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HELP, NIGER BRIDGE IS FALLING

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For me, the most rascally and provocative political statement made so far in the last two years of the Jonathan's administration came from the hierarchy of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which criminally claimed during a visit to Enugu by the President that the South East Nigeria has benefitted immensely from the current government.

Well, I come from Imo State, the heart -beat of South East Nigeria and I am absolutely non-partisan since I am neither a card-carrying member of any political party nor do I intend to run for elective position in 2015.

Having cleared the political cobwebs of doubts regarding where my allegiance or loyalty lies, let me say that the South East has not received any developmental projects to justify the 'drunken' and phantom claim by the 'emergency contractors' in the Peoples Democratic Party's national secretariat in Abuja that the South East is favoured by the current government.

As someone with my heart; mind and spirit domiciled in the most rural and neglected communities in Imo State, let me say that I felt intellectually insulted by that statement and has for the avoidance of any doubt decided to write to correct the false claim that came from the infantile imaginative and warped mind of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party.

First, let me say that the only visible proof of whether anything has happened by way of infrastructure in the South East in the last two years or not is the much talked about second Niger Bridge.

First, I am prepared to give President Jonathan a little bit of breathing space till the end of this year to see if any concrete construction work would have commenced regarding the much awaited second Niger Bridge. This is because President Jonathan inherited this 'heritage of contrived lies' on the second Niger Bridge from the Olusegun Obasanjo-led regime which spent 8 years without doing any project for the benefit of the South East Nigerians.

Most compatriots in the South East still view the 8- year wasted regime of Olusegun Obasanjo as one of the worst because according to them, Obasanjo looked at the South East from the perspective of a people he defeated during the 30-months civil war and so the people need to be further punished.

But Dr.Jonathan [who has cleverly adopted two Igbo names-Ebele and Azikiwe] has little time to prove to the South East people, I mean genuine patriots of South East and not the loud mouthed political contractors, that as citizens, South East Nigerians deserve equitable development and infrastructure similar to what other geopolitical zones have gained.

Jonathan must build the second Niger bridge and deliver quality and durable legacy to millions of South East Nigerians to have collective sense of belonging in the project Nigeria. The current President must not be guided by selfish political ambition of 2015 to deliver half -baked second Niger Bridge just so that he can win the votes of the South East people.

The President must view the second Niger Bridge as a priority project because many distinguished experts have reported that the existing Niger Bridge is on the verge of collapse and if that happens, then the entire South East Nigeria will be cut off from the rest of Corporate Nigeria.

Geological researchers have provided compelling need for President Jonathan to act fast before the calamity of collapse of the only Niger Bridge could occur.

Vincent Kalu wrote that “the maintenance of the bridge has been irregular, in spite of the warning on its imminent collapse....”

After the war, Dumez Construction reconstructed the bridge at an estimated cost of 1.5 million pounds.

Vincent Kalu also stated thus; “Since then there has not been any major overhaul or maintenance until the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, when, under the Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, contract was awarded to Setraco Nig Ltd to repair the bridge. The contract was valued about N2 billion. The metal contract signpost for the repairs, which is still visible at the Asaba end of the bridge, reads: Federal Republic of Nigeria: Total rehabilitation/strengthening the existing Niger Bridge with contract No. 5798. The client was Federal Ministry of Works, Mabushi, Abuja, while the contractor was Setraco Nig Ltd, Plot 192, Makeni Street, Wuse Zone 6, Abuja.”

Most people know that this so-called repairs were never done.

Writing on the history of Niger Bridge, Daniel Iweze of History Department, Bayero University, said the Niger Bridge was built in 1965 based on the Second National Development Plan of 1962-1968. According to him, the building of the bridge was the outcome of mutual political bargaining between the leaders of National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), the dominant political party in the eastern and midwestern regions and Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), which controlled the Northern Region and its construction had the official support of NPC and NCNC that controlled the Federal Government.

The primary aim of building the bridge, Iweze noted, was as a result of the Federal Government's policy of expansion and upgrading of transport facilities in the country, in order to provide the necessary level of transport infrastructure to support the nation'sdevelopment programmes and also meant to integrate the economic fortunes of the Eastern, Midwestern, Western and Northern Regions.

This government must make hay while the sun shines by constructing the second Niger Bridge without any further delay.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko; Heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.huriwa.org.

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Articles by Emmanuel Onwubiko