Whenever the general elections are around the corner, they will begin to tell us about the Second Niger Bridge: how the government is very much interested in the project, the “massive work” already going on there, and how the government will make sure that the project is delivered on time to save the people of the South East unnecessary sufferings, etc.
At the end of such elections, when we would have voted them, they will recoil back to their tents and forget everything about the Second Niger Bridge, only to come back close to the next elections to make another promise.
On February 25, 2014, former Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, while defending that year’s Appropriation Bill before the House of Representatives, claimed that the Federal Government would be spending N117 billion on the Second Niger Bridge. According to him, out of this amount, N30 billion was going to be sourced from Sure-P, while the remaining amount would come from the private sector.
The Minister further claimed that “massive mobilization” was already going at the location, adding that the ground breaking ceremony of the project would be performed in March that year by President Goodluck Jonathan. True to the Minister’s assertion, the ground breaking ceremony for the Second Niger Bridge was actually performed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in March 2014.
But because Jonathan did not win the 2015 Presidential election nobody talked about the Second Niger Bridge immediately thereafter. All they kept telling us was that the South East gave PMB only five percent votes in 2015, and as such, the people were not qualified to participate in the “Banquet of the Universal!”
In the past few months, however, the ghost of the Second Niger Bridge has been resurrected. Those who are drumming support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid have started telling us about the “massive work” which the Federal Government was doing on the Second Niger Bridge. To authentic their claims, they will post some beautiful photographs of their imaginary Second Niger Bridge, which they claimed PMB was constructing, even though we did not vote for him.
Not to be outdone, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, penultimate Saturday, while on official visit to Federal Government project sites in the South East, said in Onitsha, Anambra State, that “massive work” was ongoing on the Second Niger Bridge.
According to the Minister: “By assessment, the Second Niger Bridge is about 50 percent done. At the time I resumed work in the Ministry, only the bridge was designed and work had stopped here, but because of the commitment of the President and the government, work has resumed here and for the foreseeable future, I don’t see any reason why work will stop here again because the funding is now being provided”.
He continued, “as for the Second Niger Bridge, I can assure you that the contractor will not leave site because of funds, if there is a reason for the contractor to leave the site, it must be a reason created by Anambra, but I know you will not allow that happen.” We clapped for him.
Contradicting the Minister’s claims, however, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Works, Toby Okechukwu, categorically stated that the Buhari administration had not awarded contract for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge! This, according to him, was due to the delay in the approval of the procurement process by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).
The lawmaker further explained that while the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had concluded “work on contract details”, and forwarded same to the Bureau for Public Procurement for approval, “the inability of the bureau to approve the procurement process is the reason why contract for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge has not been awarded”.
Who then is fooling who? If the contract for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge had not been awarded due to the delay of BPP to approve the procurement process, how come that “50 percent of work” on the bridge had been done, as claimed by the Minister?
Again, where did all these people get the beautiful photographs they had been posting to us, which they tagged “Second Niger Bridge”, and which they claimed, PMB was constructing in spite of the fact that we did not vote for him?
I do not think there is much to be gained in dishing out lies, which the present administration seems to specialise in. Lies can only endure for some time, but when the truth eventually comes out, it will rubbish all these lies.
The desire for another bridge to releave the ” First” Niger Bridge commissioned in January 1966, by the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, became imperative due to increase in vehicular movements between the eastern and the western parts of Nigeria, particularly since there is no rail link between the two areas. This has resulted to traffic gridlocks that very often stretch to over ten kilometers on both sides of the bridge, thus bringing hardship and suffering to hundreds of commuters that daily ply the route.
In consequence, politicians cashed on this and begin to make it a campaign issue. Year in, year out, they we will tell us that they will build another bridge in Onitsha that would surpass any other bridge in the world. We will believe them and will give them our votes. At the end of the election, they will disappear, only to resurface close to the next election, to make another promise.
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