Do you know?
The popular and much talked about River Niger bridge, located at Onitsha, Nigeria is 55 this year 2020.
The 1,400m long bridge which is a major gateway to the Eastern part of the country and beyond, was constructed by the French Company, DUMEZ between 1964 and 1965 at an estimated cost of £6.75 million, but that was after the feasibility study was done by Dutch company Netherlands Engineering Consultants (NEDECO) based in Hague, Holland.
At its completion, the then Prime Minister, late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa commissioned and opened it for traffic in December 1965. In fact the commissioning of the bridge was the last public function of the Prime Minister before his unfortunate assassination on January 15, 1966, during Nigeria’s first military coup.
The existing bridge over the Niger, connects Asaba and Onitsha on the western and eastern bank respectively. It is part of the Trans-African Highway spanning from Lagos to Mombasa in Kenya and is the main east-west connection within Nigeria.
Since the existence of the bridge, there has been several calls for a second bridge in order to decongest it, but despite a catalogue of promises made by previous administrations the Second Niger bridge was never realized, until the Mohamadu Buhari led administration awarded the project to the German Company, JULIUS BERGER in 2017 at the cost of N336 billion.
The 1.6 km long second bridge will be furnished with other ancillary infrastructure including a 10.3 km highway, Owerri interchange and a toll station.
It is expected to be completed in the year 2022.
The good news is that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has made it clear in a statement that the project will be delivered as scheduled.
According to him, “The 2nd Niger Bridge is ongoing. The contractor has made an undertaking to deliver the project before the appointed date of 2022 and hand over”.
The surprising thing from my observation is that if Buhari’s regime finally completes the much anticipated bridge, it means the first and second one would have at the end of the day been built by administrations led by Fulani heads of state. Which should be applauded by our people in the South, as they also had their sons who couldn’t build it when they were in the same position, instead they turned out to be part of the promise and fail politics of the bridge.
Tafawa Balewa, the late former Prime Minister of Nigeria took his name from two Fulani words: “Tafari” (rock) and Baleri (black).”