By Ikeugonna Eleke
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, says the Federal Government is determined to complete the second Niger Bridge, and that the sum ofN336bn budgeted for the project is intact.
Ngige said the money was set aside by the Federal Government so that the project would not suffer any setback.
Ngige who spoke to Fides in Awka, said the bridge was speedily going on” with about 45 percent work done.
He said, ‘The 2nd Niger Bridge is ongoing. The contractor has made an undertaking on his own to deliver the project before the appointed date of 2022 and handover.
‘We believe them because they’re working day and night. Apart from the little hiccup occasioned by demands for compensation, they’re on schedule. The job is on 45% completion and the fund for the construction is intact.
‘That is the good news for the people of the South East. The cost of the bridge from exit route of Delta, South-East and South- South, is about N336bn, and the money is available unlike the Obasanjo/Jonathan arrangements when they were trying to look for PPP.
‘Now, we’re building the bridge as one of the five flagship projects of the Federal Government, which are- Lagos/Ibadan, East-West Road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano, and Mabilla,’
Ngige said, insisting that work had started on all projects because money was guaranteed.
He said, ‘The 2nd Niger Bridge which concerns me and you and people of South-South, South-West and North-Central, is on course. It’s a very strategic bridge that links both North, South East, South South, South-West.
‘It’s very cheery news because during the time of PPP, I opposed it in the senate and I had a very serious altercation at the South-East caucus meeting with the then deputy senate president, Ekweremadu, and the Ministry of Finance and then SGF,Anyim Pius. I blasted them that they’ve not treated us well. Whereas others were getting bridges that are toll-free, these people are giving us toll bridge.’
Ngige said the Second Niger Bridge would be toll free, and that if there was any plan to start tolling users of federal roads in the country, then it would be nationwide and not just singling the bridge in the South East.
Speaking on the state of federal roads in the South East zone, Ngige insisted that most roads labelled federal roads by state governors were not federal roads in the real sense of it.
‘As a matter of fact, a lot of roads they call federal roads, I don’t believe they are federal roads. The federal roads are the ones we call Trunk A Roads that lead to state capitals. The state government should face other roads in their domain and build them like we did when I was the governor in Anambra.
‘I’m happy President Buhari listens to South-East ministers who are members of Federal Executive Council who make tremendous efforts to remind council members that this same 2nd Niger Bridge is like a doyen of all bridges in the Southern part of Nigeria.
‘The president, being a listening leader, granted our requests and made that bridge one of the flagship projects. The same goes for the Enugu International Airport which was only international by name,’Ngige said.