By Sunny A Ijomah
The Human Rights, Liberty Access, and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE) and Campaign for Democracy CD has flayed the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led President Muhammadu Buhari Administration for the inability to complete the all-important Second Niger Bridge across Onitsha, Anambra State and Oko, Delta State.
Former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, awarded the contract at the twilight of his administration to Julius Berger Construction Company by the wishes of the people of the South East.
The bridge funded by an international consortium in partnership with Federal Government was supposed to carry a rail line and would be tolled to recover the money for the construction.
If President Buhari had followed up with the construction of the bridge when he took over the mantle of leadership from Jonathan in 2015, the bridge would have been completed a long time ago and there would have been no need for all these stop-gap measures deployed by APC due to the presidential elections coming up early February 2023.
But CD/HURIDE said while APC Government is taking glory for the temporary opening of the bridge, it is pertinent to note that the bridge would have been completed a long time ago if not because President Buhari put on hold work on the bridge for almost three years before they resumed work again.
In the statement signed by the Executive Director of HURIDE, Dede Uzor A. Uzor and the CD South East Zone, the Human Rights Body said if not for that suspension of the work, the bridge would have been fully completed earlier than now.
This temporary arrangement, he said, which still allowed motorists from the Western flank of the country to divert at Oko Junction would not have been necessary as the main exit way at Asaba would have been built.
The Rights Group noted that this arrangement would still subject Eastern bound motorists and travelers to untold traffic gridlock from Asaba to Oko Junction where the temporary diversion exists.
CD/HURIDE said APC led Federal Government rushed to open the bridge although it has not been completed because they want to use it for the 2023 presidential campaign.
The Group said that the barring of articulated and heavy duty vehicles from plying the road is a clear indication that the bridge has not been completed.
They noted that the original design of the bridge was said to have carried rail track but sources said that it was not included.
The Right Group said that the fact that the bridge is tolled also showed that it was funded by a consortium as against what the APC wants Nigerians to believe it was wholly funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
CD/HURIDE, therefore, called for the completion of the bridge in the first quarter of next year before President Buhari winds off his tenure.
They also called for the inclusion of rail tracks on the bridge as well as the removal of the toll on the bridge, lamenting that this is the only bridge being tolled after completion in Nigeria.
“Is it because it is being built in Igbo land that we must pay for the construction of the bridge? To the best of our knowledge, no other bridge in the country has been tolled. This is one of those pieces of evidence of the marginalization of Ndigbo” said CD/HURIDE.