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The Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers (NISE), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, Engr. Akaninyene Ekong, has called on 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 currently safe for passage.

He made this call on the heels of the recent fire incident that gutted the bridge in the state a few days ago, caused by a boat set ablaze by Military Joint Task Force on anti-bunkering activities.

Ekong, who led a delegation of NISE members to carry out an immediate environmental impact assessment of the incidence, said, it was necessary for the safety group to do this as a way of been socially responsible as well as to forestall future occurrence and give the relevant government agencies a focus in addressing the situation.

Speaking on the outcome of NISE assessment, the chairman said, “ There’s a possibility of imminent bridge collapse due to direct heating of the underside of the bridge by the inferno for several hours which affected the concrete and causing visible cracks under the bridge.
Also, we can say categorically that the ecology of the river channel has been disrupted as birds were seen floating on the water. Marine life has also been affected including fish and plants on the river banks.”

Harping on possible solutions, Ekong said, “The operational readiness and emergency response capability of the Fire Service was lacking. There was no response by them hence, the inferno raged for hours. It is advised that the Fire Service in the State should be well equipped as required by the Fire Service Act.”

Ekong said the safety body is therefore appealing 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.

The body also urged the state task forces charged with anti-bunkering activities to desist from burning seized petroleum products on site or near residential areas to guard against environmental pollution and other health hazard on the people.

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