From: Bamidele Fashube. Abuja
THE Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has said the Loko-Oweto Bridge linking Nasarawa and Benue States would ease transportation of agricultural commodities across the states and the southern part of the country.
He said the 2.2 kilometre bridge would particularly boost farm logistics to the South-East, stressing that those coming from the Eastern part would experience reduced travel time between the two regions.
“This is a Bridge that connects North and South of Nigeria, Oweto in Benue and Loko in Nasarawa, which links you to the Federal Capital Territory. So this is a major strategic transport route to connect this part of the country and all those coming from the East of Nigeria,” Fashola said at the weekend during an inspection to monitor progress of work on the bridge.
He said anyone familiar with the territory of Benue State would also know that from Oturkpo, going to Oturkpa and to Ogbulafor, one would link the East of Nigeria. “So this is going to reduce the journey time between the Eastern Region of Nigeria and the Federal Capital, through Nasarawa and neighbouring states by many hours”, he said.
Noting that the journey from the East to Abuja takes sometimes a whole day or more, Fashola declared, “Now, you can make this connection in about six hours from the East of Nigeria to Abuja. So, this is a major impact on business, reducing cost, time and improving the ease of doing business”.
“When I came here in 2016, only one side of the Bridge was completed; now, the entire bridge is completed. The only work that remains now is the connecting roads to link the Bridge to the towns”, the Minister said adding that the road from Oturkpo to Oweto has been completed, with only three and half kilometres remaining to link the Bridge to the road on the Benue side.
He said although there is still some work to be done on the Loko side with about 74 kilometres of connecting road to complete, vehicular traffic has commenced on the road because of the evident shortness of the link adding that it has now become a major route for transporting yams and other agricultural produce from Benue State to Nasarawa and to other parts of the North.
Emphasizing the objective of the Bridge intervention by the Buhari administration, Fashola declared, “This is the Bridge that crosses River Benue while the 2nd Niger Bridge is also going on. They are the two major Bridge interventions across the two largest rivers in Nigeria to improve national integration and further improve national coexistence in the country”.
“The last time I visited here no vehicles was passing because the connection was not complete. But what has happened now is that even as the road remains uncompleted we see trucks moving through because the road is evidently shorter”, the Minister said adding that it is going to develop into a major economic route for Nigeria, especially for farm produce from farmers and other agricultural produce.
The Minister also noted that there are now street lights on the Bridge, explaining that when it was still combined with Power, the Ministry thought it wise to address the issue of electricity so that the host community would also benefit from the project which, according to him, is now a few months to completion.
“We are a few months away from its final completion”, the Minister told newsmen adding, “You can also see now that there is street light; there was no electricity when we came here in 2016; of course we were then a combined Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. So we also addressed the electricity solution so that this community can also benefit.”
In his remarks, the traditional ruler of Loko, Alhaji Abubakar Umar, expressed delight at the pace of work on the Bridge saying the people of the Loko Community were pleased that the project would open the community up and boost economic and social activities between them and other parts of the country.
Describing the project as the biggest in Nigeria at the moment, the Emir expressed gratitude to the current administration saying the project has turned Loko Community into a busy vehicular link route between the Eastern part and the Northern part of Nigeria.
“The Loko community is extremely happy with the Muhammadu Buhari government because of this project. From Loko here, you can see the movement of vehicles. Though the project is yet to be completed, you can see more than 500 vehicles passing from the North to the East and from the East to the North,” the traditional ruler said.