By NBF News
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved a new bid process for the award of contract for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge in Onitsha. Briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting which was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili said the new process would be on a fast-track basis, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (2007) and Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act. She disclosed that the Minister of Works, Senator Sanusi Daggasi, has been directed to kick-start the fresh bid in earnest.

It will be recalled that FEC had on May 6, 2007 approved the award of a N58.6 billion contract for the construction of the new Niger Bridge on Public Private Partnership (PPP) concession arrangement for a period of 30 years. The construction was to last for 36 months.The equity participation for the project was 60 per cent private and 40 per cent public, of which the Federal Government's equity was 20 per cent and 10 per cent each for Anambra and Delta State governments.

The proposed Second Niger Bridge project is a six-lane dual carriageway, approximately 1.76 kilometres wide, with 2.5m shoulders on each side and 4.0m median width. The project also includes a 14km long approach road with three river bridges and other ancillary works.

Akunyili said for several undisclosed reasons, the project could not be executed since 2007, necessitating government action to cancel the initial contract execution arrangement, adding that a project of that magnitude requires professional services of an internationally-acclaimed and reputable project consultant.

The Minister also added that N7.5 billion has been provided for the project in the 2010 Appropriation Act.

'Following a memo by the Minister of Works, Council was made to understand that the present Niger Bridge, located at Onitsha/Asaba in Anambra/Delta States, was constructed about 45 years ago as a major interconnecting link between Eastern and the Western parts of the country.

'After consideration, Council approved the vacation of EC (2007) 18th Meeting, Conclusion 39 of Wednesday, May 16, 2007 and approved that the Ministry of Works should engage a reputable project consultant and commence a new procurement process for an award of contract for the Second Niger Bridge project, on a fast-track basis, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (2007) and ICRC Act,' she said.

Also, the Federal Government has said it has recorded major breakthrough in the efforts to rid the South-East of crimes especially kidnapping which has been on the increase in recent past.

President Jonathan has therefore, charged the security operatives to sustain the tempo in the fight against criminals especially incidence of kidnapping in the South-East.

Akunyili said the charge came after the President received briefing from the Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri on the South East operation code named operation 'IHE'.

'The operation commenced simultaneously as planned across the South Eastern states of Anambra, Abia, Imo and Enugu on June 6, 2010'.

The minister noted that all mobile units deployed for the operation were confirmed to have arrived and deployed to specific locations after receiving brief on the general conduct of the operations.

In all, 13 units of police mobile force were deployed in Abia; six in Imo; four in Enugu and 13 in Anambra.

Akunyili said the Police Affairs Minister reported that the attack on designated targets which began on June 7 had been successful as 'all areas and indeed the entire states were comprehensively covered, entry and exit points properly policed and local police formations duly fortified.

'Massive raids, the minister also reported, have continued with attendant clampdown on criminal activities across the region. Arrests are being made and it is hoped that information derived from the suspects so far arrested will lead to further arrests. The present statistics of most of the targets raided indicate that criminals may have hurriedly abandoned their hideouts', she said.

Another approval granted by the Council yesterday was that of the draft bill for the establishment of the Nigeria Police Reform Trust Fund. The Council, after deliberation on the draft presented by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke with some amendment asked that the draft be submitted to the National Assembly for enactment into law.

'The objective of the Bill is to make available the fund and monies accruing from investments made pursuant thereto: for the training and re-training needs of the Nigeria Police personnel and auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad in the use of equipment and machineries, and for the overall improvement and efficiency in the discharge of their duties; for the purchase of equipment and operational vehicles for the Nigeria Police; for the construction of police stations and barracks; for the procurement of books, instructional materials, training equipment for use at police colleges nationwide; to fund participation by the police in Seminars and conference relevant to or connected with policing or intelligence gathering; and; for other purposes incidental with the reform initiatives under the Act.

'The Bill when passed into law, the minister said, 'will create the Police Trust Fund Management Board which shall have control over the Management of the fund.'

The National Council of State set up a committee to provide a legal framework for the reform of the Nigeria Police.

The draft Bill was drawn up by the Committee, including the representative of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.