BusinessDay
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Let there be end to Second Niger Bridge project

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday at a joint session of the National Assembly for the presentation of the 2021 national budget, announced that the Second Niger Bridge was 46 percent completed, adding that the 11.6 kilometres bridge would be commissioned in 2023.

This, again, raised the hope of Nigerians, especially those of the South East and South extraction in whose domain the bridge is being constructed.

The Second Niger Bridge project was initiated by former President Goodluck Jonathan, who left office in May 2015, meaning that the idea of the bridge project was initiated anytime before May 2015.

The bridge is being constructed across Nigeria’s Niger River and is intended to ease traffic congestion and will span from Asaba to Ozubulu and Ogbaru areas. The project is undertaken on behalf of the Nigerian federal government by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing jointly with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

The project promises 1.6 km-long bridge furnished with other ancillary infrastructure including a 10.3 km highway and a toll station. It was conceived and designed to be completed in 42 months, that is, three and half years.

In 2015, Jonathan used the project as a campaign tool, assuring Nigerians that while the old Azikiwe (Nnamdi) built the First Niger Bridge, the young Azikiwe (himself) would build the second bridge.

Unfortunately, Jonathan did not win the election for his second term. But, interestingly, this vision has been sustained by the Buhari government which has, at any given opportunity, raised the hope of Nigerians in the seemingly endless project that is fast becoming the oldest construction site in Nigeria.

Originally, the bridge which was designed to cost N108 billion was given February 2022 completion date. Julius Berger, the contractor handling the construction of the project, at a time, told Nigerians that the project would be completed in 12 months.

Much as we share in the euphoria of Buhari’s Thursday pronouncement, we are nonetheless becoming increasingly miffed by what is clearly now an endless shifting of the goal post in regards to the completion of this project.

We urge an end to this project so that its intended benefits would not be lost on the people who it is meant to serve. Like the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, people of the South East Nigeria and their friends look forward to the completion of this project with unreserved hope.

Government should prioritize the completion of this project for many reasons. Besides the many jobs it is already creating and will continue to create, a second bridge across the Niger is all that the government should do to end the end the gridlock that makes travelling to the east, especially during Yuletide, a nightmare.

Viewed from socio-political prism, this is the only meaningful project being undertaken by the federal government in the whole of South East. The few other ones, mainly roads, are either moving at snail pace, or have been abandoned completely for “lack of funding”.

The Buhari administration has, in recent time, woken up to the realisation that rail system is the way to go in transportation, especially at a time when roads infrastructure in the country has more or less collapsed. A good measure of investment has been made in this direction, but the South East Region is not anywhere in the scheme of things.

We, therefore, call on the Buhari government to rethink the 2023 new delivery date for the project. That new date seems to us as a date that will never be, considering that it is the terminal year for the Buhari administration and this country is not known for project continuity by successive governments.

Again, 2023 is an election year and it nowhere in the history of Nigeria that an outgoing government would be concerned with projects and not how to win election. We are not known, in this part of the world to separate governance from election.

For these reasons and more, we appeal to President Buhari to put sentiments aside and get this project done much earlier than he has promised. Buhari was reported to be optimistic about the early completion of the bridge, saying “we hope to commission the project before the end of our tenure in 2023.” We do not doubt him, but we want him to walk the talk.

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