The Second Niger Bridge which was commissioned on Tuesday and handed over to Delta and Anambra states has been named after President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 1.6km bridge was constructed with a contract sum of N206,151,693,014.87, and was awarded in 2018 after ground breaking ceremony on March 10, 2014.
President Muhammadu Buhari virtually commissioned the star project along with six other from the council chambers in Aso Rock, Abuja.
Other projects inaugurated including Lokoja-Oweto Bridge in Nasarawa/Benue states; Ikom Bridge in Cross River State; Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road; and Federal Secretariats in Gusau (Zamfara State), Awka Anambra State) and Yenogoa (Bayelsa State).
At the physical ceremony which held at the Bridge Head by Toll Plaza Area, Asaba end of the bridge in Delta State, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, unveiled the plague and cut the ceremonial tape on behalf of the president.
Present at the ceremony were Governors Charles Soludo and Hope Uzodinma of Anambra and Imo states respectively; Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State was represented by his Chief of Staff, Festus Agas; president general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; chairman of the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Lauretta Onochie, among other dignitaries.
Speaking virtually, President Buhari said infrastructure development was deliberately a key focal point of his administration to create wealth and make poverty alleviation easier.
“We do not act on infrastructure by accident. It has been a deliberate choice for our government as a tool to fight poverty, to create economic growth and employment and to open the path of prosperity for our people,” he said.
The President said he shared the concerns of Nigerians about the debt profile of the country, noting however that the debts were tied to projects that have been executed in very transparent circumstances.
“As we look at the debt profile, I urge us to also look at the assets and investment profiles, some of which were paid for by debt and some by investment income.
“In eight years, I am proud to say that we have doubled Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure to GDP from about 20% to over 40% and that is no small undertaking.
“The projects that we hand over today apart from others such as rail, sea and airports, gas pipeline projects that have been previously completed, symbolise our country’s sharp focus on delivering prosperity,” he said.
He said the Second Niger Bridge, which has been long in the making, and is certainly now a reality, was a bridge of choice across the River Niger to bring relief to those crossing from the South-East to the South-West.
“This is an example of the change that we promised; to invest dividend income in visible assets that last for generations and to put proceeds of crime to public and enduring use for the country.
“Our anti-corruption approach does not end in courts. Stolen and recovered assets are utilized for the common good,” he stressed.
In his remarks, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, explained the significance of the projects, adding that the construction of the infrastructure generated economic activities around them, providing means of livelihood for hundreds of thousands who worked there.
“Travel time is reduced by more than 50% in many of the places we surveyed; property values of landowners have appreciated by up to 30% in the surveys conducted on land values where we have delivered infrastructure,” Fashola stated.
The Minister added that these were some of the attempts by Government to push back against multi-dimensional poverty.
In their respective goodwill messages, Governors Soludo, Okowa and Uzodinma thanked the President for delivering the project, noting that it was the main economic artery between the South-East and the neighbouring zones.
Specifically, however, Governor Soludo stated that the bridge was one of the major five demands of South-Easterners.
Others, according to him, include the dredging of the River Niger to create access to the Atlantic Ocean; the expressway to Lokoja to reduce travel time to the nation’s capital; gas pipeline; and railway line, which he said would be inherited by the next administration.
On their parts, the Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien, and Obi of Onitsha, Nnemeka Achebe also lauded the Buhari administration but emphasised to the need to continuously maintain the critical infrastructure.