Multi-billion naira ‘Odili Bridge’ collapses in Port Harcourt

The Bridge constructed by the former governor leaves Rivers State in heavy traffic.


Thousands of commuters in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, endured a second day of  horrendous traffic gridlock after a barely seven-year old overpass, constructed by the administration of indicted former governor, Peter Odili, caved in on Sunday.

Cars tailed into several kilometers, around the Aba road expressway area, on Monday snaking their ways through mandatory diversions occasioned by the collapse of the Airforce junction bridge.

There were no reports of casualties, residents of the city said on Monday.

But the failed facility immediately sparked calls for the arrest of the builders, Bulletin Construction Company, and rekindled a national outrage that has haunted Mr. Odili’s post-office life, years after he was indicted for fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“We find it shocking and embarrassing that a bridge which was commissioned in 2005, barely 7 years ago and constructed by Bulletin Limited could give way in a most disturbing fashion and at the heart of our city causing untold hardship and risk of danger for road users of the ever-busy Eliozu/Air-Force axis of Port Harcourt,” Organizing for Rivers, a nongovernmental network in the state said on Monday.

The group, represented by its Executive Director, Oraye Franklyn, called for the arrest and prosecution of the contractor and the supervising engineers from the Rivers State Ministry of Works, a sentiment that rang across blogs and the internet on Monday.

Road users constantly fed in images and updates from the traffic onto the web. A large number of blogs detailed the story with criticisms of the former governor, Mr. Odili.

Trekking around

A resident of Port Harcourt told PREMIUM TIMES that the gridlock is “horrifying” and had forced many to trek kilometers since there were no commercial cars about.

“People are just trekking everywhere,” said Ike Barry, a private sector worker.

The failed project stands as a stark reminder of the often dismal projects state and federal governments deliver after channeling huge sums into them.

Mr. Odili hurriedly handed the multi-billion naira project in 2005, at the twilight of a two-term governorship spell that the EFCC said was characterized by high wired fraud and stealing, totaling over N100 billion.

The commission, under former chairman Nuhu Ribadu, said preliminary investigations unearthed several phoney and inflated contracts that cost several billions.

At the center of it all, the commission said in a letter to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, that a figure named Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, ran contracts for the state government from the failed gas turbine project to purchase cars running into billions of naira.

“From the investigation thus far,” Mr. Ribadu said in the letter, “it is abundantly clear that the Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, is using Mr. Arumemi-Ikhide and his Rockson Engineering Company Ltd as a front and a crony for the systematic looting of the treasury of the Rivers state Government.”

The investigation is said to have partly played a role in Mr. Obasanjo’s last minute opposition to Mr. Odili’s presidential ambition in 2007.

The former governor, who now lives in Abuja, secured an unprecedented perpetual injunction against prosecution by the EFCC.

Meanwhile, a recent River State legislation entitles Mr. Odili, as a former governor, to a raft of state-paid life benefits including cars, houses in choice areas in Port-Harcourt and Abuja, and a retinue of aides.

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