By Stanley Onyekwere
Construction works have commenced on the collapsed Ashara bridge in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as federal government through the Ecological Fund Office has approved the contract award of N1.3 billion for the construction of the 16 kilometers road.
Our correspondent gathered that over 50 indigenous communities have been cut-off following the collapsed bridge, as farmers and other travellers could not access the main Abuja–Lokoja road.
Leading a team of Engineers and management staff of FCT Administration to the scene, the Permanent Secretary in charge of Ecological Fund Office, Dr. Habiba Lawal told journalists that the federal government had earlier approved the award of contract for the construction of bridges and 16 kilometers road to Yaba community, in Abaji Area Council.
Lawal noted that with the recent development, additional scope of works will be included to accommodate other damaged portion of the bridges, assuring that the federal government will not rest on its oars in ensuring that the job is completed.
According to her, “The flood overwhelmed all of us, but am happy that work has commenced, what we are here now for is to see what is the gap, so that our engineers will know exactly what to do.
“The bridge has cut due to over flooding, it is a bridge which contract has been awarded over two weeks ago. You can see that the contractor has already mobilized.
“It is a bad situation, but you can see that the contractor is very responsive. What we want the contractor to do now is to ensure that at least there is a place the people can cross with their food.
“FCT Permanent Secretary just called my attention yesterday, he mentioned bridge but we didn’t understand how bad it was, so we decided to come and look at the situation.
“We have given the contractor directives to ensure he works within the scope to ameliorate the situation, and give the affected communities the support they need. This is not a job of few weeks, but at least the work has commenced.
“The original cost was about N1.3bn, which includes the road work. The original scope was to do the road. Whatever the cost is, government will handle it and ensure that value for money is gotten.”
In his response, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Sir Christian Ohaa appreciated the Ecological Fund Office for swift response, while calling on the affected communities to show understanding and cooperate with the contractor.
Ohaa, used the occasion to reveal that the FCT Administration is highly disturbed over the collapsed bridge which has made it difficult for farmers in the area to convey their farm produce to the larger markets.
“We cannot thank the Ecological Fund Office enough for quick response to our call. And as administration, we are very hopeful that with the pace of work, the job will be completed on schedule.
“My only appeal to the affected communities is that they should bear with us and cooperate with the construction company so that the job will move unhindered.
“As FCT family we are happy for the response of the Ecological Fund Office, and hope that the work will help the people. We are here to appeal to the traditional rulers and the people to bear with the government,” he stressed.
On his part, the Esu of Yaba, Abdullahi Adamu expressed fear of impending calamity if some critical portion of the construction works are not completed on time, stressing that farmers have resorted to ferrying their farm produce to the larger markets through boats.
“I have called on the FCT Minister and the Area Council Chairman before now, and I thank God that there was mo casualty from this flood. If you were here on Sunday, you would have seen how much the people suffered trying to cross their farm produce by canoe,”he said.