By Onyebuchi Sampson
- Bridge reminds ex-president’s vow to go exile, if uncompleted
Construction giant, Julius Berger Plc, had adopted Geotextile Encased Sand Columns (GEC) system for base reinforcement in the second River Niger bridge project.
Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter disclosed when the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, led the Federal Government’s delegation to assess the progress of the ongoing project. Richter, who put the progress of works on the Second River Niger Bridge at 83 percent, noted that the substructure of the bridge has been completed, while its superstructure and finishing works are in steady progress.
According to him, Julius Berger’s introduction and implementation of the innovative solutions for soil improvement using the GEC system will reinforce the base.
The innovation, Richter said, is a foundation method for embankments on ground with low bearing capacity.
“It also consists of mega Prefabricated Vertical Drains (PVD), which speed up the settlement and consolidation process, in which settlement happens within the construction period,” he said.
Earlier, Prof. Gambari has expressed satisfaction with Julius Berger’s performance at the work done so far.
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, who was part of the federal government delegation to inspect the 2nd River Niger Bridge, being constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, said: “People often say ‘seeing is believing, but today having not only seen but walked on the fully constructed length of the 2nd River Niger Bridge, I now say, ‘Walking is believing; Julius Berger is reliable indeed.”
On his part, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, said: “Before now, some people said there was no bridge, but now we are walking on the bridge. This is real now. We will complete it as promised. From what we can all see today, the contractor (Julius Berger) has performed well; after the link of the spans on April 2, this bridge will be awaiting inauguration for use by Mr President.”
The second River Niger bridge is expected to be commissioned by October, going by the scope of work, which has reached 83 per cent completion.
The project, which is being funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, is expected to boost economic activities and open up development in the south-eastern part of the country.
The project involves the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in August 2022, construction of two secondary bridges at Amakom Village Road and Atani Road spanning 21.7m each, which have now been completed, The Trumpet gathered.
It also involves the demolition of an existing flyover and construction of a new interchange at Onitsha-Owerri Road, scheduled for completion in August 2022.
It was learnt that the project, which consists of the construction of a 3.3km approach road on the Asaba end and a 7.0 km approach road on the Onitsha end of the main bridge, is scheduled for completion in October 2022.
There is also a toll plaza, consisting 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 bridge, when commissioned, will deliver huge socio-economic benefits for the nation, particularly the surrounding states, by improving commercial activities, enhancing traffic flow as well as road safety for commuters.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has during his tenure, promised to go on exile, if he fails to build the Second Niger Bridge before completing his term in 2015.
He made the promise at a Town Hall Meeting held in the commercial city of Onitsha as part of activities marking his one-day visit to Anambra State.
During the visit, Jonathan commissioned several projects, including the oil production facilities of Orient Petroleum at Aguleri, the massive SABMiller Brewery at Onitsha and the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu- Ojukwu Gateway in Onitsha.
The issue of the Second Niger Bridge naturally came up during the Town Hall Meeting since Jonathan had during his campaigns for the 2011 presidential ballot promised to construct the bridge if elected President.
Experts have warned that the existing bridge constructed in 1965 may collapse any time given the heavy traffic.
At the town hall meeting, Jonathan said: “When the first bridge was built, it was during the presidency of Nnamdi Azikiwe; the second Niger bridge will be built under the presidency of Azikiwe Jonathan.”
To reassure the people, he said he would go on exile on the completion of his term if he does not build the bridge
The former President also invited the then Works Minister Mike Onolomemen and Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to brief the people on what was being done about the construction of the bridge, to further convince his audience of serious efforts being made to build the bridge.
Onolomemen reeled out the technical details about the design of the bridge and the companies bidding to construct it, while Okonjo- Iweala unfolded details about the financial arrangements being made to construct the bridge.
At the end of the meeting, some of the participants, among them businessman Prince Arthur Eze were so thrilled that they urged President Jonathan to seriously consider seeking re-election in 2015.