The deteriorating state of the famous Pandam Bridge, which links Yelwa, Kalong, and Shendam town of Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State, is no longer news. What may be news to some people is that the state governor, Simon Bako Lalong, hails from the area, and it is gradually becoming a nightmare for thousands of commuters and motorists who use the bridge daily.
The bridge equally links Yelwa town, Shimankar, Damshin, Dlori communities to other villages in Qua’an pan LGA where tonnes of farm produce like yam, rice, maize, corn, and cassava are regularly transported to numerous markets.
Daily Trust correspondent, who visited the site of the bridge, reports that the Pandam Bridge is almost at the verge of total collapse following the recent flood that washed away nearly 80 percent of the bridge.
There were reports that the affected communities had complained severally to local and state authorities on the need to repair the bridge but nothing was done about it.
Alhaji Shittu Muhammad, chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Yelwa Heavy Trucks Branch, lamented over the situation of the road, saying if urgent action was not taken to arrest the problem, vehicular movement along that way would no longer be possible.
“From the look of things, very soon, it would be difficult for motorists to access the Kalong Road because the bridge linking Yelwa and Kalong is in a sorry state. We have been trying on our part as a union to do all we can to make the bridge motorable but everything seems to have overwhelmed our capacity. And that is why we are begging both the state and local governments to, as matter of urgency, come to our aid.”
The bridge was originally constructed with timber in the 70s but reconstructed in the 80s during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida. This development had paved way for heavy duty vehicles to ply the road, making the movement of farm produce and other valuable goods easier from that axis.
But in the last 10 years, the state of the Pandam Bridge has gradually depreciated, such that it was no longer safe for heavy trucks to pass the bridge. The heavy trucks have in the last two years stopped using the bridge while smaller vehicles would have to manoeuvre their ways before getting to either ends of the bridge.
Motorists and commuters have been groaning over the situation, especially the fact that commercial transactions worth millions of naira have been significantly affected.
Daily Trust gathered that the state of both the bridge and road is known to Governor Lalong, who was reported to have promised to reconstruct both during his electioneering campaign in 2015, in Yelwa town.
Alhaji Shuaibu Garba, a resident of the area, said “The governor already knows the situation of the road and the Pandam Bridge. During his governorship campaign in Yelwa in 2015, he had promised to do something if voted to power but up till now, we have not seen any effort regarding that promise. We don’t actually know was the problem is. We thought the governor would fulfill that promise during his first tenure but nothing has been done yet. We have not lost hope. We are still waiting for the award of the project to reconstruct both the bridge and road.”
Although smaller vehicles are still manoeuvring to cross, the fear, according to Garba, is that any moment from now, the bridge could totally collapse.
Lawan Mairiga Shekarau and Rabi’u Danbaiwa, both drivers, shared their experiences on the bridge.
They said, “Although it used to be the shortest route, vehicular movement via the Kalong Road has been very difficult. Nearly every part of it is dilapidated. Robbers now take advantage of the poor state of the road to rob. It requires urgent rehabilitation.”
The Kalong Road, largely wrecked by floods, is just 14 kilometres from Nyak village, the home town of Governor Lalong.
“It is actually sad that we can no longer have smooth access to the Kalong Road. It used to be the easiest, shortest and safest route to transact our businesses over the last two decades. Today, we cannot easily transport paddy rice and fish from Shimankar and Damshin,” Ibrahim Namuduka, a commuter, told Daily Trust.
Malam Shuaibu Maidawa, chairman of Yelwa Community Development Association YCDA, said the dilapidated Kalong road and bridge is hindering economic activities in the area and appealed for immediate rehabilitation of the road. Shuaibu urged members of the federal and state legislatures representing the area to see the projects as one of utmost importance.
Joshua Paule, whose shop is close to the bridge, lamented how the condition of the bridge is threatening his business.
“As I am talking to you, my shop is about to collapse due to the flood from the bridge. The bridge has gotten to the stage of total collapse. We have used our resources in the past to manage it but we are now overwhelmed,” Paule said.
He called on the authorities concerned to help reconstruct the bridge.
Alhaji Hassan Galadima, the acting head of Yelwa community, said “We acknowledge that the government is burdened by other weightier issues, but then, there are areas which deserve to receive preference especially when we look at their significance and implications on humanity.”
He enjoined relevant government authorities to forthwith begin action with a view to enhancing transportation facilities which, according to him, is an enabler of many economic activities.
Efforts to contact the chairman of Shendam Local Government Area, Alex Miskom Nathan, on what effort the LGA is making towards the rehabilitation of the bridge and roadproved abortive as his phone was switched.
Drivers, commuters, and the communities are eagerly looking forward to the rehabilitation of the bridge so that socio-economic activities in the area could bounce back to life.