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APC, Igbo group rage over suspension of second Niger Bridge contract

Groups demand resignation of Environment Minister, Director.

The South East chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, said on Sunday that the suspension of the construction of second Niger Bridge has exposed President Goodluck Jonathan’s “grand deception” towards the project.

The party said from the onset it perceived the deception and cried aloud, but was not taken seriously.

The Minister of Environment, Laurentia Mallam, had on Friday confirmed that work on the N117 billion project, had been suspended because the Environmental Impact Assessment law was not taken into consideration before it commenced.

The suspension came barely a month after Mr. Jonathan performed the groundbreaking of the project at an elaborate ceremony where he noted that the new bridge would alleviate the pains experienced by travelers as a result of congestion of the old bridge.

The construction work awarded to Messrs. Julius Berger-NSIA Consortium was expected to be completed within 48 months, under a Public Private Partnership, PPP, arrangement, using Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer, DBFOT, model.

The APC alleged that Mr. Jonathan hurriedly performed the ground breaking ceremony for the project after the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Achebe in February reminded him of the promise he made to the zone during the 2011 presidential campaign that he would complete the bridge in four years if voted into power.

“The grand deception covering the shoddy contract award and Flag-Off of 2nd Niger Bridge has been exposed,” the party’s spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu said in a statement on Sunday.

“The hurry to cover the empty promise Jonathan made to the South East over the bridge, led to the award of the bridge under an opaque Private Public Partnership with neither Environmental Impact Assessment report ready nor the critical project captured in the federal budget.

“One is at a loss why President Jonathan forgot to insert such critical project in any of his federal budget, bearing in mind that the votes of the South East for him in 2011 presidential election is over 25% of the total votes he got.”

The party said the absence of the second Niger Bridge in any federal budget in the last four years led to bogus cost of the project, asking “Otherwise how can a project ex- president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo awarded for N55 billion in 2009 to Gitto Construction Ltd ballooned to N117 in 2014?”

The APC called for international competitive bidding and due process to govern the award of the contract now that the construction of the bridge had been suspended.

Also in a statement on Sunday, another Igbo group, Ndigbo Cultural Society of Nigeria, lamented the development and demanded the resignation of the minister and the ministry’s director of EIA, Kehinde Odusanya.

It said such incompetence would degrade a government and label it fraudulent in the public court of opinion and political opponents of a government may cash in on it and label a well-meaning government as backsliders.

The group in the statement signed by its president, Udo Udeogaranya further said that as expected every minister and directors must be on the same page with the president on every programmes and projects of their government that relates to their offices, so as to object, correct, amend, opined or to allow an idea to prevail before he (President) or the Federal Government commits themselves publicly.

“For Mr. President to commence a project that has been in the public domain for too long and suddenly apply suspension means that vital checks were not done by his minister and the director that such functions relate to or that such a minister and her director hibernated themselves from their government, waiting for Mr. President or sister ministry to wake them up to their duties on which they are collecting taxpayers monies monthly,” the group said.

It also noted that there were legions of bridges in Lagos State and various states in Nigeria, constructed even when the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, EIA was not in place and the bridges were still serving their purposes.

It urged the federal government to ignore EIA approval and continue the construction of the bridge if it meant well for Ndigbo.

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