Indeed, if Niger Bridge were human, her uncontrollable cries, wailing and weeping could have reached the high heaven. This is because, at 48, the bridge has been constantly over-used and stretched beyond its limit and capacity without properly taken care of. Each time a vehicle, especially heavy duty truck, passes the bridge, figuratively, cringes and makes a cranky noise to demonstrate its anguish, pains and sorrow.
The evidence of the bad state of the Niger Bridge manifested during the last Christmas, as South easterners and South southerners travelled home. Commuters, from both ends of the bridge, spent more time crossing over than before. Most of them spent about six hours on the queue, waiting to cross the bridge. To cross the bridge, only one-way traffic, instead of two ways, was allowed.
Nigeria Newsday checks revealed that road safety personnel decided to allow only one-way traffic at a time to avoid the collapse of the bridge, as they said the Niger bridge would not survive if vehicles queue on it, in the event of traffic jam.
Although, there’s a two-way traffic at present, when a trailer or any other heavy duty truck is accessing the bridge, a heavy cranky noise and vibration are experienced. As a result, there’s a warning to motorists, on the bridge, not to stop but move at the speed of 80 kilometres per hour.
A Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) official, Roseline Anogo, told Saturday Sun that operatives of the corps now ensure that there is free flow of traffic on the bridge. She revealed that they do not allow vehicles to stop on the bridge, which informed the one-way traffic policy being implemented during the festive period.
She said: “All manner of vehicles, including trailers carrying cements, trucks, heavy-duty vehicles, trucks and other haulage vehicles with heavy loads use the bridge. Such vehicles should not stop on the bridge, for whatever purpose.
“The one-way traffic on the bridge during the Christmas journey did make motorists spend hours at Asaba or Onistha before crossing over. Those times were very tedious for us trying to control the surging traffic. When you are on top of the bridge, when a heavy duty trucks passes, it seems as if you are bouncing; there is no doubt that the bridge is no more strong.”
Recent visit to the Niger Bridge revealed its true state. Checks on the bridge revealed that it is actually dilapidating, as the bolts, nuts and some of the steel bars are at different stages of rusting or corrosion. Also, the concrete base or pillar at the Onitsha end of the bridge shows signs of cracks.