Posted by Pamela Eboh, Onitsha | 11 March 2014 | 5,208 times
Business activities in Onitsha, the famed commercial town east of the Niger, virtually came to a halt yesterday as many traders locked up their shops and trooped out to witness the making of history as President Goodluck Jonathan laid the foundation stone for the construction of a second bridge across the river linking Asaba in Delta State with Onitsha in Anambra State.
Though the tight security did not allow the traders to get close enough to the venue of the ceremony, News Express saw them hanging along the roads leading to the venue in a desperate bid to catch a glimpse of proceedings.
The ceremony which was held at Atani road in Ogbaru was graced Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and all the South-East Governors, with the exception of Rochas Okorocha of Imo and Sullivan Chime of Enugu. A crowd of National Assembly members, ministers and other prominent citizens also graced the event.
Speaking at the occasion, President Jonathan allayed fears that the project may yet be abandoned or only used as a political gimmick, assuring that it would be completed not only as scheduled but also according to specification.
The Nigerian leader described the Second Niger Bridge as being critical to his administration’s resolve to improve the economic fortunes of the country, saying it as a fulfillment of one of his campaign promises.
He disclosed that he chose to perform the groundbreaking ceremony before Anambra State Governor Peter Obi’s eight-year tenure wounds up on the March 17, based on the governor’s unrelenting efforts to ensure that the project was realised.
According to him, “It is my resolve and that of my administration to ensure that this unity bridge is built to connect Asaba and Onitsha. I want to urge the governors of Anambra and Delta states to ensure that the project is built on time and according to specification.
“The essence of monitoring the progress of work at the bridge is to ensure its timely completion. I also want to reiterate that we have every reason to deliver the Second Niger Bridge to Nigerians.”
In his speech, Governor Obi expressed happiness that after a long waiting, the construction of the Second Niger Bridge has become a reality. He stressed that the bridge when completed would help increase the economic activities in the entire country, not only at large but in the South-East in particular.
The governor said: “Mr. President, I don’t need to tell you how happy my people are; it is evident that the people of the South-East and Nigeria at large are happy that today, you are building the Second Niger Bridge.
“It is the most important project that will connect all the communities as people from this part of the country can travel to any part of the country and even outside the sub regions freely using the Second Niger Bridge. We have confidence that the bridge will be built to last.”
Obi further commended President Jonathan for effectively ensuring speedy construction of Zik’s Mausoleum which, he observed, would ensure that the spirit of the former President of Nigeria rests in peace in his final resting place because, according to him, the Owelle of Onitsha was not properly buried.
Also, the Minister for Works, Arch. Mike Onolememen, said the project, as part of the transformation agenda of Jonathan’s administration, is meant to improve the infrastructural and socio-economic activities of the nation.
The minister explained that the federal government would execute the project under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for a concessional period of 25 years through the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DPFOT) model.
He noted that the second Niger Bridge was long overdue, adding that it is 1,590 metres long and forms part of the 11.90 km length project which construction cost is put at N117,860,700,741. 82, VAT inclusive. Onolememen gave the time lapse for the completion of the construction to be 48 months. The project is to be constructed by the popular German construction company Julius Berger.
On his part, the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji, said that by starting work on the bridge, President Jonathan has shown critics the importance of South-East in the Nigerian project.
He noted that the bridge, which will serve as a gateway to the southern part of Nigeria, will also boost economic activities of the people and solve the problem of loss of many hours being spent on the existing Niger Bridge which often experiences excruciating traffic.
Describing the project as a dream come true, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu extolled the leadership qualities of President Jonathan, noting that he has demonstrated an uncommon love for Ndigbo and Nigeria at large by the commencement of the construction of the Second Niger Bridge.
On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Ayogu Eze, said the senate would ensure proper oversight function to ensure that the project was delivered according to specification.
While pointing out that the project when completed will boost commerce in the South-East and the neighbouring states, he observed that Igbos have fully been reintegrated into the nation with the emergence of President Jonathan with appointment of Igbo people into very sensitive positions which they had never occupied since the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
Eze narrated a story of how their journey to upgrade the Enugu Airport to an international airport before the emergence of President Jonathan failed due to the fact that the South-East was in the past always left at the back burner.
Apart from governors Obi, Uduaghan, Orji and Martin Elechi of Ebonyi, other eminent personalities that attended the ceremony include the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Chief Sunday Onyebuchi; Coordinating Minister for Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Information, Mr. Labaram Maku; Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike; Senators, Ayogu Eze, Ken Nnamani, Andy Uba and Joy Emodi; and Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha.
•Photo shows a prototype of the bridge.
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