The 34-year-old Ovu River Bridge, which is located on a federal highway linking Enugu and Ebonyi states, has collapsed.The bridge links Ebonyi State, through Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area, and Enugu State, through Agbani-Ugboka-Nara-Nkerefi in Nkanu East council.
PUNCH Metrolearnt on Wednesday that the bridge collapsed under the weight of a truck, which was plying it late at night.
Villagers at the foot of the bridge told our correspondent that the truck was carrying 900 bags of cement when the bridge caved in, as against 600 bags stipulated for heavy-duty vehicles.
President of Nkerefi Town Union, Mr. Joseph Mkpume, said before the town could decide on the action to take, the driver of the truck connived with some people and evacuated the truck and cement.
“If we, the villagers, had been smarter than the driver, we would have held him, the truck and the goods, and ensure its firm comes to fix the bridge,” said Mkpume.
He said, “Our people are now stranded and no one is going to enjoy this Christmas because our movement has automatically been restricted.
“Those of them who must go to Ebonyi State for an urgent matter would now have to go out of our community, then pass by Enugu town, through Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, before getting to their destination.”
“This will take them about four times the original journey. It then means that they will spend half a day travelling.”
The Nkerefi Town Union president stated that the matter was made worse because the federal road on which the bridge is built had been in a terrible state for more than a decade.
“We have had to ply this federal highway filled with pot holes for more than a decade. Now, the only bridge on the road that links the two states – Enugu and Ebonyi – has caved in,” Mkpume added.
Senior officials of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency were also at the scene of the incident.
They told PUNCH Metro that an analysis of the damaged bridge had been carried out, adding that it would cost no less than N50m to fix it.
The South-East Representative of FERMA, Mr. Nnoli Nnaji, said the analysis carried out showed there was a structural defect.
Nnoli said FERMA had already tabled the bridge on its emergency schedule even though it was never part of its budget for the year 2013.
“We are making plans to get funds for an emergency repair. We are certain to provide the estimated cost of N50m for work to begin. We have no option because the whole thing is affecting the people’s commercial and farming activities.”
Nnoli, however, called on indigenes to ensure that heavy-duty vehicles were not allowed to ply the bridge when fixed.
Source - Punch