Minister of finance, budget, and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has scored the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Julius Berger Plc high on the execution of the 2nd Niger Bridge Project.
The minister expressed satisfaction with the quality of work being done on the project by Julius Berger and NSIA, which is managing the funding of the project.
Ahmed spoke on Saturday when she alongside the chairman of the board of directors of NSIA, Mr Farouk Gumel and the NSIA managing director, Uche Orji, inspected the
The minister who led other top government officials to the site arrived at the bridge at exactly 11:45am. The deputy governor of Anambra State, Gilbert Ibezim, also joined in inspecting the project.
Her visit is coming barely three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari conducted an inspection on the pace of work on the project.
Buhari who was then represented by his chief of staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, was accompanied on the inspection by the minister of works, Babatunde Fashola and minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
The project located in the South-East region of Nigeria, is expected to boost economic activities and open up development in that part of the country.
It is being implemented by NSIA with funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The bridge aims to minimise traffic congestion on the old bridge and to strengthen connectivity in the entire region.
The project is being constructed by Julius Berger and involves the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in August 2022, construction of two secondary bridges at CH25+166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which have now been completed, demolition of existing flyover and construction of new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha-Owerri Road), scheduled for completion in August 2022.
After the inspection, the finance minister described the second Niger bridge as a very significant project for the federal government.
She said the government attached so much importance to the Second Niger Bridge project because of the huge developmental impact which the project would have on the lives of Nigerians.
Ahmed expressed satisfaction at the pace and quality of the job done by both the NSIA and Julius Berger.
The minister said, “Today is a very significant day in the construction circle of the second Niger bridge, this is one of the most iconic projects in the country at an initial contract cost of N206 billion.
“Today, we have been able to fund this project with N157 billion and I’m here to see where all this money is going. And also, the significance of today is that the two ends of the bridge are being put together and this is the final phase of the work in truly completing the project and the finishing work of the bridge.
“So technically, I can report to Mr President that I have seen where all the N157bn has gone to. This is a project that is very dear to the President and it is designed to uplift the lives and livelihood of the people of the South-East and other parts of the country and we do hope that when this project comes on stream, it will ease traffic, will enhance commercial activities and improve the lives of the people of the state.
“And also, I am happy to see the ladies I am seeing at the construction site, not all men. Julius Berger has brought some very unique innovations in the construction of this project and I want to on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria applaud the skills of the construction workers that have been working on this site.”
Ahmed said that through the project, the federal government has been able to create about 20,000 jobs at the construction site.
She added, “This project has been going on 24/7 and people are working in shifts and people that are working within here are within the surrounding states. Jobs have been created up to about 20,000 people are working on this project.
Commenting on the project, Gumel said, “The Board is pleased with the quality and pace of work. Undoubtedly, the 2nd Niger Bridge is a vital piece of national infrastructure. At completion, we expect that it will serve as an enabler to cross-regional economic activities and stimulate growth on a national scale”
Also speaking on the funding structure of the project, the NSIA MD said that the second Niger bridge is one of the three projects being funded from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The other two projects are the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road project and the Lagos-Ibadan express road project.
Orji said, “The PIDF is a special fund set up by PMB managed by the NSIA. The NSIA brought some of its own capital and the capital provided by FG and the capital from return loot from Sani Abacha.
“So, when you said PPP, it is the NSIA and the partnership of the federal government and NSIA is the one coordinating the fund from investors.
“So, as it stands now, it is purely the NSIA and the federal government that is the face of the project today.
“The NSIA is an investment institution owned by all the states, the federal and local government and other shareholders of the NSIA. So that is the nature of the project.
“In terms of other people that will invest in the project, they will come under the NSIA coordination.”
When asked if those whose land were affected by the project have been adequately compensated, Orji said a significant portion of the compensation has been settled by the government.
He said more assessment is still being made with a view to compensating those that will still be affected as the project progresses.
He added, “Regarding compensation, this is an ongoing affair, we ‘ve paid significant sums earlier and there are still some more compensations to be made to some areas as we continue work.
“As you can see, the bridge itself is 11.9 kilometres, there is still 17 kilometres of road on this side and the Asaba end of the road that will be paid.
“Assessment is still being made for compensation but I can assure you that the directive we have from the president and from the minister and our board is that adequate compensation is paid to everyone who is affected.
On whether the completion date is still feasible based on the progress of work done, the NSIA Boss expressed optimism that the project will be completed on schedule.
He said, “What we ‘ve seen on the ground is very important. April 2 for us marks the end of civil work on the bridge and we needed to leave here today.
“And as you can see, casting is going on at the moment. So, it’s a very iconic period for us and it is unique because of the timing of the finance minister who came and witnessed it.
“So, this is a day we should remember because after this, in a few hours, people can drive through it. And that marks the completion of the civil works and from here, it remains the finishing touches. So, this is very important.”