By Bennett Oghifo
Modern construction standards would be used in rendering the second Niger Bridge, the Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc., Engr. Lars Richter has said.
The managing director, who stated this at the inspection/town hall meeting at Asaba, Delta State, recently, recalled the rich history of the first Niger Bridge and its significance to commerce and industry in the country.
Richter said the need for a complementing bridge arose due to a combination of factors like population growth in the area, high rate of urbanisation and the geometric increase in traffic volumes over the years.
“The second Niger Bridge is part of a new motorway ring which aims to minimise traffic congestion on the old bridge and to strengthen the entire region – it therefore strengthens Nigeria generally and its domestic and international trade routes as well,” Richter said.
He said the project was split into three phases, and that the Phase 1 comprised a 1.6km bridge and 10.3km roads, Phase 2A is a 17.5km Asaba link road and Phase 2B a 17.5km Onitsha link road.
On the progress made so far, the Managing Director said the entire substructure of the Second Niger Bridge is completed, while the super structure and finishing works are in progress. He added that secondary bridges on the main project are also completed. The remaining works which include soil improvement works, culverts and drainage, Owerri interchange, as well as the toll gate are in progress.
“There is no doubt that upon completion, the Second Niger Bridge will ease traffic flow, improve road safety and create greater opportunities for local residents. It will advance the commercial viability of the immediate area and have a regenerative effect on economic life,”
Richter further said that “the bridge adds a robust artery to Nigeria’s transportation grid, ensuring a solution fit not only for today, but for Nigeria’s tomorrow, because it is being built to cater for the expected growth in traffic over the next 50 years resulting from increased economic activities, population growth and new urban developments.”
According to him, “As a key infrastructure linking the East and the West of the country and a main artery within the Trans-African highway between Lagos and Mombassa, this bridge is a key national infrastructure that will invigorate the South-East of the nation, promoting greater economic growth and boosting of trade and commerce locally for residents, nationally and internationally.”
He said the Second Niger Bridge will spur an increase in investments, agriculture and trade, particularly with the Onitsha Main Market in the region, which is a major trading hub and key commercial capital. The bridge, he emphasised, will allow for improved, more efficient and quicker connection to Lagos, another key commercial hub. It will surely reduce hardships of commuters, improve traffic flow and road safety, Richter said.
Speaking on the technical challenges involved in the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, Richter said, “The chosen right of way for the project’s adjoining roads was carefully chosen to ensure minimal impact on citizenry and urban development,” adding that, “the construction works have to be achieved on an extremely soft and swampy terrain.”
The Managing Director said Julius Berger has met the identified challenges with strong solutions, taking proper consideration of “the varying water level of the River Niger of up to 12 metre between the dry and rainy seasons.” This consideration, he added, has further been supported by soil improvement measures “including vertical drainage and horizontal dam base reinforcement, which are implemented to guarantee the load-bearing capacity and to accelerate the settlement of the sand dams.”
Richter said the construction of the Second Niger Bridge is of high priority to the President Buhari’s administration and the Federal Ministry of Works.
Julius Berger, Richter said, therefore, understandably has also optimally prioritised the construction works, aimed at achieving best quality, as well as successful and timely completion of the bridge for commissioning by the government.
“We at Julius Berger have a proven track record of successfully completing work on time, no matter the challenge. We continue to set standards for technological leadership in the construction sector and seek to pioneer state-of-the-art construction methods and technologies, as we have in the Second Niger Bridge, to ensure that value-driven innovations are prioritised for the benefit of our clients and the country at large. Our reliability and quality of works continue to stand the test of time. I am confident and without doubt, that with the strong commitment of all stakeholders and the support of our host communities, Julius Berger will unfailingly deliver on the project requirements on time and up to the highest standards; up to Julius Berger standards,” the Managing Director said.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the meeting, said, “2022 remains the project delivery date. That is the federal government’s commitment on the N414 billion Bridge investment by the government. Of this amount, Roads 2a and 2b alone is costing the government N208billion.”
Fashola said: “The contractor needs about four million cubic meters of sand, a lot of supplies of cement, 19million litres of diesel including local labour to deliver the project,” adding that all of that are already spinning off multiplier economic and commercial activities within the host communities and states. On compensation to the communities in the project area,
He said state governments were in a best position to liaise with communities on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
Anambra State Governor, Chief Willy Obiano said the President, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc have remained clearly committed to the project. “Covid-19 or no Covid-19, we can all see that the President, the Minister and his team at the Federal Ministry of Works, and Housing, as well as the contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, have remained committed to the work to deliver the Second Niger Bridge.” Chief Obiano added, “Even while evidently proactively observing all NCDC prescribed and necessary human protection and safety protocols, the contractor has steadily continued to incrementally build the second Niger Bridge to the admiration of all stakeholders.”
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Chinedu Ebie, thanked President Buhari for “the massive project and the good progress achieved so far on site as we look forward to the successful commissioning in 2022.”
The Obi of Onitsha, HRH Agbogidi, Igwe Achebe and other traditional rulers of surrounding communities, attended the meeting. Also present were the Speaker, Anambra House of Assembly, Uchenna Okafor and community representatives, and the Managing Director of National Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji,