Aleto-Eleme Bridge Collapses?

Eleme residents clustering around the collapsed section of the Aleto-Eleme bridge in Rivers State, yesterday.

The Omu Okulu Aleto Bridge, the major bridge linking Aleto community to Eleme in Rivers State, has reportedly caved-in.
The news of the partial collapse of the  bridge in the early hours of yesterday took most people in the community by surprise.
When The Tide visited the scene, yesterday, eyewitnesses described the bridge as the conduit which takes almost all vehicles, trucks and tankers coming from Trailer Park-Eleme Junction axis of the East-West Road to companies around Eleme and Onne.
They lamented that with this development, Aleto community has been invariably cut off from Akpajo and other parts of the world, regretting that the only way left for the people to communicate with the outside world would be through the Okrika waterways.
A former Caretaker Committee Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, who did not want to be named, blamed the Federal Government for the collapsed bridge, alleging that if the government paid priority attention to the total rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Eleme-Onne section of the East-West Road, the Omu Okulu bridge in Aleto, constructed in 1964, would not have collapsed.
He challenged the Federal Government to immediately put urgent measures in place to rehabilitate the bridge, and the entire stretch of the East-West Road, from Eleme Junction Interchange in Obio/Akpor to Onne Junction in Eleme Local Government Area.
Also speaking, Mike Ngofa regretted the collapse of the Omu Okulu Aleto bridge linking the community to some Eleme communities.
He noted that as a federal highway leading to some major federal industrial complexes, such as Port Harcourt Refinery, Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, Naval College, Intels, Notore Fertiliser Company, the government ought to have taken the rehabilitation of the road and bridge seriously.
Edafe Oghenebrume lamented that the caving-in of the Okulu Aleto bridge has left a dangerous trap on the major federal highway, stressing that most travellers to and from Ogoni, Opobo/Nkoro, Andoni communities in Rivers State as well as Akwa Ibom State would now find it difficult to do so.
He also complained that most people who work in companies located around the Eleme-Onne axis of the East-West Road may have difficulty going to work, following the caving-in of the bridge.
In his remarks, another eyewitness, Friday Tobins said the partial collapse of the Aleto-Eleme bridge was a thing of shame on Nigerians civil engineers who were part of the team that designed and constructed the bridge.
Tobins, therefore, called on the Federal Government to take urgent measures to save the bridge from total collapse.
The Tide investigations reveal that some years ago, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had carried out repair work on the bridge following discovery of weaknesses on certain sections of the bridge.
Further checks show that vehicular traffic has been redirected to the Agbonchia-Oyigbo link road, hitherto abandoned by motorists following persistent attacks and kidnapping attributed to suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The Tide investigations reveal that the Agbonchia section of the link road also has another bridge across the Okulu river, which flows through Aleto to Okrika.
As at the time of this report, last night, most vehicles plying the road, were having difficulty crossing to the other side of the road, through the only section of the bridge left.
The Tide also noticed some emergency traffic officers from the community, trying to control vehicular traffic around the bridge to forestall total collapse of the remaining section of the bridge owing to expected congestion.
All efforts to reach the Chairman, Caretaker Committee, Eleme Local Government Area, Chief Obari Ollormate, proved abortive, as he refused to pick several phone calls or respond to two SMS requesting for his comments on the collapsed bridge in his LGA.

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana