FG releases N33bn for Second Niger Bridge project - PUNCH
BY Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja
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.