Security woes escalate on the abandoned N427 billion 2nd Niger Bridge project, as vandals, robbers, and kidnappers take advantage of its underuse, leaving commuters and authorities deeply concerned.
For decades, the demand for a second bridge to alleviate congestion on the aging Niger Bridge, the sole East-West link, has loomed large. Economic growth brought with it immense traffic gridlock, especially during festive periods.
While promises of a new bridge date back to the early 2000s, significant progress wasn’t made until 2014, when President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the groundbreaking ceremony.
The project, divided into three phases, aimed to provide relief by constructing a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger and approach roads.
In November 2020, President Buhari approved the second phase, involving the construction of approach roads on either side of the bridge, enhancing its viability.
In May 2023, amid excitement, President Buhari commissioned Phase 1, offering a temporary solution to the region’s traffic woes.
However, despite the commissioning, the bridge remains underused, with few vehicles venturing onto it.
This underutilization has led to persistent gridlock on the old Niger Bridge, exacerbating the region’s traffic woes.
To make matters worse, reports of vandalism on the new bridge and an upsurge in criminal activities like armed robbery and kidnapping have raised alarm.
Lonely drives on the bridge have become common, causing anxiety among commuters.
Mr. Uchenna Nebuwa, the National President of the Heavy Duty Drivers’ Association, attributes their reluctance to use the bridge to the increasing incidents of crime and the deplorable condition of the Obosi-Owerri Road.
Passengers, too, voice their fear of the lonely and insecure journey over the bridge, highlighting the lack of adequate lighting during nighttime crossings.
Chief Resident Engineer, Second Niger Bridge Project, Iheanyi Aguwa, acknowledges the concerns and notes efforts to address them. Measures include increased security presence and improved lighting on the bridge.
The recent vandalism of metal components has drawn attention to the issue, prompting authorities to urge community involvement in securing the bridge.
They have called upon law enforcement agencies to intensify surveillance and operations on the new bridge.
While the bridge’s lighting system connects to the national grid, solar components have been introduced to enhance nighttime illumination.
However, it is important to note that despite the commissioning of Phase 1, the entire project is far from complete. Phases 2a and 2b, which encompass crucial approach roads, have yet to commence.
The traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Chidubem Iweka, condemned the reported criminal activities and urged authorities to take stern action against the perpetrators.
He stressed the significance of the bridge as a long-awaited dream for the region and called for enhanced security measures.
In response to growing concerns, a joint task force from the Anambra and Delta states Police Command has initiated patrols on the bridge to enhance safety for road users.
Recent success includes the arrest of robbers who were preying on unsuspecting citizens.
Concerned citizens like Ibeagha Cletus, Executive Director of Southeast Agenda Network, call upon the Federal Government to ensure the proper completion of the second Niger Bridge and its accompanying road components.
Neglecting this project, coupled with dilapidated federal roads, is viewed as a continuation of the region’s marginalization.
As security concerns persist and development demands attention, the fate of the N427 billion 2nd Niger Bridge remains uncertain, leaving the region at a crossroads between progress and persistent challenges.
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