• Inaugurates Second Niger Bridge, other projects
• Bridge promise kept to Ndigbo, Nigerians, says group
• S’East govs name bridge after Buhari, IPOB kicks
It was a joyous mood for people of the South East and beyond, yesterday, as President Muhammadu Buhari virtually inaugurated the all-important Second Niger Bridge, 18 years after it was conceived.
The tape to mark its opening to the public was cut by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, assisted by Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, and other top federal and state government functionaries, as well as dignitaries from the region.
Six other legacy projects executed by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing- two remaining sections of the Abuja-Kano Expressway, Loko-Oweto Bridge across River Benue, linking Benue to Nasarawa State and the Ikom Bridge, in Cross River State, as well as federal secretariats in Anambra, Zamfara and Bayelsa, were also virtually inaugurated by the President.
Representatives of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe and the Asagba of Asaba, Obi Chike Edozien, described completion of the bridge as a big relief to people of the South South and South East, as well as travellers. Ngige said the delivery of the bridge was in fulfillment of the promise made by Buhari, and expressed gratitude to him.
Speaking during the virtual commissioning, the President defended criticisms of the debt profile of his administration, saying: “We do not act on infrastructure by accident. It has been a deliberate choice for our government as a tool to fight poverty, create economic growth and employment, as well as open the path of prosperity for our people.”
He emphasised that while he shared concerns of Nigerians, the debts are tied to projects that have been executed in very transparent circumstances and are there for everyone to see. He added that the wealth of other nations is traceable to their investments in infrastructure made possible by debts redeemed over the decades.
He said: “In eight years, I am proud to say that we have doubled Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from about 20 per cent to over 40 per cent, and that is no small undertaking.
“The projects that we hand over today, apart from others such as rail, sea and airports, gas pipeline projects, previously completed, symbolise our country’s sharp focus on delivering prosperity.”
MEANWHILE, a group, South East/Igbo All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressives Roundtable (SIAPRO), has also described completion and inauguration of the Second Niger Bridge as a promise kept to Ndigbo and Nigerians, in general.
ALSO, South East governors have agreed to name the bridge after Buhari. The Special Assistant to the President on Digital Communications, Bashir Ahmad, confirmed the development in a tweet, yesterday. His tweet reads: “The Second Niger Bridge is to be officially called ‘Muhammadu Buhari Bridge.’ #PMBLegacy.”
But, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) protested against the move to name the bridge after the President. The group, in a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, on Monday, rejected the idea, saying: “Buhari came to power and completely sidelined our people.”