Submerged Adamawa bridge rekindles pains of Boko Haram insurgency

Residents of Michika community in Adamawa State were reminded at the weekend of the pains that Boko Haram insurgents inflicted on them when they destroyed an all-important bridge in the area about five years ago. The makeshift alternative was washed away by flood last weekend, leaving stranded travellers to lament the ugly fate that befell them, ONIMISI ALAO reports

MATTHEW Yohana, a native of Michika town who lives in Yola, had just arrived Dilchim, a community some six kilometres to his hometown. He had departed Yola, the Adamawa State capital in a commercial vehicle last Saturday on a weekend visit to his native community, not knowing that a downpour that began in the night of penultimate Friday had continued to the early hours of the next day, causing a major river in Dilchim to overflow its bounds and cover the bridge that he and his fellow travellers would have crossed to Michika.
Standing on the edge of the submerged bridge with his travelling bag hanging over his left shoulder, Yohana said: “I came from my workplace in Yola this morning to spend the weekend with my extended family. But now I will probably have to return to Yola after travelling hundreds of kilometres, because everywhere around the link bridge here is flooded and I can’t go further.”
Michika town is 223 kilometres from away from Yola, meaning that Yohana had already travelled about 217 kilometres. He found it frustrating that he could not make the remaining six kilometres for the reunion he had anticipated with his people.
And while the flood at Dilchim had eased considerably by Monday, the people were still far from being able to travel because their journey would be hampered by a damaged bridge. The destruction of the bridge was a confirmation of the fear the residents of Michika and others in neighbouring Madagali Local Government Area had nursed since 2014 that any serious flood incident around the bridge could cut them off from other parts of the state.

Around Michika Local Government Area, the rain had poured heavily for hours, causing rivers to overflow their banks and turning the lowlands in the communities into seas of swirling floods. The impact of the floods was felt the most in the area over which a long bridge was built in Dilchim. Travellers from Madagali to Michika and others seeking to travel from communities in the two local government areas to other parts of the state were stranded for close to 48 hours.
Until 2014, the Dilchim Bridge had dutifully linked Michika and Madagali, the two local government at the northern end of Adamawa State, with the remaining parts of the state southwards. The all-important bridge also links Adamawa with neighbouring Borno State and the Republic of Cameroon. Then in 2014, the rampaging Boko Haram sect seized seven local government areas mostly in the northern part of Adamawa, including Michika and Madagali, destroying many strategic institutions and infrastructure including Dilchim Bridge.
The deadly sect had destroyed the bridge midstream, making travelling on it impossible and forcing travellers to use a makeshift passage that was usable in the dry season but impossible to use when it rains with some intensity, such as the people witnessed between Saturday and Sunday, when flood washed off the makeshift alternative.
The flood of last Saturday which in effect cut off the people of Michika and Madagali LGAs from the other 19 LGAs of Adamawa State, reminded Michika people of the harm that Boko Haram had done to them.
While the Boko Haram elements had in their destructive craving blown off a huge chunk of the long Dilchim Bridge in 2014, the military, which was deployed to contain their excesses, had blown off the nearby Kudzum Bridge on the same trunk A road leading to Michika, to prevent the Boko Haram elements from advancing to other parts of the state.
In 2014, the Boko Haram sect had seized Michika, Madagali and five other LGAs in Adamawa State, namely Mubi North, Mubi South, Maiha, Gombi and Hong, in a bid to carve out a territory of their own. They carried out extensive destruction during the period, rendering the Dilchim Bridge useless to vehicles, among other things that were destroyed.
The deadly sect held sway in those areas from September 2014 when they ‘conquered’ the seven Adamawa LGAs to January 29, 2015 when the military succeeded in liberating the LGAs. Today, the people of Michika and Madagali and other concerned individuals and groups are lamenting that five years down the line, two major bridges destroyed by or because of Boko Haram are yet to be reconstructed.
The Federal Government had in 2016 awarded the contract for the reconstruction of the bridges, but work got to a very slow start, and the senator representing Northern Adamawa Zone at the time, Binta Masi Garba, had to urge patience. She had said on a visit to the sites: “I am pleading with the members of Mubi, Madagali and Michika communities to be patient as we are working round the clock to see that this road and the collapsed bridges are fixed. These two destroyed bridges, in particular, are the greatest problem of our people. I’m happy that they are captured in the 2017 budget.”
Two years later, in 2018, Binta found herself asking for the revocation of the contract for the bridges. Binta, who was reacting to the request of a group of people protesting the slow pace of work, asked the Federal Government to revoke the N20 billion contract over the allegation of incompetence levelled by the people against the contractor.
The contractor, Gertz Zheradin of RHAS Nigeria Ltd, had shot back, attributing the snail speed of contract execution to delays in mobilisation and progress-inhibiting rains.
More recently, Binta’s successor, Sen Ishaku Abbo, was furious when he visited the sites of the bridges, shortly before the Saturday flood, and saw things that were entirely different from what he said he was told.
Abbo said: “Meeting with the contractors in Abuja, they assured me that work was already ongoing; that Kudzum Bridge was under construction and that the problem they are having is the rainfall which stopped them from erecting the full bridge. They said that their machines are here on site.
“On reaching here today, I could only see a single crane. We are saying that we don’t see even a single person on site working. It should be noted that there was a budget provision for this work, and so far, based on record available to me, contractors received nearly N2 billion to do this work. If they received N2 billion, and this is what we see on the site, and this is the level of work, something needs to be done.”
Adamawa State governor, Rt Hon Ahmadu Fintiri, who visited the Dilchim Bridge site after the flood of last Saturday, called for accelerated efforts on the part of the Federal Government in fixing the bad bridges.
“The delay in the execution of the project has crippled business in the area and brought untold hardship to the people of Michika and Madagali who also have been cut off from other parts of the country,” Fintiri said.
He pleaded that in the meantime, palliative steps should be taken to enable fairly dependable passage.
Source: thenationonlineng.net

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