There was palpable excitement from Asaba and Onitsha to across the South east of the country Tuesday as His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, commissioned the Second River Niger Bridge. The event was part of the seven legacy projects simultaneously inaugurated by the President via zoom same day.

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The colourful commissioning of the Second River Niger Bridge that held on the bridge at the Onitsha end of the project had in attendance a full complement of who’s who in the states of the South east geopolitical zone, including Governors, Ministers, Members and distinguished Senators of the National Assembly as well as First Class traditional rulers and Red Cap Chiefs of both Onitsha and Asaba Kingdoms.

Speaking virtually at the ceremony from the Executive Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari in his project commissioning speech said, it was not by accident that the project was awarded and constructed. He said it was deliberately conceived, committedly funded and executed to attract predetermined as well as derivable benefits to the people of the area, and indeed the country in general. 

“This project has been long in the making and has seen many hiccups; certainly now, it is a realty that will bring relief to all those that cross from the South East to the South West.” 

The President added “I am delighted that we are able to accomplish and commission this project even at the twilight of our administration. It was not by accident, but it was a deliberate choice carefully made to fight poverty, create employment and make life better for the people. The Bridge and its ancillary roads is designed to enhance the national economy, reduce travel time and increase the ease of doing business for its users.”  

The President also acknowledged and thanked His Excellency, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, for the good roles he had played leading to the eventual success of the 2nd River Niger Bridge.

The Hon. Minister of Works, Fashola, SAN, who referred to Julius Berger workers as ‘nation-builders’, also said with the commissioning of the 2nd Niger Bridge, travel time for motorists has been reduced by 50%.  Property values along the Bridge corridor and its related roads has also been further enhanced up to about 30%, Fashola said.

The high point, however, of Fashola’s speech was when he surprised Mr President with the decision of the Federal Executive Council which named the Bridge as ‘Mohammadu Buhari 2nd River Niger Bridge’; a surprise for which the President later retaliated and called Fashola a ‘dictator’ in a good-natured executive banter.

For the Anambra State Governor, His Excellency, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo, it was all thanks to the federal government and Julius Berger for the unique accomplishment.

The Imo state Governor, His Excellency, Hope Uzodinma, expressed same sentiments saying “…Buhari is my hero, and I shed tears of joy today as I witness the successful completion and commissioning of this project by the Buhari administration.” 

In his speech, the Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Engr. Dr. Lars Richter, expressed his gratitude to the federal Government and all stakeholders for the opportunity given the company to showcase its professionalism describing it as a success story. 

“It is a huge honour to be part of this success story to construct this project to link both the East and the West of Nigeria,” he said. 

He specifically thanked President Buhari, the Federal Government, the Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Hon. Minister of Finance, budget and Planning, Hajiya Zainab, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the Federal Controllers and Resident Engineers from the Federal Ministry of Works,  and the Chiefs, elders, women and the youths of the host communities for their peaceful and productive cooperation with Julius Berger while the construction works lasted.

The Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, who refered to President Buhari as ‘Ibu Ekuweme’ (meaning he who makes a promise and keeps it), performed the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon to declare the Second River Niger Bridge open for beneficial use.

The first Niger Bridge was built in 1965 and it remained the crucial East – West link over the years. However due to age, excessive axle load and immense traffic congestion arising from the enhanced economic activities on the South – East/South – West transport corridor, the Federal Ministry of Works initiated and commenced the construction of the Second River Niger bridge.

The groundbreaking ceremony was performed on 10th March, 2014 signalling the take-off of the strategic national infrastructure. T

The Project (Phase 1) commences at CH 23+000 on the Asaba side and terminates at CH 34+900 on the Onitsha side. The total length of Phase 1 is 11,900m, which includes the construction of the Second River Niger Bridge with a length of approximately 1,600m consisting of 2 x 3 lane of 30.10m width. 2 No. secondary bridges, with an interchange on Onitsha – Owerri road consisting of an important segment of the project, roads works, Toll stations with facilities and electrical infrastructure.

The expressway including the Niger Bridge has two directions with three lanes each.