Last week in Kogi State, the multi-million naira Ozuma Bridge which was constructed by the state government in Okengwe, Okene, collapsed less than a week after it was completed and put to use.
The incident cut short celebration by residents of the area and travellers who had rolled out drums over the construction of the bridge.
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And as expected, it became a political hot potato as the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Comrade Dayo Onibiyo, jumped on the issue, alleging that the bridge was constructed with substandard materials.
The opposition spokesman lamented that, “This is another wasteful scheme better described as a conduit pipe that had exposed road users to unnecessary danger. We, therefore, advise Yahaya Bello to borrow a leaf from the PDP in the state on how it successfully completed the notorious Meme Bridge and others without exposing the lives of the good people to any danger.”
The party called on the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) to come to the aid of the people of Kogi State; to investigate the failed bridge to avoid ‘‘further construction of substandard projects and to ensure that standards are complied with.”
The PDP added that, “We are afraid that the flyover under construction at Ganaja Junction in Lokoja is a heavy risk if a mere bridge can collapse under a week of its assumed completion by the same government.”
Reacting, the Kogi State Commissioner for Works and Housing, Engineer Abubakar Ohiere, dismissed the allegations raised by the PDP, explaining that the bridge collapsed due to an overzealou act of one of the company’s truck drivers, who according to him, violated the curing period of the project.
Engr Ohiere stressed that all necessary standards were observed, saying the collapse was not as a result of engineering failure, and that the bridge would be reconstructed by the company.
First of all, it is important to express our disappointment over the development. Such should not have occurred at all, especially when lives could have been lost. This is not to mention the resources that have gone down the drain at a time the state and country are only managing to survive.
Despite the verdict of the commissioner, we must state here that a bridge will not collapse if all the boxes were checked during construction. Bridges collapse mainly due to structural and design deficiencies as construction and supervision mistakes, overload and impact and lack of inspection could have led to the collapse. Before a bridge is put to use it ought to have been certified by the appropriate authourities, but from what happened, it is obvious that was not done.
It is good that the state government said the bridge would be reconstructed, but that cannot be done unless the reason for the collapse is unearthed; else there is a chance of a repeat. Also, the same company should not be allowed to reconstruct the bridge, instead it should be sanctioned. We urge the Kogi State Government to immediately institute a high-powered panel of inquiry to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the collapse. Experts and professional bodies in the construction industry should be part of the panel and the report should be made public. All those found culpable must be made to face the law.
Going forward, we urge the state government to ensure that only qualified builders are given such jobs. Anyone seeking such job must be properly verified as any failure on their part could be catastrophic to the state and the nation.
It is not surprising that across the country there are reports of collapsed buildings, bridges and washed-up roads. All these occur due to lack of diligence on the part of certain parties in the construction process. This Kogi incident should serve as a wake-up call to all the states of the federation to ensure that only certified engineers and builders are given such jobs.
This is the first bridge collapse being recorded in recent time, it must not become a regular occurrence.