By NBF News
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Anambra State Governor and Chairman, South East Governors Forum, Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday, doffed his hat for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) led by President Goodluck Jonathan for cancelling the N58.6 billion Second Niger Bridge contract on Public Private Partnership Concession arrangement by the former president Olusegun Obsanjo administration.

Describing the award of the contract in 2007 by the then government as 'purported', Obi who was answering questions from newsmen on the issue yesterday at the Government House, Awka, said by cancelling it and calling for fresh bids, Jonathan's government had heeded the cries of the people who saw the former arrangement as fraudulent.

It could be recalled that the governor had on Tuesday, September 24, 2008, accused the Federal Government of 419 in the alleged award of contract for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge.

Obi who received the Senator Julius Ucha-led Senate Committee on Works that paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Awka, then, wondered why Federal Government would be claiming to be chasing fraudsters, when it plays the same 419 on its people.

He noted then that Obasanjo flagged off the construction of the Second Niger Bridge without the contract being awarded, stressing that 'the issue of Second Niger Bridge, we cried, did everything. I keep saying, this is the only bridge they are talking about Private Public Partnership (PPP) when in all the zones of Nigeria, contract under federal intervention, none is less than N100 billion. So why can't this bridge that is actually the most important bridge in Nigeria, no other bridge is as important as this bridge in the whole of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

'This is the only bridge, if you are from Benue, Kogi, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and states of the South East, anyone who wants to go to Lagos today will pass; no bridge is as busy as this bridge, no bridge is more important. If Federal Government of Nigeria put N60 billion on it, I think it is the least they can do for this zone.

'We even offered to do it under PPP; let us contribute; the contract was delayed to the last minute, to the point when Federal Government flagged off the project without the contract being awarded. And we are busy chasing 419 people when Federal Government can do the same thing to its own people, because the contract was never awarded.

'They brought the white men and everybody here, only for them to do a show and disappear; if you go to the site there is nothing. One wonders what is happening in the country.'

The governor therefore told newsmen yesterday that the FEC decision on Wednesday to call for fresh bids was a welcome development and a vindication of the people of South East and Nigerians who said that the bridge was merely used to play politics by the Obasanjo administration. Furthermore, Obi stated that by the cancellation, President Jonathan had shown Nigerians that he was a listening and understanding father just as he thanked the Minister of Works, Senator Sanusi Daggasi for the manner in which he approaches issues of national interest.

He, however, urged him to fast track the process for the genuine award of the contract as directed by the FEC, saying, 'what else can I say about the development, other than to appeal to the minister of works to fast track the award bearing in mind that the bridge remains one of the most important projects in the country as it will serve the totality of the country, and will also be a big relief to the old 45-year bridge that by all indication may collapse any moment due to age and the traffic it now carries.'

He assured that when the project commences, weekly inspection of progress of work at the bridge would be part of his schedule because of its importance to the country. Reiterating that the South East did not get its fair share from the federation in the last dispensation, the governor appealed to the Federal Government to quickly and urgently intervene in other areas such as federal roads, provision of water, control of erosion and other infrastructure.

In the bid to draw Federal Government's attention to the importance of the bridge, Governor Obi had personally taken every government official and agencies directly or remotely connected to the bridge on inspection of the old bridge so as to have a first hand knowledge of the problem.