By Jerry Edoho.
The Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, under the leadership of Engr. Akaniyene Ekong, has expressed deep concern over the threatening condition of Atabong head Bridge in Eket LGA of Akwa Ibom State.
This concern was as a result of an incident that took place on Friday, July 12 2019, where Atabong bridge linking Eket to other parts of the State was heated up for hours due to the action of Joint Task Force on anti-bunkering activities, who intercepted and set ablaze a boat laden with petroleum product alleged to be bunkering.
Speaking with news men during the
delegation of members of the association led by its chairman for on the spot fact finding and immediate assessment. Engineer Akaninyene Ekong called on the Nigerian Society Of Engineers, Chairman of Eket LGC, Ministry of Works, Minsitry of environment and other relevant and related parastatals to urgently set up a committee to carry out structural integrity test to ascertain the bridge safety condition.
Engr. Ekong while appealing for the speedy passage of the bill which will see to the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Safety Commission to regulate, monitor and enforce safety compliance in the state as proposed by Rt. Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency in AKHA, emphasised that the structural integrity of the bridge has been compromised due to the intense heat from fire which lasted for several hours.
He commended the quick intervention of the Chairman of Eket LGA, Mr. Frank Archibong and his Esit Eket counterpart, Mr. Iniobong Robson, who mobilized youths in the area to push the burning boat from underneath the bridge in order to reduce damage.
“Possibility of imminent bridge collapse due to direct heating of the underside of the bridge by fire for several hours has affected the concrete and caused some visible cracks under the bridge. Environmental pollution concerns as the Ecology of the River Channel has been disrupted; marine life has also been affected including fish and plants on the River banks” Engr. Ekong posited.
Engr. Ekong, on behalf of the NISafetyE recommends the following:
1. It is advised that due to Security concerns the old unused bridge should be decommissioned so as to curb activities of miscreants.
2. The Operational Readiness and Emergency Response capability of the Fire Service is lacking. The was no response by them hence the inferno raged for hours until it burnt itself out. It is advised that the Fire Service in the State should be well equipped as required by the Fire Service Act.
3. The security forces charged with anti-bunkering activities should desist from burning of seized petroleum products on site or near residential areas due to the serious environmental pollution it causes and the direct health effects on people.
4. Petroleum products should be seized and tested to confirm its genuineness or not before disposal and not by burning. Techniques should be developed to intercept bunkering activities at source.
NISafetyE noted that there was an imminent threat of collapse of the bridge as visible cracks were seen as a possible result of the fire and called for the relevant agencies to give this matter urgent attention to ensure Public Safety.