…Call For Urgent Federal Government Intervention
The deplorable state of the ever busy Aleto/Akpajo bridge along the East West federal government road in Rivers State has become very dangerous not just for commuters who on daily basis ply the road to neighboring Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, but to oil and gas business operators who equally ply their trade at the Indorama Eleme Petrochemical Company, Refineries and the sea port at Onne in Eleme Local Government Area of the State.
Moved by the inherent danger which the state of the bridge holds on lives and properties, members of the Rivers State caucus at the National Assembly on Monday staged a peaceful protest at the bridge to draw federal government's attention to the situation.
The protest was led by the Senator representing Rivers South East in the National Assembly, Senator Barinada Mpigi. Others are Rt. Hon. Dumnamene Dekor, member representing Khana/Gokana federal constituency; Rep O. K. Chinda, member representing Obio/Akpor federal constituency; Hon. Awaji Inombek Dagomie Abiante, member representing Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro federal constituency; Hon. Chinyere Igwe, member representing Port Harcourt federal constituency 2; Hon. Gogo Bright Tamuno, member representing Okrika Ogu/Bolo federal constituency and their counterpart at the State House of Assembly representing Eleme constituency, Hon. Igwe Aforji.
Below are the lawmakers and their comments:
SENATOR BARRY MPIGI (Senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District)
“We are here to draw attention of the federal government to the deplorable condition of this road and the bridge. You know that almost everything that Nigeria benefits from is within us here: two refineries, a petrochemical industry and of course, the oil and gas free zone.
“We've seen and you are also seeing what is happening here. It shows that we've been abandoned. The people of Rivers State have been abandoned. This is a federal government road and not a Rivers State government road.
“You see that the bridge is shaking and there is the tendency that any moment from now, the total life of people from this area will be cut off from this country.
“One question we must ask: Are we really part of this country or not part of Nigeria? Are we enjoying our tax payers' money or we are not? The truth is that we have been abandoned and neglected.
“So the essence why we are here this morning is to stage a protest and tell Nigerians that we have been totally cut off from all we are supposed to gain from this country.
“Contract for this road had been awarded to RCC as we are aware. Just to execute. Just to release the fund meant for this road is like we have been abandoned. It's not about increasing funding or not because there has been existing budget and allocation for this road for a long time.
“We want the job to begin immediately. Once that has been done, we as members of the National Assembly can come back and talk about appropriation because the contract has been awarded and work started but now at a halt.
“The value of the contract to our knowledge was over N2 billion within the Ogoni - Akwa Ibom axis up to the Eleme Junction, the value for now is not known”.
HON O. K. CHINDA (Member representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency)
“Like our distinguished Senator has told us, those of us in the National Assembly have severally protested over the treatment of our people particularly concerning this bridge. We know that this place is the spine of this country. If the country is serious with oil and gas, then the importance of this bridge cannot be over emphasized.
“All the refineries, petrochemicals company, fertilizer company, they are all behind us here including Onne Sea Port and Naval Training School. To access these places, you need to go through this road.
“But because this is Rivers State, as usual there is graveside silence to issues that pertain to Rivers State. That is why, having brought motion on the floor of the National Assembly, members have supported that the Executive Arm should quickly ensure that this bridge is taken care of to forestall incidence that might occur that would lead to loss of lives of Nigerians. The Executive Arm is not sensitive to the resolution of the National Assembly.
“That is why we are now taking it to the court of public opinion. We are here to tell the people that we have been calling on the Executive Arm to take steps and we pray and hope, though they have been consistently insensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians. We pray and hope that this will sensitize them into action.
“We also want to assure all of us Nigerians that this is the beginning of the actions from members of the National Assembly from Rivers State. If the Executive Arm does nothing, we'll take further steps but we'll ensure that we continue to speak for our people like our distinguished Senator has said.
“I cannot give a time frame to the federal government because my leader is here. But the assurance is that we'll take further steps if nothing is done after this discussion.
“Take note that Rivers people are not the main beneficiaries of this road. Nigerians State is the main beneficiary. What percentage do we get from the oil that we process here? How much percentage do we get from the Ports Authority that is here? We are not the main beneficiary, but rather suffer for all these.
