We’ve spent over N157 billion on 2nd Niger Bridge so far — Finance Minister

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said the Federal Government has spent over N157 billion on the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge out of the initial cost of N206 billion.

The Federal Government had reviewed the initial cost up to about N400 billion because of rising inflation.

Mrs Ahmed disclosed this on Saturday when she inspected the ongoing construction of the 1.6km bridge.

The minister was received by the Anambra State Governor, Charles Soludo, represented by the Deputy Governor, Onyeka Ibezim.

The Managing Director, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Uche Orji, and the representatives of the construction firm, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, were also on ground to welcome the minister.

The Ministry of Finance oversees disbursement of funds for the project.

Mrs Ahmed said her visit was to gain an insight into how the funds released for the construction of the bridge are being utilised.

“For me, I can report to Mr President and say I have seen where all the N157 billion has gone to,” she said.

She described the bridge as “one of the iconic projects in the country”.

She said the 2nd Niger Bridge would “uplift the lives and livelihoods” of the people of South-east and South-south parts of the country, when completed.

“People working here are from within the surroundings. So, up to about 20,000 jobs have been created in this project, “she said.

The minister expressed delight that two ends of the bridge had been linked. She lauded the construction firm for “introducing some unique innovations” in the construction.

How the project is being funded

The minister said the project is being funded through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) created by President Muhammadu Buhari and managed by the NSIA.

PIDF is also used to fund the construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano-Road, the minister said.

Mrs Ahmed said looted funds recovered from Nigeria’s former military dictator, Sani Abacha, were part of the PIDF.

The Nigerian government established the PIDF in 2018 as a response to the insufficiency of national annual appropriation to meet the capital and infrastructure commitments of the Nigerian government.

It sped up the execution of certain strategic infrastructure projects essential to the growth of Nigeria’s economy.

The Managing Director of NSIA, Uche Orji, said the Federal Government and the NSIA fund the project. He said other investors might still come in later.

“The NSIA brought some of its own capital and there was also added capital that was provided by the Federal Government and some of the capital (was) from returned loot of General Sani Abacha. That is the funding structure.

“So, as it stands today, it is purely the NSIA and the Federal Government that is the face of the project,” he said.

Mr Orji said compensation is paid as the work progresses, to residents whose properties are affected by the construction.

The construction of the new bridge began on September 1, 2018.

The bridge spans from Asaba in Delta State to Ozubulu, Ogbaru and other communities in Anambra State.

The first Niger Bridge, linking Onitsha and Asaba, was completed in 1965 and built by the French construction company, Dumez. (Premium Times)