Apapa gridlock: Senate to summon Julius Berger over Ijora bridge closure
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber has said it will next week summon the construction giant, Julius Berger Plc over its decision to close the Ijora Bridge for more than four months, a development that has worsened the gridlocks in Apapa, which houses the country’s two biggest cargo seaports, Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports Complex, thus bringing untold hardship on the people.
The Federal Government had sometime in July awarded the contract to Berger for the rehabilitation of the Ijora Bridge, which forms a major artery for the movement of cargo in and out of the seaports. This was sequel to the award of the contract for the rehabilitation of the Wharf Road to AG Dangote, which is now completed.
The decision to summon the company is part of the outcomes of an interactive stakeholders’ engagement organised by the Senate Committee on Marine Transport in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transport tagged: ‘Lunch with the Senate’ during which the committee briefed the maritime stakeholders on the legislative and oversight activities of the committee and also listened to feedbacks from the stakeholders, which it said would form a basis for the forthcoming 9th National Assembly.
A member of the committee, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, while responding to some of the complaints by the stakeholders, disclosed that the committee has been in close contact with the construction company, which he said is in line with the committee’s policy of monitoring the progress of road rehabilitation contracts in Apapa.
According to him, the committee had decided to hold a meeting with the top management of the company sometime in January 2019, but said that with the level of suffering Nigerians are going through, the committee would be left with no other choice than to summon the company to explain why the bridge should be shut for such long period of time.
Ohuabunwa who doubles as a member of the Senate Committee on Works, also confessed that before now, some of them living in Abuja and other parts of the country underestimated the level of gridlock in Apapa until recently when some of them visited the affected areas, which people also confessed has reduced significantly.
“We are taking so many things away from this engagement today; one of them is the closure of the Ijora Bridge. We are scheduled to meet with the management of Julius Berger sometime in January but as things stand, we will invite them next week to explain to us the reason for the closure of such important artery to the seaports, we did not know about it before now”, Ohuabunwa also said.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA and pioneer President of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, one of the stakeholders who spoke during the engagement, told members of the committee that it takes an average of five hours to access their offices in Apapa because of the closure of the bridge even when the Wharf Road project has been completed.
“We are dying gradually in Apapa and I am telling you the truth, people stay on the gridlocks for hours and when you get to your office after several hours, one becomes useless, having spent better part of the day on the traffic”, he had said.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Ahmed Sani in his opening remarks, said that the gathering was basically to bring the parliament to the stakeholders, brief them on what has been done and take their inputs with a view to laying a foundation for maritime development for the 9th Senate.
He told the stakeholders that several maritime legislations had been passed while some are at the various stages of passage, which include the Anti-Terrorism Bill, National Inland Authority Amendment Bill, National Transport Commission NTC Bill, the Nigerian Ports Authority Amendment Bill, among several others, saying that the process of law making was a very long and painstaking one.
Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, which speaking at the event, described the committee as the most outstanding, saying that members have displayed a high level of patriotism, placing national interest over personal or any other interest.