“What we are saying is that the lives of our people are at risk. It's not just the project. We are interested in what will happen if this bridge collapses and people are on it. Even now that we are on this bridge, anything could happen. That is our interest – to protect any hazard that is likely to occur because of the negligence of the federal government”.
HON DUMNAMENE DEKOR (Member representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency).
“Incidentally, I happen to be the immediate past Commissioner for Works in Rivers State and I have very good knowledge of the situation of this road and the Akpajo Bridge. The sad truth is that this bridge we are standing on will not survive the next three months.
“I am aware that the Rivers State government has approved the reconstruction of this bridge. As you can see, the two bridges are not properly aligned and that is why you see that the basement is washed away. That is why you see that the everything about the bridge is gone.
“This one we stand on, by God's grace should not collapse any moment from now. And that's why we've put up a motion on the floor of the Federal House of Representatives but the motion has not been taken. But because of the exigency of the fact that the collapse of this bridge is imminent, we call on the federal government through the Ministry of Niger Delta to in less than no time; intervene on this road to save the lives of the people.
“We are aware of the economic importance of this particular road. This road we stand on is the gateway to the economy of Nigeria and we urge the federal government, for once, to take appropriate steps. I'm aware that prior to this time, every intervention attempt to put this place in order has been done by the Rivers State government including the road which is also completely eroded.
“We call on the President of this country to urgently intervene to save the lives of our people because Rivers State is also part of Nigeria”.
HON. AWAJI INOMBEK DAGOMIE ABIANTE (Representing Andoni/Opobo Nkoro Federal Constituency).
“We are not just talking about Rivers people but we are talking about Nigerians who use this road on daily basis. The lives of every Nigerian are at stake here therefore there is the need for the federal government to conclude whatever is the challenge. I do understand that contract for this road and bridge has been awarded several months ago.
“It is part of the East West Road that was used as a campaign issue before Jonathan and after Jonathan. I don't know if we are still waiting for another campaign to use this part of the road to actualize or we are really interested in the development of this country.
“We have been labeled as 5% (five percenters). If they give this bridge 5% attention, I am sure it would not collapse. Even if you talk about tasting the resolve, we are not tasting any resolve in this matter. We are only telling the world that this is a potent danger to all of us and we appeal to the Executive and the various agencies and ministries that are responsible to come to our aid.
“Rivers State is obviously part of Nigeria and we make sacrifices daily. We make our contributions daily to sustaining Nigeria and her economy. If we have to benefit from there, it is no offence. It is Nigeria that will even benefit the more if this bridge is fixed. If it collapses, Nigeria will suffer the more”.
HON (ENGR) IGWE AFORJI (Member representing Eleme Constituency, Rivers State House of Assembly).
“I thank the National Assembly caucus led by the distinguished Senator Barinada Mpigi for listening to our petitions and several protests in this regard. This bridge can no longer stand the pressures on it. The bridge navigates to Akwa Ibom and Cross River States and plays significant role in the economy of Nigeria.
“The State Governor has done its best in rallying round all the IOCs to ensure that they put this road in order. And you know because it is a federal government project that money has been appropriated for; you can't go into it except with the approval of the federal government. And so, the governor has made effort by insisting he would do the road but two days after, NDDC appeared and said it is a federal road.
“We are here to call on the NDDC and federal government to please, do well to come and put this road in order because we are not sure of the survival of this bridge in another 20 days. The main reason we voted in the President is to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians.
“From the Presidency down to me at the State House of Assembly, it is our desire and concern that our peoples' voices must be heard. They have cried and written letters to the National Assembly, State and local governments as well as to we state law makers. That is why, today, we have decided to put our heads together to draw the attention of the federal government to the condition of this road. So, we call on the Niger Delta Ministry and federal government to swing into action because the Governor of Rivers State being a passionate governor has already sent the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works to come and see how he can remedy the road but for no reason, the NDDC stopped the State government from what we are seeing here.
“If you take a look at the bridge, you will see that the state government had already started something before they were stopped by the NDDC led by its Managing Director. So I'm appealing to the NDDC and the Federal Ministry of Works to as a matter of urgency come to the rescue of those that travel to Cross River, Akwa Ibom and to the all the federal government agencies and institutions in this area”.