Anambra and Delta states are gearing up for an increase in economic activities as the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) prepares to deliver the much-awaited 1.6-kilometre Second Niger Bridge by the third quarter of 2022.
During an inspection tour of the bridge, whose construction officially commenced with a ground-breaking ceremony on March 10, 2014, government authorities confirmed that it was already 83 percent ready.
The bridge, which is primed to link parts of the South-East/South-South regions to the rest of the country, is intended to reduce the strain on the existing Niger Bridge, improve traffic flow and security, as well as create opportunities for the host communities, and Nigerians, for improved socio-economic activities.
On February 25, 2018, the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) was established by President Muhammadu Buhari to accelerate the execution of certain critical, strategic infrastructure projects essential to the rapid growth of the country’s weak economy.
The Second Niger Bridge Project, connecting Asaba in Delta State and Onitsha in Anambra State, was then selected to benefit from the PIDF, which is being run by the NSIA- managers of Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Speaking during the site visit, Ibrahim Gambari, chief of staff to the president, raised optimism that the bridge, when completed, would enhance the economic activities of the communities.
Gambari, who led the team, confirmed that the Federal Government as the sole financiers of the project has so far committed about N400 billion, in addition to the N10 billion committed to the project by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
He toured the site alongside Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing; Chris Ngige, minister of labour and productivity; Uche Orji, MD/CEO of NSIA; Lars Richter, MD of Julius Berger Nigeria, who conducted the officials round; and other top government officials.
Gambari described the bridge as one of the legacy projects of Buhari, and expressed satisfaction with the work done.
He was optimistic that, with the pace of work so far, the project would be delivered by the third quarter of the year, as assured by the contractors.
He commended the contractors for not just the speed of work, but also their safety and environmental concerns in the execution of the project.
Details available to BusinessDay indicate that scope of the project, which is being constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, include the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in August 2022; the construction of two secondary bridges at CH25+166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which have been completed, as well as the demolition of existing flyover and the construction of new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha-Owerri Road), scheduled for completion in August 2022.
It also involved the construction of 3.3km approach road on the Asaba side and 7.0km approach road on the Onitsha side of the main bridge, scheduled for completion in October 2022; toll plaza at CH25+700 consists of eight lanes in each direction, scheduled for completion in October 2022; site clearing of the Right of Way including the removal of all bush, trees and shrubs, and also soil improvement including soil exchange, geotextile as a filter layer, geotextile for base reinforcement, prefabricated vertical drains, geotextile encased sand columns and geotextile for base reinforcement.
Buhari had on November 12, 2020 approved the second phase of the project, which entails the construction of the Benin-Asaba Expressway and Onitsha-Enugu Expressway. The approach roads are intended to drive traffic to the bridge via two 17.5km approach roads on either side of the bridge and enhance the project’s viability.
“Upon completion, the project will offer significant socio-economic benefits for the contiguous states and indeed the entire nation by easing traffic flow, improving road safety, and creating greater opportunities for residents and neighbouring states, thereby regenerating economic life,” Orji told BusinessDay.
He said, “The project completion date elapsed in February 2022. The delay in completion resulted from occurrences such as the COVID-19 pandemic, EndSARS protest, local community protest and the imposed sit-at-home order by IPOB.
“However, with the expected monthly minimum work progress achieved by the contractor, the project would be completed in the third quarter of 2022.”
However, there would be power disruption around the Owerri interchange for two weeks to enable the Transmission Company of Nigeria to relocate and realign the high-tension transmission lines, Fashola disclosed.
This would pave the way for the completion of the ring roads connecting the bridge from all routes.
Fashola also announced that with the completion of concrete work on the bridge, making it possible for a walk from the beginning to the end, the minor alignments on the structure would be finished before the end of next month.
The Julius Berger boss, Richter, had told the entourage that the company deployed a special technology to stabilise the ground for the construction work to progress in earnest and provided environmental safety for all the communities around the area.
Adeyemo Ajani, who is a director in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and a representative engineer for the Second Niger Bridge, said, “The bridge itself (without the adjoining roads p) is 93 per cent completed, which means that all the sub-structure works have been completed and the super structure is ongoing.
“We have just 10 metres to link the entire bridge of 1.6km at the moment. We have commenced the finishing works, such as parapet and other auxiliary works on the bridge.
“All things being equal, the bridge would have been completed and ready for use by October this year. On completion, because it is not a stand-alone bridge, the ministry is thinking of doing a temporary connection via an access road around Oko in Delta, immediately after the old toll gate, to put it to immediate use, linking not just Onitsha, but also Owerri.”