Welcome to the heart of Nigeria, where breathtaking infrastructure meets the rich tapestry of history and culture. The River Niger Bridge in Onitsha stands as a testament to engineering prowess and connects not just two geographical/geopolitical locations but also links the past with the present. The River Niger Bridge or Onitsha Bridge, as it is popularly called, is a bridge that connects the southeastern and western regions of Nigeria across the Niger River. The bridge is located in Onitsha, Anambra State, and links to Asaba, Delta State.
This engineering marvel has become a lifeline for commerce, connecting the bustling markets of Onitsha with the rest of Nigeria. The total length of the bridge is about 1.40km (4,606 feet). The bridge was completed in 1965 and has two lanes, a pedestrian walkway and 3 vehicular lane central carriageway. It serves as a crucial transportation link, facilitating the movement of goods and people between the eastern and western regions of Nigeria. It was constructed to replace the old ferry system, significantly reducing travel time and boosting economic activities.
Recently, the bridge is often congested with traffic and traders alike as the nearby Onitsha Main Market is one of the largest markets in West Africa. Due to the high load of human and vehicular traffic the bridge witnesses on daily basis, a second bridge, known as the Second Niger Bridge or the Second Onitsha Bridge, was inaugurated in 2023 to ease the pressure on the ever busy first bridge.
The plan for the bridge started as early as in the 1950s. Netherlands Engineering Consultants of The Hague, Holland (NEDECO) was responsible for the design and feasibility studies on the bridge construction. French construction giant, Dumez, constructed the Bridge, at an estimated cost of £6.75 million. The construction span between 1964 and 1965 and was completed in December 1965. The bridge was 8×420 ft with a carriageway of 36 feet centre-truss and a pedestrian walkway on both sides of the carriageway at its completion.
River Niger Bridge, Onitsha, was commissioned by the then Prime Minister the late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and opened for traffic in December 1965. The bridge was destroyed at Onitsha end of it during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 – 1970, but was later rebuilt. During President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration, the bridge was rehabilitated by replacing two spans on the Onitsha end of the bridge that was damaged during the civil war with a fourteen-foot wide bailey, at an estimated cost of 1.5 million pounds. The bridge is currently being maintained by Federal Ministry of Works.