The sit-at-home order currently being implemented by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra on Monday is responsible for the delay in commissioning the second Niger Bridge project.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said this on Wednesday when he appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
He added that the bridge which had been temporarily opened for usage during the Christmas season would be tolled by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to enable the project to be properly maintained for the benefit of Nigerians.
He said this option of tolling would be implemented to ensure the maintenance of the landmark project and to serve Nigerians for many years.
He, however, assured that the planned target date to deliver the project would be in April or May next year.
Fashola said, “The bridge will be tolled but that is the job of the NSIA because we must make sure the bridge is properly maintained.
“So, this is where private sector capacity becomes useful. They may not be (able to) build capital to buy the asset but can mobilise the expertise and efficiency to operate it, of course not without due diligence being done. That is the same model on the Lekki toll gate.
“Truth be told, the target is April or May (2023) but the date keeps shifting because of sit-at-home directives. The current opening for motorists is for those going to the East and will last till the 1st of January. It is currently a one-way crossing. So, on the 2nd of January, we would reverse what we have done and allow people to use it from the 3rd for the East to West crossing and on the 15th we would shut it down so that we can finish the four-kilometre access road we are trying to build and the interchange.
“We are building in mash land so we have to dredge, accumulate sand, fill or reclaim land. You have to wait for it to settle and can’t start building the following day. We are using a technology called pre-fabricated vertical drills to accelerate.”
The project was awarded to Julius Berger for a contract sum of N206bn, to be implemented by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority with funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The second Niger bridge is one of the three projects being funded by the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund. The other two projects are the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road project and the Lagos-Ibadan express road project.
The PIDF is a special fund set up by President Muhammadu Buhari and managed by the NSIA. The NSIA brought some of its own capital, the capital provided by the federal government and the fund returned to Nigeria as Abacha loot.
One of the objectives of the bridge is to minimize traffic congestion on the old Niger bridge and to strengthen connectivity in the entire South-East region.
The scope of work was expanded to involve the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in August 2022, construction of two secondary bridges at CH25+166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which have now been completed, demolition of existing flyover and construction of a new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha-Owerri Road), scheduled for completion in August 2022.
The project also involves the construction of 3.3km Approach Road on the Asaba side and 7.0km approach road on the Onitsha side of the main bridge, scheduled for completion in October 2022, toll plaza at CH25+700 which consists of eight lanes in each direction, scheduled for completion in October 2022, and site clearing of the Right of Way (RoW) including the removal of all bush, trees and shrubs.
The construction work for the project also involves soil improvement including soil exchange, geotextile as a filter layer, geotextile for base reinforcement, pre-fabricated vertical drains, geotextile encased sand columns and geo-textile for base reinforcement.
Upon completion, the project will offer significant socio-economic benefits 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, thereby regenerating economic life.
The Approach Roads will drive traffic to the bridge via two 17.5km Approach roads on either side of the bridge and enhance the project’s viability.