By Chinelo Ude
Shock and pandemonium swept through Enugu yesterday when a flyover bridge located along Kilometer one of the multibillion Naira Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway collapsed. The expressway is a federal highway.
It was a rare development in the area and drew scores of obviously shocked residents and passers-by who converged on the scene to catch a glimpse of the ruins and ascertain if there were possibly any human casualties.
Arriving the place, some had their hands on their hands and many were observed discussing in loud tones what the likely cause of such potentially life-consuming incident could be.
It was gathered that two goods-laden lorries were moving atop the bridge when the facility, sited in New Artisan Market, suddenly caved in.
An eyewitness told The Daily Times that the bridge collapsed yesterday morning.
Luckily, there were no casualties as residents and artisans were yet to leave their homes for the day’s activities.
A resident in the area who identified himself as Chukwudi Anekeze told The Daily Times that the two lorries were affected with one plunging directly into a crater created by an end of the collapsed bridge, adding that the drivers and conductors of both vehicles, however, escaped unhurt.
It was observed that one lane of the expressway was blocked by debris from the collapsed bridge, forcing motorists plying the road to take a detour through alternative routes to continue their journeys.
When The Daily Times visited the scene, security operatives, officials of the Federal and Enugu State Ministry of Works, their colleagues from Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were sighted assessing the situation and assisting road users to ply alternative routes.
It would be recalled that Works Minister, Sen. Dave Umahi, has been on tour of the South-East and South-South to see the condition of federal roads in the zones.
He made several striking pronouncements on the state of the highways, among them, asking contractors to, henceforth, build roads and bridges that would stand the test of time.
The Minister also promised severe punitive measures against contractors who execute shoddy jobs that ultimately endanger the lives of Nigerians.
Enugu Governor visits scene, laments
Meanwhile, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu state has called for a new road maintenance model to guarantee a better condition and longevity of Nigerians roads, regretting that the current model had failed woefully.
Mbah made the call when he visited the site of the collapsed flyover bridge.
Fielding questions from newsmen after his first-hand inspection of the scene of the disaster, Mbah, who thanked God Almighty that no life was lost despite the magnitude of the incident, urged the Federal Government to consider concessioning all the federal roads in each state to individual state governments for proper maintenance in conjunction with the private sector.
The Governor said: “I think the question should be whether the current model of federal road maintenance is working or not; and I think that is the bigger question that we must ask.
“Today, we are here witnessing a tragedy that has just occurred. We are fortunate enough that no life was lost, but this could have been prevented entirely. So, the people can no longer ply this route because of this tragedy. This shows clearly that we do not have a sound federal road maintenance model.
“The bridge collapse didn’t just happen. These threats could have been identified if we had routine or regular maintenance.
“Perhaps the way to go is to find a way to concession these roads to the states. The states need to take charge of the roads within their domains and there has to be a conversation around the funding models”.
Also, in a statement signed by the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Gerald Otiji, the state government has advised commuters to use Nza Street through New Haven or ply Ogui Road and Abakaliki Road to their various destinations, while the authorities come up with measures for immediate repair on the failed section of the bridge.