Official confirmation that the 2nd Niger Bridge project will be inaugurated before the end of this year, has brightened prospects for Nigeria’s economy, writes Tony Chukwunyem.
First proposed more than forty years ago, the Second Niger Bridge, until the coming of the current administration, had appeared to be a typically jinxed Nigerian project because even though there is a general agreement about its importance, especially with regard to linking the South East with the South South and South West, easing traffic flow and offering significant socio- economic benefits for the entire nation, among other benefits, successive administrations were unable to get it off the ground. However, President Muhammadu Buhari, having promised Nigerians on October 8, 2020, that his administration would complete and commission the Second Niger Bridge before the end of his tenure in 2023, looks set to fulfill that promise. Reason: On two separate occasions within the last one month, high powered Federal Government delegations have embarked on an inspection tour of the project, which is among key projects under the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA)-managed Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) . Significantly, at the end of their visits to the project site, the delegations reiterated that the Second Niger Bridge would be completed before the President leaves office.
Prof Gambari’s visit
The first visit was by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari. Specifically, on March 8, Prof Gambari, who was inspecting major Federal Government legacy projects across the country, led a team of senior government officials, including the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; his Labour and Employment counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige; Managing Director of the NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, to inspect the progress of work on the bridge. After the inspection tour, the Chief of Staff, who disclosed that the Second Niger Bridge had so far gulped over N400 billion, said that he was satisfied with the work done so far and was optimistic that, with the pace of work, the project would be delivered by the third quarter of the year, as promised by the contractors. He explained that out of the N400 billion already spent, the previous administration committed N10 billion into the project, adding that contrary to insinuations, the project was being funded 100 percent by the Federal Government. In his remarks, the Minister of Works and Housing, Fashola, announced that with the completion of concrete work on the bridge, making it possible for a walk from the beginning to the end of the 1.6 kilometres stretch, the minor alignments on the structure would be completed before the end of April. He said: “What I said was that the bridge link will be completed around February or at the latest the end of the first quarter. We are now heading towards the end of the first quarter and as you have heard from them, they will complete the east bound link on the 15th of March and the west bound link on the 2nd of April.”
visit Indeed, as Fashola had predicted, the linking of the Second Niger bridge was done on April 2 in the presence of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; the Chairman, Board of Directors of the NSIA, Mr Farouk Gumel, the NSIA Managing Director, Uche Orji; and the Anambra State Governor, Professor Charles Soludo, who was represented by his Deputy, Gilbert Ibezim, during a tour of the project site. Mrs Ahmed, who was clearly excited by the level of work on the project, told journalists that her visit was to find out how the N157 billion that the Federal Government had so released for construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge was being utilised. Describing the 2nd Niger Bridge as “one of the iconic projects in the country,” the Minister, said the project would “uplift the lives and livelihoods” of the people of South-east and Southsouth parts of the country, when completed. She said: “Today is a very significant day in the construction cycle of the second Niger bridge. This is one of the most iconic projects in the country costed at an initial contract cost of N206bn. “Today, we have been able to fund this project with N157bn and I’m here to see where all this money is going to. And also, the significance of today is that the two ends of the bridge are being put together and this is the final phase of the work in truly completing the project and the finishing work of the bridge. Similarly, speaking on the project, Chairman, BOD NSIA, Mr. Farouk Gumel, said: “The Board is pleased with the quality and pace of work. Undoubtedly, the 2nd Niger Bridge is a vital piece of national infrastructure. With the construction now over 84per cent done, it will soon begin to confer on this axis, reduced travel time and minimal traffic which will in turn increase economic activities and enhance the connection between northern and southern parts of the country. A Nigeria that is suitably connected with world class infrastructure is the Nigeria of our dreams and this road will help in achieving that.”
According to analysts, upon completion, the Second Niger Bridge would undoubtedly be one of the most enduring legacies that President Buhari would leave for the country’s economy when his second term in office comes to an end in May next year.