Numerous holidaymakers are stranded in Onitsha, Anambra state, as the River Niger bridge is currently closed to all road users.
According to the travellers, police officers, members of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and authorities from the state government, announced to them that gate to the bridge would remain locked till 3pm because of the ongoing local government election in Delta state.
The travellers, going back to their various bases, mostly in the south-west, said they have been stuck in the resulting gridlock for over four hours with no respite in sight.
“We have been here since 6 am,” one of the stranded commuters, who identified himself as Emeka, said.
“The traffic is at standstill. The bridge is locked he said. I can’t believe that they can lock a federal bridge because of the local government elections.”“They didn’t even announce that the bridge will be locked”.
Emeka said the authorities present “even scammed” the travellers.
He explained that the entrance to the bridge from Onitsha was opened after the travellers protested but that the exit remain closed.
One commercial bus driver, Uche of the Imo State Transport Company, said “it is a tough time for the drivers”.
“Nobody can believe it. They say the bridge will not be opened till the election is over. Now the traffic stretches to Upper Iweka”, Uche said.
But Bisi Kazeem, spokesman of the FRSC, justified the closure.
“It is because of the local government elections in 25 local governments that the bridge was shut down,” he said.
“But now (1 pm), I can authoritatively tell you that it is opened because of the cars on the bridge.
Kazeem said that there was a press release by the FRSC to announce the decision to shut the bridge.
The press release, he said, was sent on Friday, January 5, but did not gain traction in the media with rarely any broadcast, print or online media bearing the news.
He sent the release via WhatsApp.
”Elections will be conducted in 25 local government areas of Delta state on 06/01/18. There will be restrictions on vehicular movement from 6:00hrs to 15:00hrs,” the statement read.
“The roads will be closed at the boundaries between Edo and Delta states as well as between Delta and Anambra states respectively from 6:00hrs till 15:00hrs. Motorists from Edo axis are advised to go through Warri-East-West roads – Port Harcourt-Anambra.
“Similarly, motorists from Anambra are advised to go through Enugu- Ajaokuta – Okene – Akure – Ibadan.”