Elebeble — Residents of oil-rich Elebele community, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have raised the alarm that another steel bridge was facing imminent collapse in the locality, about weeks after a 50-ton steel bridge caved in, cutting off several communities and paralysing socio-economic activities.
The second bridge, also built by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, according to villagers, is old-fashioned and requires urgent repairs.
Locals have resorted to the use of boats to navigate the creeks separating their community from Emeyal and other neighbouring towns, since the unfortunate incident caused by a driver with a 60-ton haulage truck carrying granite stone, who ignored the warning sign that vehicles and other equipment above 50 tons should not pass the bridge.
A resident, Mr. Jones Aziba, told NDV that "as it is, vehicles plying that route will now have to make a detour through the Federal Government Girls College in Imirringi from Elebele by passing through another iron bridge built by Shell, which is on the verge of collapse due to old age and lack of proper maintenance."
Uneasy life since bridge buckled
Our finding shows the development was already having its toll on the locals predominantly farmers, who depend on the bridge for evacuation of their harvest, including plantain, palm fruits and palm oil to Yenagoa, the state capital and other cities.
Youth President of the community, Mr. Okala Azibola, appealed to the various tiers of government to come to the aid of the community, saying government had abandoned the people for several years.
He said: "This is the second time this bridge is collapsing. Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, built the bridge in the late 80s. The collapse of this bridge is making life difficult for our people because transportation fare to Yenagoa from Elebele has doubled.
"As a matter of fact, Elebele community lacks these basic social amenities. As an oil-producing community, which has contributed immensely to the growth of this nation, we are not supposed to lack these basic social amenities in this modern age and time.
"I also want to appeal to the multi-national oil companies operating in this area, especially SPDC and Agip, to come to our aid. I am also using this medium to appeal to the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to look into our sad story."
Lamenting the sad turn of events, another resident, John Jacobs, said: "This bridge is very important to us because that is the only road to and out of our community and it leads to the oil fields across Ogbia Kingdom and it is here that oil was first discovered in the whole West African region.
"Our people rely on the bridge to convey our agricultural produce to the state capital as well as other economic activities, so you can see that the bridge is strategic to us all.
"We appeal to the state and federal government and Shell to swing into action immediately, because we have no alternative."
An inhabitant simply identified as Temple, said: "This bridge, like several others, was built in the early eighties. It collapsed in 1996, but was rehabilitated and put to use before it again caved in, penultimate Thursday."
NDV learned that that because of the strategic location of the community as a fast transit point for motorists and commuters heading to Nembe and Brass from Yenagoa, Elebele became the preferred route, making it the busiest corridor to Ogbia enclave and its sister-communities in the east senatorial district.