AFTER years of uncertainty, work has finally begun for the construction of the controversial 2nd Niger Bridge that would link the South –South and the South East geo political zones to support the existing one.
Following a statement by the minister of labour and employment, Senator Chris Ngige Saturday in a television programme in Onitsha, that the federal executive council had approved N14 billion to enable Julius , the contractor handling the project, to commence work, Saturday Vanguard visited the site and found out that there were serious signs that work would begin in earnest. Some people, who looked like construction workers were seen yesterday, surveying the area where former President Goodluck Jonathan performed the ground- breaking ceremony during the twilight of his administration.
Many job seekers were also seen in the area, although there was nobody to attend to them yet. The bridge had been enmeshed in politics over the years such that it had remained on the drawing board for a period that spanned several administrations. Ngige had said during the television interview that in addition to the N14 billion, the federal government would release another N16 billion this year for the construction of the bridge, adding that the amount was accommodated in the 2017 budget.
He said that the redesigned bridge would have a railway line that would connect Asaba in Delta State with Onitsha in Anambra State to ease the pressure of heavy duty vehicles using the bridge to transport goods. However, one nagging issue facing the project is the payment of compensation to people whose property would be affected by the bridge. Though arrangement for the compensation had been made, Ngige urged the people not to stand in the way of the project by making what he called unnecessary demands.
“This is a project that previous administrations played politics with and the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to ensure its realization. Our people should not allow the issue of compensation to hinder the construction work because of its enormous benefits to the people,” the minister said. He said that apart from the 2nd Niger Bridge, work had also started on the Enugu-Onitsha and Nnewi- Okigwe federal highways, as well as the Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt expressway.