From West to East: River Niger and the Nigerian people
Before the year 1965, if you had cause to travel to the eastern part of Nigeria from the west, be rest assured that part of your journey would have to be by ferries and pantoons, especially between Onitsha and its sister city Asaba.
The bridge connecting Asaba and Onitsha, popularly called “River Niger Bridge” which was built in 1965 at an approximate cost of five million Pounds (£5m) under the leadership of the then Prime Minister, Tafewa Balewa during the first republic by a French construction company known as Dumez connects the Western part of Nigeria with the South Eastern part of the country.
During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 – 1970, in an attempt to halt the Nigerian advance, retreating Biafran soldiers destroyed the River Niger Bridge at Onitsha, trapping the Nigerians on the other side of the river. After the war, the bridge was rehabilitated.
The economic importance of the Niger bridge cannot be over emphasized as the bridge has opened up business opportunities between the East and rest of the country; enhance quick transportation of food stuffs which inadvertently has lead to cheaper prices of food commodities; ensured free flow of goods and services to other regions; the often overlooked benefit of integration and more harmonious united Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, the bridge is key to economic transformation of Nigeria, as it has improved commercial activities in the South East and South West.
Despite this enormous importance, the bridge has being overlooked and has deteriorated due to steady increase in human traffic on the bridge as a result of increase in population coupled with an upswing of socioeconomic activities and urbanization leading to increased human and vehicular traffic, thus causing frightening wear and tear on the critical infrastructure.
I would advice that repair works be done on the bridge so as to improve its economic importance or rather another Niger bridge be created.