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This project was divided into 3 phases.
Phase (1) which is the bridge section that is located between Atani, Ogbaru and Onitsha axis across the River Niger.
Phases 2A and 2B are the two roads accessing to and from the bridge were not awarded to any construction company till just last Wed. 25th of Sept 2019 after the Federal Executive meeting.
Before the commencement of construction on the site. The consultancy work for the Land survey for mapping of the routes of the Access Roads To and From the bridge was also awarded.
The same thing with the Estate Assessment of value of buildings, structures, economic trees and crops along routes and road alignments of the access roads.
This was also designed in 3 Phases.
Phase 1, is the bridge segment starting from Atani, Ogbaru, Onitsha, terminating at Onitsha Owerri Road by the Obosi electrical parts market with a flyover to connect it to the existing Onitsha Owerri Expressway for those going to that area,.
There is also Phases 2A and 2B of the Roads Access.
2A is the section that connects the bridge Access road from the existing Benin Asaba Expressway from Okpanam through Ibuzor to Asaba end of the bridge.
The road will intercept the existing Benin/ Asaba road from 5km before Asaba Airport going behind it to Ibuzor to the Asaba end of the bridge head. It has a distance of about 16.9km to the bridge.
Phase 2B meanwhile is the section that will take all the traffic from the bridge into the South East from Anambra State is a 17.6km road distance which will start from the for mentioned Obosi electrical parts Market with the 1st flyover connecting to the Onitsha Owerri road.
It bypasses Obosi town in trying to avoid the high density developments in Onitsha and the Obosi area into Nkpor Umorji Road with a flyover at Umorji connecting it to that existing road of the Nkpor/Umorji/Nneobi road to take the traffic of people going into that area.
It goes further to Ogidi town with a flyover at Ogidi the town hall, from where it links up with the old Onitsha, Awka and Enugu Road, with another major flyover there, befor finally going through Ogbunike town to terminate at Nkwelle Ezunaka by linking up with the existing Enugu/ Onitsha Expressway with an iconic interchange at that point.
This section is the phase 2B which involves a consortium of which is one of the leading Estate Surveying firms in the Project.
Alongside other Estate firms work commenced on the spotting, enumeration, marking, assessment and valuation of the buildings, structures, and economic crops as pointed out earlier.
These were all started, particularly the bridge section which was being handled by a partnership while the Asaba section by another.
However, shortly after the commencement of work which involved the deployed of staff at the site complete with an office including logistics and technology of modern day GPS, satellite imagery for the capturing of data and objects, an order was given to stop work till after the election of 2015.
As we know Jonathan and the PDP lost the election and Buhari and the APC won and immediately threw a spanner into the engine.
They accused the PDP of over-inflating the cost of the project, and wanted to review the cost of the bridge with Berger who as we said, were already on site working.
The Germans agreed but insisted that the review would have to be an upward one because of the huge disparity between the Dollar and the Naira from the time of the award to the time of the request for the review. It had changed from N190 to a Dollar to N420 to a Dollar.
This created a loggerhead between the two sides until Berger agreed on a discount of N20B from the original contract sum with a clause of a down payment of 35% of the new sum and payment on 25% interest on any delayed payment in excess of one month.
This new agreement was signed by the Federal Government but in technicality it was a trap door because it resulted in the cost of the project being circa 3 times more by the end of the day.
Construction work and compensation on Phase 1, the bridge section, is ongoing successfully with most claimants on this section having been paid their compensation money. Demolition of structures has taken place where compensation has been paid. That is why work on the bridge is moving well.
Before the exit of Jonathan’s Government 9 pile pillars out 18 were sunk inside the water but the delay by the new Government created confusion and uncertainty in the minds of property owners of the roads and bridge alignment of the project. People were kept in limbo, they did not know what to do.
Because of this, some owners of properties marked already on the bridge section went back to site and started building new structures and using them to do their business rather than waiting indefinitely thereby losing their source of survival.
This is part of what is causing problems on the bridge section right now and that is making the owners to demand for more money for their structures. These are what are known as After Acquisition valuation payments. It is only fair that the Government pays these because they caused the delay in the project projection and construction .The owners cannot lose the cost of their development.
The two Phases of Access Road awarded last Wednesday after the Federal Exco meeting after several years of having the Assessment and Valuation reports in hand.
Sadly the snail-pace at this juncture has been attributed by many involved to Fashola who as the Minister for works, housing and Power, according to them, has tried everything in his book of tricks to frustrate the project. At one point he instructed and insisted that every building and structure on the road alignment must have an approved building plan B4 to get paid.
This they all did.
At another point he said that cost value of properties was too much, and much more than what they have in the budget.
To find solution experts now advised the Ministry to scale down the project in those areas where the flyovers and interchanges affected a lot of structures in order to bring down the numbers in demolishment. This is because it would be improper to undervalue any structure since the template and rate being worked with were approved by the same Federal Ministry.
The same experts also suggested scheduling the payment in different budgeting years.
Rather than brain storming and finding a solution to the problem it is quite unfortunate that recent comments from the Minister himself, as well as officials from his Ministry, are painting the mostly indigenous Igbo people where the work is being done, as being difficult and money hungry and the root cause of the new delay.
Just last week in a story broken by the Awareness (click here ) the Controller, of the Federal Ministry of Works in Anambra State, Adeyemo Ajani, said the second Niger bridge may suffer a serious setback if the government does not intervene urgently in the crisis between the contractors and host communities as well as workers.
According to him, work stopped at the site because communities are demanding projects worth N500 million, while workers are seeking promotion and increase in allowances.
He failed to mention that the Estate surveying consultant firms for the roads access of phases 2A and 2B have not been paid a dime despite the fact that they have completed and handed over their reports to the ministry. This is because their payments are part of various bills of the main contractor who didn’t exist yet.
Mercifully the contract has eventually been awarded to RCC for the phase 2B of the Anambra section and Phase 2A for the Delta section to Berger, removing that major hurdle.
It is now time for the FGN, rather than bad mouthing its own citizens, to do the right thing and make this long standing pipe dream become a reality for all who have been waiting for it for so long.