By Elizabeth Archibong
March 24, 2010 02:08AM
(L-R) Special Assistant to the President on Protocol, Inuwa Baba, Governors Sullivan Chime and Peter Obi of Enugu and Anambra states at the meeting of South East Governors with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, yesterday

Governors of the South Eastern states, yesterday, spoke in unison over the poor state of the Niger Bridge, which was built in 1966. They spoke of the need to begin work on the second bridge.

Peter Obi, the Anambra State governor, who spoke to journalists after the closed door meeting between the governors and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at the presidential villa yesterday, said the group came to discuss issues concerning the region, of which the construction of a second Niger Bridge was paramount.

A worrisome bridge
The Niger Bridge is presently the only bridge connecting the South East to the South West and most part of the South-South and North Central.

He said, 'The first Niger Bridge built several years ago is collapsing. The ministry of works, the Senate and House committees on works and the contractors handling the projects have said that the bridge is not safe and there is an urgent need to start the construction of the second Niger Bridge.' He however, said the Acting President had responded positively and had 'promised to intervene as soon as possible.'

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, had in 2007, flagged off a contract for the 44 year old bridge, which was later discovered to be a ghost project as nothing was ever done on it.

Hassan Lawal, the former minister of works and housing, had in January confirmed that though there was a flag off ceremony, no contractual agreement was entered into between the federal government and any contractor. 'That there was a flag-off ceremony does not mean that there was a contract award,' Lawal clarified.

Lack of security
Speaking further on the issues discussed with Mr. Jonathan, the Anambra State governor said, 'The reason why we are here is about some issues of the South-East region. You can see that they are peculiar to the South East. One of them is the issue of erosion. And as you know last year the federal government declared the entire South East a disaster area and promised to intervene and actually formed a committee led by the Acting President.

'And again the issue of security. As you know, most of the governors in the South East are spending fortunes to keep the police and other security agencies but we found out that the hoodlum's firepower is more than the police.

'The security agencies are trying but they need more support from the federal government. Then the issue of water in the urban areas. The federal government in the past awarded contracts of water scheme in Aba, Enugu, Onitsha and Orlu. All these have become abandoned projects. These and other issues, the dearth of federal government projects in the South East, that is why we are here.'

Mr. Obi's statements was contrary to claims that they had each come to present their own ministerial list to the Acting President. 'No, no. We are not here today for that. We are strictly here for the problems of the South East.'