NIGER BRIDGE: THE PLACE OF NIGERIANS IN FG'S PREFERENCES
It will be nothing short of a black day. It will in its wake bring forth so much ululation, anguish and distress. An event of it will again cause Nigeria to grace news all over the globe for the wrong reason. It will be a day that the river and is tributaries will be disturbed. The tranquility of the river and aquatic life will be tempered with as foreign bodies come throwing in.
Before the guests hit the water, a cracking and crashing sound must have heralded their advent. The guests who never bargained for the water to be their destination will see themselves landing on the water. They are the motorists, travellers, goods and vehicles that will have the misfortune of being on the Niger bridge whenever the 48 years old infrastructure crumbles. This will no doubt be a loss of cataclysmic proportion to our nation.
Wait, before you label me an Amos(Prophet of doom) do understand am only saying the apparent. If you have a predilection for gambling and I tell you, it will cost you all your wealth, does that make me a prophet of doom? No of course. Indeed, the possibility is high that a day like the foregoing will descend on us given the health of the Niger bridge. So don't expect me to take back my words for there is nothing to take back. In fact it gets worse!
The collapse of the Niger bridge will destroy thousands of lives by ways of killing and maiming. Added to this is the lots of properties to be lost. Sections of the country will be removed from each other, reopening a chasm that was sealed by Lord Lugard nearly a century ago. This would ground transportation in the affected areas. Insurance companies and financial institutions will spend so much on indemnity that inflation will soar.
There will be the deterioration of the nation's economy owing to dislocation and disruption in commerce triggered by the death of the Niger bridge. Above all, government will be forced to channel all its energy, ingenuity and resources into cushioning the hardship to be caused by the collapse. This would then become a distraction that would rob other parts of the country of government's attention. As such, it isn't a South-east thing but a Nigerian thing.
This and many more ordeals would be averted if only government did what is most expedient which is what the Senate has rightly asked it to do. Last Thursday, the upper legislative house demanded the Federal Ministry of Works to immediately begin the"reinforcement,repairs and rehabilitation" of River Niger bridge to avoid the dire consequences of its possible collapse. The red chamber equally enjoined the Ministry to forthwith commence the construction of a second Niger bridge before the first quarter of this year elapses.
Holy Moses! When did our House of Senate began taking positions such as this? They are reputed to always see from the same glass as the Executive. In fact , a columnist once described them as an extension of the Executive. Nontheless, for the lawmakers to have passed this resolution, it means that the condition of the bridge has really become grim. Of a truth, it has. Imagine a bridge that shakes with the passing of vehicles on it.
This resolution of theirs embodies both the short and the long term measures. While the reinforcement, repairs and rehabilitation of the Niger bridge is short term, the construction of a second Niger bridge becomes a long term measure and a permanent solution to the sufferings engendered by the perilous state of the bridge.
To better appreciate how bad the situation is, hear Senator Hope Uzodimma(Imo West) as he moved the motion that propelled the resolution passed by his colleagues: "Commuters have since the christmas season been subjected to excruciating ordeals wherein only single lanes are allowed to ply the bridge at a time for the fear that the normal double lane carriage could lead to an instant collapse of the bridge."
He earlier disclosed that the Niger bridge which provides a link between South-east, South-south, South-west and some northern states is currently in a morbid state of decay with threats of imminent collapse. Hmm, I flutter at the devastating disaster we will have on our hands when this dark cloud gathers its full.
Presently, the presidency has in its keeps a technical report sounding the warning that the present Niger bridge will collapse any moment from now, yet we haven't seen any commensurate action that tallies with the urgency of that report. This disposition of government begs the questions: what value does the Nigerian government place on the life of its citizens? What actually should be the priority of government? And what spot should the welfare of citizens occupy in governance or government's agenda?
Reflecting on these questions vis-a-vis the state of the Niger bridge makes governance in our country come across as a model of what governance shouldn't be. Government priority in this country can be best seen as downside up. When it is requested of you to cite an instance of perverse governance, you need not look so far.
The government of the day has pledged to see to it that a second Niger bridge is built by 2015. This came from the mouth of President Jonathan himself. But it calls for stupefaction how the second Niger bridge will be ready by 2015 when we are told that the project would span three years. Don't forget we are in 2013 already and work on the project hasn't started.
On the 8 of August 2012, the Works Minister- Mike Onolememen was reported as saying that work will begin on the building of the second Niger bridge by the first quarter of this year. Now is the first quarter yet government is acting as if we are still in November 2012. This makes government's promise to build the bridge to be a ruse that is bereft of substance.
Poor Nigerians, we have now become inured to the hoax of successive regimes concerning the bridge project. They always promise to do it when seeking our votes but fail to do it in the course of their tenure. It is as if they are saving it as a campaign bait to be used in getting votes during the next elections. While this goes unend, the state of the old lady is deteriorating.
President Jonathan had better not be up to this overused trick as the bridge may not endure till 2015. His case has become precarious with the resolution from the Senate. If he continues dawdling and the aged bridge caves in, the Senate will be vindicated, while him(the President) and all working with him will be vilified.
Written By Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi