The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said the N336bn budgeted for the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge is intact.
He said the money for the contract had been set aside by the Federal Government from the outset of the project so that it would not be abandoned due to paucity of fund.
The minister said that was the major achievement of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), unlike his predecessors who planned the construction of the bridge on a public-private partnership arrangement.
Ngige, who spoke to our correspondent in Awka, Anambra State, said the bridge was “speedily going on” with about 45 per cent work done.
He said, “The 2nd Niger Bridge is ongoing. The contractor has made an undertaking to deliver the project before the appointed date of 2022.
“We believe them because they’re working day and night. Apart from the little hiccup occasioned by demands for compensation, they’re on schedule. The job is on 45 per cent completion and the fund for the construction is intact.
“That is the good news for the people of the South-East. The cost of the bridge from exit route of Delta and the South-East and the South-South is about N336bn, and the money is available unlike the Obasanjo/Jonathan arrangements when they were trying to look for the PPP option.
“Now, we’re building the bridge as one of the five flagship projects of the Federal Government, which are the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, East-West Road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano, and the Manbilla project.
“Work has started in all these projects because money is guaranteed. The 2nd Niger Bridge which concerns me and you and the people of the South-South, South-West and the North-Central is on course. It’s a very strategic bridge that links the North, South-East, South-South and the South-West.
“It is a very cheering news because during the time of PDP, I opposed it in the Senate and I had a very serious altercation at the South-East caucus meeting with the then Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Federal Ministry of Finance and the then SGF, Anyim Pius. I blasted them that they’ve not treated us well. Whereas others were getting bridges that are toll-free these people are giving us toll bridge.
“The 2nd Niger Bridge is toll-free for now. When we are going to toll, we’ll toll all the federal roads and bridges all together. So, it’s not a question of tolling the bridge to recoup our money.”
The minister contended that most roads labelled federal roads by state governors were not federal roads in the real sense of it.
He said, “I’m one of those who believe that the federal roads in the whole of Nigeria should be tolled. As a matter of fact, a lot of roads they call federal roads, I don’t believe they are federal roads.
“The federal roads are the ones we call Trunk A roads that lead to state capitals. The state government should face other roads in their domain and build them like we did when I was the governor of Anambra State.
“I’m happy President Buhari listens to the South-East ministers who are members of the Federal Executive Council who make tremendous efforts to remind council members that this same 2nd Niger Bridge is like the doyen of all bridges in the southern part of Nigeria.
“The President, being a listening leader, granted our requests and made that bridge one of the flagship projects. The same goes for the Enugu International Airport but it is only international by name.
“The facilities were run down; the runaway became one of the worst in Africa, according to an Ethiopian airline pilot who flew us from Addis Ababa to Enugu in 2018.
“He told us that this is one of the worst runaways in Africa. You can now know it is a deathtrap, the reason the President decided at the FEC to close the airport so as to bring it back to international standard.”