On Friday 12th July 2019 the Atabong Bridge which links Eket LGA to other parts of the State was heated for several hours by fire from a boat set ablaze by Military Joint Task Force on anti-bunkering activities.
A delegation of members of Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers, Akwa Ibom Chapter (a division of Nigerian Society of Engineers) led by Chairman Engr Akaninyene Ekong visited the site for an immediate assessment of the bridge and its surrounding.
It was reported, according to eye witnesses accounts, that Military personnel intercepted a boat laden with Petroleum products and set it ablaze with the contents on the River.
The burning boat with multiple drums of the Petroleum product which was alleged to be diesel drifted by the river current got stuck under the bridge and burnt for several hours.
It took the intervention of able bodied youth supervised by the Chairman of Eket for the burning boat to be pushed away from beneath the bridge. The NISafetyE commends the Eket Council Chairman Hon. Frank Archibong for the quick intervention.
1. Thick smoke from the inferno led to poor visibility hence. Despite the smoke, still many pedestrians and vehicles with headlights turned on attempted to cross the bridge but initially couldn’t due to inability to see the other side of the road which led to crashes.
2. Possibility of imminent bridge collapse as the 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.
3. Environmental pollution concerns as the Ecology of the River Channel has been disrupted. Habitat of birds have been destroyed as birds where seen floating on the water while other where swarming overheard. Marine life has also been affected including fish and plants on the River banks.
The Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers , Engr Akaninyene Ekong stated that the NISafetyE recommends the following
1.The Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers, calls on the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Chairman Eket LGC, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Environment and other relevant government agencies to set up a Committee to carry out a Structural Integrity test on the Atabong bridge to confirm if the bridge is still safe for passage and Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out.
2. It is advised that the due to Security concerns the old unused bridge should be decommissioned so as to curb activities of miscreants.
3. 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.
4. A call for the accelerated passage of the bill to establish the Akwa Ibom State Safety Commission to regulate, monitor and enforce Safety compliance in the State as proposed by Rt Hon. Usoroh Akpanusoh member representing Esit Eket -Ibeno State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
5. 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.
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.
Present at the site inspection are: Engr Akaninyene Edet Ekong -Chairman , Engr
Owoedimo E. Enang, Ubong U. Sunday, Engr Jude T. Inyang and Engr. Emmanuel Eno.