Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, at the weekend inspected the 1.8 kilometre Loko-Oweto Bridge in Nasarawa and Benue States, saying that it will reduce travelling time by at least half as against the current full day spent by commuters.
Fashola, who showed journalists around the project which runs across River Benue, noted that when the facility, which was initiated in 2011 is completed, it would boost economic activities in the country.
It was learnt that at the time, the bridge which is projected to reduce the long hours that are normally spent on journeys from the east to Abuja as well as the northern part of the country, was awarded to Messrs Reynolds Construction Company (Nig.) Ltd, at the cost of N51.6 billion.
It was also gathered that residents trekked a whole day before the commencement of the project to reach Nasarawa State or waited for hours by the river bank for local canoes to ferry them across the river.
The minister noted that the bridge was a major strategic transport route connecting the northern part of the country and the eastern flank, stressing that it would also aid the movement of agricultural produce, especially yam which is produced in large quantities in Benue State.
He said: “This is a major strategic transport route to connect this part of the country and all those coming from the east of Nigeria. If you are familiar with the territory of Benue, you will know that Oturkpo to Ogbulafor links the east of Nigeria.
“So, this is going to reduce the journey time between eastern Nigeria, FCT, Nasarawa and neighbouring states by many hours. Now you can make this connection in six hours from the east of Nigeria to Abuja. This is a journey that used to take over a day.
“So, this is a major impact on business, reducing the cost of time and improving the ease of doing business. When I came here in 2016, only one side of this bridge was completed, now the entire bridge is completed. The only work that remains now is the connecting road which will link the bridge to the town.”
The minister stated that the Loko-Oweto Bridge was one of the two major bridge interventions by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the second one being the Second Niger Bridge, explaining that both facilities will improve national integration and aid better co-existence and interaction among Nigerians.
He mentioned that the ministry had to ensure the communities were connected to electricity for it to achieve the street lighting of the bridge, saying it has given the communities the privilege of enjoying electricity which they lacked before the intervention on the road.
“There’s still some work to be done on the Loko side. We have about 74 kilometres connecting roads. So, it’s a major intervention. The last time I visited no vehicle was passing here. It is going to develop to a major economic route,” he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Abubakar Aliyu, urged the Managing Director of the contracting company, Nabeel Esawi, to fast-track the completion and timely delivery of the link roads between Loko and Oweto to the bridge.
The Federal Controller of Works, Nasarawa State, Mr Taiwo Wasiu, said that the ministry would do the needful to make sure the bridge was completed and delivered without further delay.
The Emir of Loko, Alhaji Ahmed Umar, expressed appreciation to the federal government for embarking on the construction of the bridge and road network.
He said that the bridge would enable his subjects to transport their farm produce safely to other communities as against paddling of canoes which he said was hazardous, stressing that the project had linked his community with other parts of the country.