FG releases N33bn for Second Niger Bridge project

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…As NCC accuse state MDAs of economic sabotage***

A total amount of N33bn has so far been released for the implementation of the second Niger bridge project.

The Managing Director, Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Mr Uche Orji, gave the figure while speaking shortly after an inspection of the project.

Orji visited the site with the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe, who was accompanied by some of his chiefs. The project which is being handled by Julius Berger Plc was awarded in 2014 by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The second Niger bridge project which is estimated to gulp about N220bn has been experiencing delays as various administrations have paid lip service to the implementation of the project, only showing some efforts towards electioneering periods.

However, Orji expressed optimism that the project would not experience further delay.

He said that the private sector funding for the project was being planned to be raised by 2020 through bond and equity.

Orji explained that already, a Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund to be managed by the NSIA had been set up for five critical road and power projects across the country.

He said the PIDF with a seed funding of $650m was targeted to catalyse funding for the second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, East-West road, Abuja-Kano road, and Mambilla Hydroelectric Power.

The NSIA boss said that the PIDF would eliminate the risks of project funding, cost variation and completion that had plagued the development of the nation’s critical infrastructure assets.

He said, “The Second Niger Bridge project was conceived to provide an alternative crossing between Asaba and Onitsha within reasonable distance from the current bridge.

“It is expected to spur an increase in investments, agriculture and trade particularly with the Onitsha Main Market in the region, due to the improved and quicker access.

“There are three phases of the Second Niger Bridge. The first one is the 11.9 kilometre bridge connecting Asaba and Onitsha. The entire work is a 44km project.

“The mobilisation for the project was released in August. We are confident that the funding is more stable now and we are looking at a completion date of 2022. It’s a big project.”

He said apart from the 11.9 kilometre bridge, the project would also cover an extra 33 kilometre of road.

Orji said based on the commercial viability of the project, the investment was expected to be recouped within 25 years through tolls.

He added, “This is a significant project that would change the economic dynamics of business here.

“The cooperation we have received from you and the community is impressive and we want you to continue to support us.”

Achebe in his comments called on the government to ensure the timely completion of the project.

He said the project was strategic to the country as it would further boost economic activities in the region.

In the meantime, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has accused state Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of hampering deployment of critical ICT infrastructure for national development.

The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management in the Commission, Mr Sunday Dare, said that the Commission was worried about the activities of some government agencies which hamper progress in the telecommunications sector by refusing to grant required approvals timely to operators for infrastructure development in the states.

Dare, who was    represented by Deputy Director, Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, G.T Mohammed, made this known yesterday, at the stakeholders parliament in Kogi State, also accused the states of    imposing inordinate charges for building approvals and ‘Rights-of-Way’, adding that they also frequently interfere with operations of such infrastructure by shutting them down at will, saying citizens suffer when industry faces challenges of this nature.

“In this regard, we are concerned that preparations for this parliament were unfortunately overshadowed by events in the past two weeks which saw Kogi State Internal Revenue Agency sealing up some   Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) sites around the state. To emphasize the interconnectedness of the national telecoms network, we should note that although less than 20 BTS sites were shut down, but because many of these were “hub” sites, their being ‘off-line’ immediately affected over 150 BTS sites in Nasarawa, Benin, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger State and the FCT. This led to outages and service degradation which affected millions of innocent telecoms users across these other states.

“If we were to quantify the monetary impact of the disruptions to communications, banking (PoS, ATMs, etc.), security, health and other platforms which rely on these infrastructure,   I am sure the national economy would have lost billions of Naira during that short period. we must avoid this kind of disruptions at all costs,” he said.

Punch with additional report from Vanguard