By Omon-Julius Onabu
The Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has appealed to the federal government to expedite action on the completion of the Second Niger Bridge in order to decongest the high volume of vehicular traffic at the Asaba and Onitsha ends of the old Niger Bridge, which has continued to be a source of headache to travelers.
Okowa stated this yesterday at Government House, Asaba, during a joint press briefing he shared with the Corps-Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, on strategies to ease the flow of traffic on the Niger Bridge during the Yuletide season.
He said that the state government had concluded plans to set up a taskforce that would be comprised of the police, the military and the FRSC officials and the Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DSTMA) to handle the chaotic traffic situation in the area.
The governor also called on the military and the police to dismantle their checkpoints around the bridgeheads to ease the traffic gridlock.
Okowa also assured that his administration would continue to assist the FRSC with logistics in order to achieve effective traffic management.
He said: “I am glad that the boss of the FRSC is here again this year to ensure that we have free flow of traffic across the River Niger Bridge. You have done this yearly, for which we are very grateful.
“Personally, I thought that there will be less of travelling this year but apparently from the brief I have, it appears that people are even travelling more this year. But I am glad that you have come to see what your men are doing in combination with the taskforce that we are setting up.
“It is my hope that working together, they (our taskforce and FRSC officials) will be able to ensure truly that we have a free flow of traffic at that point (the Niger Bridge). The issue is, until the Second Niger Bridge is truly finished, we may be going through this ritual (traffic gridlock) on a yearly basis.”
Okowa advised residents of the state to be wary of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic disease and to celebrate the Christmas and New Year season with caution as the pandemic was out to claim more lives.
He emphasised that churches must enforce compulsory wearing of facemasks, use of hand sanitiser and strict observance of social distancing among other prescribed protocols that would keep the virus at bay.
The governor, however, said that the state government would soon announce stringent measures to break the chain of transmission of the disease, stressing that the virus is now deadlier than what it was during the first wave.
Earlier, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC said that he was at the Government House Asaba to brief the governor on the annual review meeting on how to ease off traffic at the bridge head, Asaba.
Oyeyemi disclosed that his men have been deployed to the area to ensure that no passenger or other road user was stranded on the Benin/Asaba/Onitsha route during the festive period.
He said: “This is the sixth in the series of our annual review meetings in respect of the end-of-the-year patrol operations, especially as it concerns the major corridors in the southern part of the country.
“I have deployed additional personnel. I deployed 600 (officers) yesterday to Anambra State and this morning, we are deploying over 652 personnel to Delta State. We have mobilised our two heavy duty recovery vehicles if there is any breakdown of vehicles on the road.
“One thing I want to inform the public is that there is unprecedented increase in vehicular density on the nation’s highways this year.
“So, there is need for extra patience on the part of road users. We have tackled the problem at the Onitsha end. So, there is no obstruction there and with the heavy duty recovery vehicles donated by the state government, we can promptly remove any broken down vehicle.”
He commended Governor Okowa for his sustained support and gave assurance that the corps would enforce rules to ensure safety on roads.