The Federal Government has ordered the opening of the Second Niger Bridge for one month during the yuletide season.
The Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, ordered the opening of the bridge from 12 midnight on 14th December when he inspected the palliative measures put in place to make the road motorable.
Fashola, who took a walk around the bridge during the inspection, counseled road users plying the bridge to drive safely and responsibly in order not to defeat the purpose of constructing the project.
The Minister pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari’s purpose in completing the bridge was to save lives and alleviate poverty occasioned by the waste of many hours resulting from gridlock on the old First Niger Bridge.
He noted that the opening of the Second Niger Bridge would alleviate the sufferings of the motoring public that always experienced gridlock during the Yuletide.
He said it would be counterproductive if users of the bridge would become reckless and attracted unnecessary mishaps upon themselves.
“The result is now what we see when people are talking about poverty; the biggest part of it is not monetary poverty; it is multidimensional poverty.
“Spending two to three days trying to cross a bridge is poverty. This should take just a few minutes so you can go and do more productive things,” he said.
According to him, “President Buhari approved that since the bridge was finished, we should create an access road; so that during Christmas people can begin to experience what it would feel like to ply the bridge.”
Speaking on the need for motorists to obey the speed limit rule, the minister said, “the maximum speed limit on Nigerian roads is 100 km per hour. Don’t drive 101 kilometers per hour. The President will be happy to see users drive safely and responsibly while using this road, especially during the Christmas and New Year seasons.
“It would be open for traffic going from the west to the east from December 15, 2022, to January 15, 2023.
“Let me be clear again; we haven’t finished construction work on the bridge, but we would open it for people to use to relieve the pressure from the one bridge. On January 15, 2023, we would reverse that movement for those coming from the east to the west.”
Speaking on the toll gate issue, the Minister emphasized that the toll plaza would be open, but no toll would be collected, reminding the public not to pay any money to anybody at the plaza, as it remains free passage during the period.
Meanwhile, the Resident Engineer for the project, in the Ministry, Mr. Oluwaseyi Martins, assured travelers and motorists of smooth movement during the Yuletide.
He explained that the bridge would be open to traffic inward Onitsha-Owerri from midnight until January 3, when it would be open to traffic inward Asaba from Onitsha/Owerri till January 15, next year.
Speaking at the Oko by-pass (close to the beginning of the old bridge), Martins stated that the toll plaza would be open to connecting the bridge all through the period of one month
He assured road users that the bridge would be lit at night all through the one month it would be open.
On his part, the Delta State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Bassey Esiet, said the corps would collaborate with relevant agencies to avert gridlock along the First Niger Bridge.
He said that the temporary opening of the Second Niger Bridge was to ease the traffic load and ensure that travelers get to their destination in time.
“From December 15, the Second Niger Bridge will be opened to vehicles coming from West to East through Asaba. However, from January 2, 2023, only vehicles coming from the East to the West will be allowed to use the Second Niger Bridge.
“Members of the public are also informed that heavy-duty trucks and trailers will not be allowed to use the new bridge,” he said.
Mr. Esiet urged motorists to avoid speeding, overloading, use of unsafe tyres, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs to arrive alive during the season.
The Second Niger Bridge connects the Southeast with the South-South/Southwest through Onitsha, Anambra State, and vice versa through Asaba, Delta State.
Construction workers and security officers, however, warned commercial motorcyclists (okada riders) to steer clear of the road until January 15 when the bridge will be open to traffic, as it would be one-way throughout the period.
The Minister was accompanied on the inspection tour by the Delta State Commissioner for Works (Highways and Urban), Noel Omodon; Acting Controller of Works, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and Resident Engineer for the project, Oluwaseyi Martins; Delta State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Bassey Esiet, and other top federal and state governments officials.