“We came to thank Mr. President on behalf of South East for the award of the Second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger at the sum of N206 billion.”

Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

South East governors have asked for a review of the completion period of second Niger Bridge from 42 months to 24 months and payment of the contract sum of N206 billion be increased to 50 percent, from the current N7 billion that has been released to the contractor Julius Berger.

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Ebonyi Governor, Dave Umahi, who is the chairman of South East Governors’ Forum, disclosed this to State House Correspondents, after the delegation, which included Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

Umahi said the meeting was mainly on infrastructural development of the region and also, denied it had political undertone nor was the meeting a bargaining chip for 2019.

“We came to thank Mr. President on behalf of South East for the award of the Second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger at the sum of N206 billion. We understand that N7 billion has been paid as mobilization, so we came to ask Mr. President if there is the possibility of paying up to 50 percent of the sum and secure the other 50 percent as bond so that we can sleep with our two eyes closed and be assured that the job will not be abandoned. And we also asked that the construction period be reduced from 42 months to 24 months. We made it clear to Julius Berger that it is achievable.

“We are also asking for an economic free trade zone in Enyimba, in Abia, and he promised to come and commission it as the license has been approved. We also thanked him for that economic free trade zone.

“And then, we talked about the Enugu international airport. We asked him to deploy the cargo section of the airport, complete the building, extend the runway and also, rebuild the runway because it is very bumpy and the tarmac light is not functioning. We also thanked him for the roads and we reminded him that the slow pace of work was attributed to the rains, now that the rains are gone the contractors are complaining of no funding. So we requested that he should do something about the funding.

“Of course we talked about the geometric power plant in Aba; we urged him to assist in resolving whatever the issues are so that power will be deployed to the industrial clusters in Aba and environs.

“We reminded him that the Enugu State Government has done quite a lot in relocating major infrastructure that has been obstructing smooth operations of lives. We requested that he should take over the compensation of the affected land.

“And, of course the issue of gas distribution should be linked to the five eastern states, to the industrial clusters, so as to boost economic activities.

“The railway, of course, we complained that the western corridor is going on and the eastern corridor has not been awarded. And, the eastern corridor goes through Port Harcourt, Aba, Ebonyi, Enugu, Maiduguri. We requested that the contract should be awarded so that we can benefit from that project.”

Asked if these were bargaining chips for 2019 elections, Umahi replied: “It had no political intentions because these are economic issues and they are not new.”

Again, asked if the president reached out to them, to support him in next year’s election, he replied, “There was no political discussion.

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