Kunle Aderinokun in Lagos and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) has disclosed that the ongoing construction of the Second Niger bridge is at 91 per cent complete.
However, the total infrastructure of the Second Niger Bridge, which includes road, bridge and interchange and others is presently at 84 per cent completion.
The completion date, the Authority reiterated would be October this year.
The Managing Director, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, who disclosed this to THISDAY yesterday, confirmed that out of the total project cost of about N206 billion, only N157 billion had been spent on the infrastructure, which is central to the south-eastern Nigeria and the nation as a whole.
“The total project cost is estimated at N206 billion. So far, about N157 billion has been expended on the project. It doesn’t mean that the outstanding sums won’t be utilised. This is just the expenditure to date.
“As it stands, the entire stretch of infrastructure i.e. road, bridge and interchange etc is about 84 per cent done at this point while the bridge alone is over 91 per cent done,” he said.
According to Orji, while in terms of percentage, the major works have been done, the finishing works are quite extensive and would take a few months, stretching into October this year.
On the funding structure of the project, Orji, noted that the Second Niger Bridge was one of the three projects being funded from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The other two projects, according to him, are the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road project and the Lagos-Ibadan express road project.
Orji explained that, “The PIDF is a special fund set up by PMB and managed by the NSIA. The NSIA brought in some of its own capital alongside the capital provided by FG and the capital from returned loot from Sani Abacha.
“So, when you said PPP, it is the NSIA and the partnership of the federal government and NSIA is the one coordinating the fund from investors.
“So, as it stands now, it is purely the NSIA and the federal government that is the face of the project today.
“The NSIA is an investment institution owned by all three tiers of government including the states and local governments, the federal government and the federal capital territory which make up the shareholders of the NSIA.
“In terms of other people that will invest in the project, they will come under the NSIA’s fundraiser activities.”
Speaking on the compensation for Nigerians, whose lands were affected by the project, Orji said a significant portion of the compensation has been settled by the government.
He said more assessment was still being made with a view to compensating those that would still be affected as the project progresses.
“Regarding compensation, this is an ongoing affair, we had paid significant sums earlier. However, there are still some more compensations to be made. We expect to close these as we continue to work.
“As you can see, the bridge itself is 11.9 kilometers, there still remains 17 kilometers of road on this side and the Asaba end of the road that will be paid for.
“Assessment is still being made for compensation. What I can assure you is that the directive we have from the President and from the Minister and our Board is that adequate compensation is to be paid to everyone who is affected,” he noted.
On whether the completion date is still feasible based on the progress of work done, the NSIA boss expressed optimism that the project would be completed on schedule.
According to him, “what we‘ve seen on the ground is very important. April 2 for us marks the end of civil work on the bridge and we needed to leave here today.
“And as you can see, casting is going on at the moment. So, it’s a very iconic period for us and it is unique because of the timing of the Finance Minister who came and witnessed it.
“So, this is a day we should remember because after this, in a few hours, people can drive through it. And that marks the completion of the civil works and from here, it remains the finishing touches. So, this is very important.”
Only last Saturday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, was on tour of inspection of the project accompanied by the Board of Directors of the NSIA and other top government officials to the project.
After the round of inspection, Ahmed had said: “Today is a very significant day in the construction circle of the second Niger bridge, this is one of the most iconic projects in the country at an initial contract cost of N206billion.
“Today, we have been able to fund this project with N157billion so far and I’m here to see where all this money is going. And also, the significance of today is that the two ends of the bridge are being put together and this is the final phase of the work in truly completing the project and the finishing work of the main works of the bridge.
“So technically, I can report to Mr. President that I have seen where all the N157 billion has gone to. This is a project that is very dear to the President and it is designed to uplift the lives and livelihood of the people of the South-east and other parts of the country and we do hope that when this project comes on stream, it will ease traffic, enhance commercial activities and improve the lives of the people of the state.”
While extolling the virtue of Julius Berger, the contractor of the project, Ahmed added, “I am happy to see women working at the construction site and not only men. Julius Berger has brought some very unique innovations in the construction of this project and I want to on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria applaud the skills of the construction workers that have been working on this site.”
Furthermore, she said, “This project has been going on 24/7 all year round with people working in shifts and that the workers are operating from within here and in the surrounding states. Many jobs have been created. So up to about 20,000 people are working on this project.”
The Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Gilbert Ibezim, also joined in inspecting the project.
The finance minister’s visit came barely three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari had conducted an inspection of the pace of work on the project.
Buhari, who was then represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, was accompanied on the inspection by the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji; and other top officials of government.
The project located in the south-east region of Nigeria, is expected to boost economic activities and open up development in that part of the country.
It is being implemented by the NSIA with funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
The bridge aims to minimise traffic congestion on the old bridge and to strengthen connectivity in the entire region.
The project is being constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. and involves the construction of a 1.6km bridge over the River Niger, scheduled for completion in Q3 2022, construction of two secondary bridges at CH25+166 (Amakom Village Road) and CH28+304 (Atani Road) spanning 21.7m each, which have now been completed, demolition of existing flyover and construction of new interchange at CH34+100 (Onitsha-Owerri Road), scheduled for completion in August 2022.
Ahmed described the second Niger Bridge as a very significant project for the federal government.
According to her, the government attached so much importance to the Second Niger Bridge project because of the huge developmental impact which the project would have on the lives of Nigerians.
She expressed satisfaction at the pace and quality of the job done by both the NSIA and Julius Berger.
Commenting on the project, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NSIA, Mr. Farouk Gumel said, “The Board is pleased with the quality and pace of work. Undoubtedly, the 2nd Niger Bridge is a vital piece of national infrastructure. At completion, we expect that it will serve as an enabler to cross-regional economic activities and stimulate growth on a national scale.”