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Commuters in Anambra and Delta states have pointed out that except something is done to fix the non-functional streetlights along the Second Niger Bridge, motorists and travellers coming into the South-East, especially as the Yuletide approaches, may have a difficult time driving through the bridge at night.
The Eastern Updates who went around the bridge on Tuesday and Wednesday evening observed that the streetlights, right from the Asaba, Delta State end of the road to Idemili, Anambra State, were not functioning and rendered the full stretch of the 1.7km long bridge very dark, and scary with very scanty vehicles.
The Eastern Updates gathered that the streetlights last functioned on the night of May 23, 2023, the day the bridge was inaugurated.
Sources, including drivers, residents and other travellers plying the road, who spoke to our correspondent in separate interviews on Thursday, said the streetlights had remained non-functional since the day after the May 23 inauguration, with no security presence, thereby making the area very vulnerable.
It is said that the development was in contrast to the promise and assurance by the relevant authorities that the bridge had been well-illuminated with adequate security surveillance, including CCTV cameras put in place.
The Eastern Updates reports that 1.7km long bridge inaugurated for use on 23rd May, 2023, is a key national infrastructure of the Federal Government, with immense socio-economic benefits for the South-East states and indeed, the entire nation.
Upon completion, the bridge was supposed to ease traffic flow on the Old Niger Bridge, improve road safety, and create greater opportunities for local residents by advancing the commercial viability of the immediate community.
But, according to motorists, plying the road without the streetlights makes them vulnerable in the hands of hoodlums, who they said always emerged from the bushes at night.
The Chairman, Greater Tippers Association of Anambra, Ebuka Unaekwe, told reporters on Saturday that his members had been attacked on several occasions while driving on the bridge at night.
Unaekwe said, ‘We have not been making use of that bridge at night due to the non-functional lights which has subjected us to attacks by hoodlums. When driving on the bridge at night, you can hardly see anything; visibility is very poor, due to the surrounding bushes. From the Asaba, Delta State end of the bridge to the Idemili, Anambra State, there is no single functional light and the place is dark and scary.
‘The streetlights only worked on the night it was inaugurated and from the following day till now, it has not worked. On several occasions, some hoodlums have emerged from the bushes around the area to attack our members. As a result of this, many drivers, especially heavy duty vehicles, have shunned the place at night and now forced to be using the old Niger Bridge.’
Another motorist, who gave her name as Justina Nkwo, said, ‘When this bridge was inaugurated with the streetlight facilities functional, it was a sweet experience driving on it because there was nothing to worry about and there was no hiding place for evildoers. The bridge was well-illuminated on the first day it was inaugurated, but from the following day till now, it has not worked and it is a surprise to us.
‘I am based in Benin but I travel almost on a weekly basis on this bridge. But since the streetlights have become non-functional, I am always scared of driving on this bridge, especially at night because of the level of insecurity on our highways these days. You don’t know where these hoodlums could hide to launch an attack and you know the area is surrounded by bushes.’
The Publicity Secretary, South-East Drivers Union, Uzor Okonkwo, said, ‘Our members travel very often and we ply the bridge every day. What I observed was that it could be that the streetlights were vandalised, otherwise, nobody knows why it has not worked since it was inaugurated.’
Okonkwo appealed to the Federal Government to repair the damaged streetlights so as to forestall any security breach along the road, especially as the Yuletide season is approaching.
‘I want to appeal to the Federal Government to fix the damaged streetlights so that we don’t begin to experience security breaches on this road. And to also ensure its maximum use; as it is now, the bridge is not optimally used as a result of the non-functional lights and inadequate security.
‘If security is beefed up, this will encourage more usage of the bridge and thereby reduce the pressure on the old Niger Bridge, especially as the Christmas season is approaching. They should also install CCTV cameras around the bridge. In advanced countries, such a massive bridge should have CCTV cameras installed around it.’
Another resident and a community leader in one of the communities along the bridge, Chief Ifeanyi Awunrum, blamed the situation on negligence and lack of maintenance on the part of the Federal Government, adding that the streetlights would be difficult to maintain with generators.