The completion of the bridge deserves commendation
After almost five decades of failed promises by successive administrations, President Muhammadu Buhari has completed the second Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State. Constructed across the River Niger, the bridge connects Asaba, Delta State capital, with Ogbaru in Anambra State. The length of the bridge is 1.63 kilometres, while the adjoining roads from Oko Amakom in Delta State to the bridge and from the Onitsha end of the bridge to Obosi interchange brought it to about 12 kilometres. The Buhari administration will be remembered for completing the bridge and similar other projects across the country.
The second Niger Bridge represents a strategic national infrastructure with great socio-economic prospects for the South-east states and indeed, the entire nation. Former President Goodluck Jonathan once said that the bridge would be “an important economic artery that will connect the great markets of Onitsha and Aba, as well as the industrial hub of Nnewi and beyond, to both the northern and southern parts of the country.” We agree with Jonathan’s assessment and commend his successor for summoning the political will to fund the project till completion.
For years, experts on bridge construction had warned that the aging first Niger bridge is a disaster waiting to happen. The prediction has not changed on the bridge which has become a byword for traffic congestion. Daily, the 1.4-kilometre stretch is subjected to traffic jams and gridlock, particularly during festive periods. This was something the engineers did not envisage when the bridge was constructed decades ago. For many commuters also, crossing the bridge could be torturous, beyond the vital hours lost in vehicular traffic, with exposure to all kinds of anxiety, risks, and dangers, including frequent attacks by criminals who operate freely, particularly under the cover of darkness. That is why construction of the second bridge has become very significant.
Overall, we believe that public investment in infrastructure is crucial for economic development and progress. Indeed, some authorities have advised that around 25 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of developing countries should be allocated to this crucial area. Nigeria is currently way off the mark. The country is grossly notorious for decrepit and dilapidated infrastructure. Indeed, what we have now are best regarded as apologies for infrastructure – appalling roads and rail networks, bridges and neglected waterways and inefficient port services. This is despite the existence of various parastatals like the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), etc., which were established to power these essential services.
We are concerned that the basic structures and facilities needed to enhance our economic progress and drive our development as a nation are still lacking. The worst hit are the roads. Today, trips that ordinarily should take no more than a few minutes now take hours and at times days because of the conditions of most of the major access roads. And no part of the country is spared. From the north-east and north-west to the south-south, south-east and south-west to north-central, the story is the same: most of the roads have become death traps.
The Buhari administration has made transport infrastructure a cornerstone of its interventions. At various times, Minister of Works, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, spoke about the socio-economic benefits constructing the bridge had for the contiguous states and indeed the entire nation by easing traffic flow, improving road safety, and creating greater opportunities for residents and neighbouring states. These direct beneficiaries, according to Fashola, include cement, sand, iron rods suppliers, as well as food vendors who serviced the hundreds of workers involved in the project.
It is our hope that the construction of the second Niger Bridge would truly signpost a new beginning for Nigeria.