, adding that he came to assess the project in order to fast-track its completion.
He said: “The compensation is not extinguished by the fact that the bridge is being built, so nobody gains by stopping the construction of the bridge; nobody gains by stopping the construction of the access road. The access road from the Onitsha end and Asaba end that are under design, need to be quickly completed.
“As you might be aware, this bridge was conceived as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Federal Government and some other investors.
“Essentially, this was the first Nigerian free move towards the PPP and comes with a lot of challenges. The investors do not understand the host communities and so they will not commit money until they are sure there will be no more hostility; they want commitment in writing and by conduct to be sure that if they commit money into the project it will not be stopped by court actions and injunctions or by acts of violence.
“So, those are the assurances that I came here to seek and bring the commitment of the Federal Government to ensuring that this bridge, which is one of the largest infrastructural projects under this administration, will be completed as soon as possible
“I have been briefed since my assumption of office of the status of work and also the issues relating to lands, compensation issues, and identification of appropriate land owners. There are issues about the wholesomeness or lack thereof of environmental social impact assessment studies conducted. I have also been briefed about the letters written by His Royal Highness to recommend certain persons to help in identifying and representing the interest of the land-owning families.
“In my meetings with the contracting firms, I have made it very clear to them that not only must this bridge leave transport asset behind, it must leave the economic prosperity behind for the people who host it.”
Governor Willie Obiano, in his remarks, urged the Federal Government to refund the N43.8 billion owed the state on the federal projects it has so far handled.
He also appealed to the minister to rehabilitate the collapsed Enugu-Onitsha Expressway and revive the Nnewi Power Station, among other projects.