The National Emergency Management Agency NEMA has allayed the fear of travelers during the yuletide that the old Niger Bridge in Onitsha, a gateway to the South-Eastern part of the country will not collapse as being speculated.
The Director General of NEMA, AVM Mohammed Audu-Bida said that necessary actions have been taken by government to ensure the safety of commuters, especially during this yuletide. He disclosed this during an assessment of level of preparedness of the combined security networks that have been deployed to mount surveillance and protect lives and properties during the exercise.
The agency is spearheading Operation Eagleye, a joint effort of security agencies in the country in providing adequate security on major highways to control traffics and combat criminal activities through out the yuletide period.
He pointed out that the reason for the maximum security alert at this period was influenced by past experiences of high road accidents and increased rate of criminalities during such festivities.
Audu-Bida added that heavy penalties await offenders who fail to observe strict lane discipline, overspeeding, overload, obstruction of traffics, indiscriminate use of fire crackers and acts that threaten human lives and security of the country.
He enjoined Nigerians to avoid actions that can ruin their life. According to him As 2009 is just around the corner, we should avoid recklessness that may deny us the joy of witnessing the New Year. All the security agencies are collaborating and on full alert to deal ruthlessly with undesirable elements who may foment trouble.
Some of the agencies involved in the Operation Eagleye include the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Fire Services, Red Cross, Federal Ministry of Health, FERMA and Vehicle Inspection office.
At the local level, members of the Grassroots Vanguard Volunteers which was initiated by NEMA in collaboration with state emergency committees will complement the effort of security agencies for search and rescue in cases of outbreak of fire incidents or disasters.
There had been anxiety over unusual noises and vibrations of the Bridge, which lies on a critical economic route carrying traffic far in excess of its earlier design of the sixties. A joint visit to the foot of the bridge in November 2008 by NEMA and other stakeholders discovered that vandals were removing bolts, nuts and other structural elements from the bridge. The situation prompted the government to mount more security for the bridge while necessary repaired were made to the bridge.