Iyere Bridge is a very deep bridge located in Ogwuma Edda, Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on a dangerous valley that is as old as the area.
The people of Afikpo South are predominantly farmers who pro-duce rice, yam, cassava and other crops in large quantities. Their soils are very fertile for the crops and this accounted why the last administration of Chief Martin El-echi in the state established a rice mill cluster to assist the people in processing their rice after harvest.
Hills and valleys
But the people are badly chal-lenged by hills and valleys that surround the area. One of the val-leys is Iyere valley that is almost 1 kilometre deep.
It is a very deep and dangerous valley that has claimed many lives. The bridge that was constructed on the valley at the down side of it could not save motorists and other road users from multiple accidents.
The bridge/valley links Abia, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Imo and other neighbouring states of Eb-onyi and is the shortest route to those states.
But the frequent road crashes which has cost many lives, forced travellers to be following Afikpo/Okigwe Expressway – much lon-ger route. It was only the people of Afikpo South that were using the road to access their farms and their neighbouring communities.
difficult to climb valley. Some of them even fell into the gorge and died while passing the valley.
However, in the last two years, the state government took a bold step and embarked on the construction of the bridge/valley to end the frequent road crashes on it. The bridge has been completed by Governor David Umahi along with the surrounding access roads.
A stakeholder of the area, Mrs Dorothy Obasi said the bridge was a nightmare be-fore it was constructed by Umahi
She said: “I was born and bred in this place. Before the construction of this bridge, it was a nightmare. In fact, we were born with this, our ancestors inherited this and we are proud of this. We reside in hilly areas but then, it was not tarred like this with concrete. So, it was a very difficult terrain for us, it was so difficult that if you are climbing it will be very difficult and if you are coming down, it will also be very difficult.
“So, we thank the governor for coming to our rescue by constructing this bridge.
Actually, it was a death trap. We have wit-nessed many accidents, deaths uncount-able before now but today, it’s a new story, it’s a new dawn, God has seen us through. We have never had this in our place before.
“This hill is a very important connec-tion to other neighbouring states in the country. We have boundaries with Abia State, Cross River State, Imo State and even Akwa Ibom. So, is a short cut to those states. With the development coming to Eb-onyi State including the new airport, you can see that it will attract a lot of traffic”.
The Project Site Engineer, Orji Okoro recalled that a vehicle carrying 58 mem-bers of Olumba Olumba Ogbu had plunged into the ditch and all the occupants died instantly before it was constructed by the governor.
He noted that Umahi decided to con-struct the road to ease movements, add-
ing that it will enable the people to easily evacuate their agricultural produce.
“Two years ago, the governor found it very necessary to construct this project and this is the longest and highest flyover in whole of this state. In fact, it is being adjudged the biggest in the whole of South East Nigeria. The length of the bridge is almost half a kilometre, 485 meters to be exact.
“What necessitated the construction are easy movements because this place used to be a death trap. It was constructed for easy movement of agricultural goods.
“There was a time Olumba Olumba Church members were coming from Cal-abar and the vehicle that was carrying them, carried 58 of them. On getting to this place, the vehicle plunged into the ditch and none of them came out alive and there are incidents of people coming home from Aba, Abia State for Christmas celebration who also lost their lives here too.
“The bridge has very deep foundation. So, there is no way landslide will remove it. The bridge has Nigerian content; we began it, we supervised it and we completed it. The challenge we were having when we were constructing this bridge is that any-thing it rains, the ground becomes slippery and you cannot work, that’s the only chal-lenge we had,” he said.
While inspecting the bridge, the Chair-man, Elders’ Council in the state, Engr. Ben Okah, who led his members on the assessment, said the construction of the bridge has saved many lives.
He added that the construction has also developed the area and increased traffic on the road, describing the bridge as one of the most important bridges in the state. He opined that the bridge will also serve as tourist centres because of the serene environment.
Okah added that the upper and lower Edda in the area who have been separated as a result of the value can now interact properly following the construction of the bridge.
“This bridge will save many lives. I want to thank God that I am alive too because as a young Engineer, it was my route. Each time I finished my jobs in Abia State, I take this cut short to Abakaliki. As a young per-son, I didn’t care but now, looking back, I thank God for saving my life.
“This Iyere Bridge is one of the most important bridges in Ebonyi State because this area is one of the most economically endowed areas of the state and it connects to different states; Ohafia and Abiriba ar-eas of Abia State, Cross River State, Imo State and the people of this area are farm-ers. So, this bridge is a very important link bridge and it has opened different business.
“If you look at the serene nature of the valley and the bridge, you can agree with me that film makers can now access here and there are many other things that can happen here and the two areas of Edda; the upper Edda and the lower Edda can now interact very well. It will increase interac-tion, it will increase peace and security. I cannot drive through the old road under any kind condition because when you look at this place and look down at the old road, going through that old road looks like sui-cide attempt.
“So, I want to thank the governor so much for having the large heart, the com-mitment to the people to embark on this construction. This place looks impossible; how can state government embark on this kind of project? But today, it’s a reality and in very short while now, people will forget the danger this place constituted before.
“This bridge is sitting on piles, at a sec-tion it’s on piles. At another section, you will see a mass concrete. So, it’s impossible for a slide to affect this bridge. That calcu-lation was taken into effect before the con-struction and I witnessed the foundation.”