President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday kick-started work on the 1,590- metre long Second Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State after several years of failed promises.
The bridge which would form part of the 11-kilometre Onitsha by-pass project will be completed in four yearsand is to be executed under a Public Private Partnership arrangement that will see the Federal Government contributing 25 per cent of the N117 bn construction cost and the private sector 75 per cent who will recoup their funds within 25 years through tolling.
Jonathan described the second Niger Bridge and the planned national conference that will kick off on Monday, as two major emblems of national cohesion.
“Next week, in Abuja, I shall be inaugurating the National Conference, and it seems appropriate that this bridge, and the conference, two major emblems of national cohesion, are being inaugurated within the same period. I would like to assure you all that every effort will be made to ensure that this Second Niger Bridge is delivered,” he said.
The President told the gathering that comprised top government officials and traditional rulers among others, that his government was confident in the competence of the Concessionaire, Messrs Julius Berger-NSIA Consortium, to deliver the project.
“You will recall that during my electioneering in 2011, I promised the good people of the South-East that if elected President, I would ensure that the 2nd River Niger Bridge, was constructed.
“Today (Monday), I have come, as your President, to start off of this vital bridge project, in order to move that solemn pledge, from sincere promise to concrete reality.
“As part of our administration’s transformation agenda in the road sector, we have set out to construct two very important new bridges, across our nation’s two great rivers – the River Niger and River Benue. These are the Loko-Oweto Bridge linking Nasarawa and Benue states, which is progressing satisfactorily, and this Second Niger Bridge, connecting Anambra and Delta states.
“The Second Niger Bridge, whose foundation we are laying today(Monday), represents a strategic national infrastructure, with great socio-economic prospects for the contiguous states, and indeed, for the entire nation.
“It is an important economic artery that will connect the great markets of Onitsha and Aba in Abia State, as well as the industrial hub of Nnewi and beyond, to both the Northern and Southern parts of our country.”
Jonathan said on completion, the bridge, which is being constructed almost 50 years after the existing bridge opened to traffic, would alleviate the pains experienced by travellers as a result of heavy traffic on the old bridge, especially during festive periods.
He added that the new bridge would significantly improve road transport in the South-East and reduce travel times substantially, in that part of the country.
The President explained that the project had been programmed in strict compliance with the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission Act, and the Public Procurement Act, adding that no stone had been left unturned in ensuring its success.
Jonathan commended Governors Peter Obi (Anambra) and Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) as well as the host communities, for their patience, understanding, support and cooperation in making the commencement of the project possible.
He said as the nation marked its centenary, he believed that the bridge would deepen national integration and also enhance economic and social interaction among other parts of the country and the South-East.
The Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenen, said that the ministry in 2013 commenced Phase I of the project, including survey, morphodynamics study and soil investigation.
Onolemenen said, “Let me at this juncture appreciate the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for her strong support for this project and for facilitating the World Bank support in the proposed construction of the by-passes.’’