Friday 8th July, 2022 President Julius Maada Bio commissioned the newly constructed double lane Mabang Bridge which is now named Koblo-Gulama Bridge across the Ribbi River along the Songo-Moyamba Road in the esteem presence of the Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Juan Antonio Frutos.
The total cost for the bridge is 11.7 million Euro and it was constructed under the “Moyamba Town-Moyamba Junction Road and Bridges Project under the European Union support to the Infrastructure Sector in Sierra Leone.
The new bridge is 231 metre span with composite steel girders, reinforced concrete Deck across the Ribbi River. The bridge construction works also include the construction of 312 metres of paved road for the approaches to the new bridge.
In his opening statement to commission the bridge, President Maada Bio started by asking for a minute of silence prayers for people who lost their lives crossing the Ribbi River since 2013 when the bridge collapsed with a truckload of goods and passengers.
He said with the commissioning of the new bridge, it’s going to end the many years of using dug-out canoes as the means of crossing and accessing towns and villages both at the Moyamba and Port Loko districts respectively and it is in that spirit that he thanked the European Union that has provided finances and worked very closely with the Government to construct the bridge.
President Bio further mentioned that it is under the spirit of cooperation between the Government of Sierra Leone and the European Union that is transforming the country and government truly appreciates this intervention from the European Union.
Director of the National Authorising Office, Ambrose James, said since the bridge collapsed over nine years ago, people in that region have faced considerable challenges in movement, their goods, produce and for services to reach them in time, and the commissioning of the bridge is historic and is going to bring the much needed relief to the people of that area and the country as a whole.
Explaining the challenges during the construction works, Ambrose James said the terrain where the bridge was constructed is tough and posed considerable challenges during the construction phase, coupled with the Corona virus outbreak which disrupted the works because of travel restrictions on experts that affected the completion date of the bridge.
The European Union Deputy Head of Delegation to Sierra Leone, Juan Antonio Frutos said the Koblo-Gulama Bridge is the first river crossing towards the South via the route through Mabang and the PC Alikali Modu III Bridge in Port Loko district is the first river crossing towards the North of Sierra Leone.
The benefits of bridges at places where previously there was no bridge are immense. They bring people closer together, provide connectivity, create exchange and closeness, and helps make grow together what belongs together. Ambassador Frutos further said bridges can become powerful drivers of growth and better livelihood particularly in countries characterized by diversity and regional differences. Bridges bring together countries, regions, districts, towns, villages, and most importantly, people.
He went further to explain that EU has a longstanding, committed and reliable political and development partnership with Sierra Leone that was encouraging and supporting the consolidation and progress on peace, stability, democracy, governance and human rights.
Ambassador Juan Antonio Frutos said together with the previously commissioned Magbele Bridge, the Mabang Bridge is part of a package of road infrastructure projects that Sierra Leone and the European Union intend to round off before the 2023 rainy season.
Ambassador Frutos ended by expressing his gratitude for witnessing the commissioning of the bridge and thanked all who have helped to make this project a success.
The construction of both the PC Alikali Modu III Bridge and Koblo-Gulama Bridge fall under lot 2 of the 48 million Euro project “Moyamba Town-Moyamba Junction Roads and Bridges” that also includes a 32.8 km Moyamba Town and Moyamba Junction road, 36-metre span Gbangbama Bridge and 42-metre span Moyamba Bridge all funded under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).
Over nine years since the collapsed of the Mabang Bridge on the 22nd February 2013, communities living along this route have been faced with series of constraints. The collapse of the bridge has caused extreme difficulties for people to market their goods and do business as usual.
Residents along these communities say the bridge is important to their trade, health, academic and social activities; it links many towns, villages and chiefdoms between Port Loko and Moyamba districts. Most residents along the Songo-Moyamba Road are engaged in various commercial activities, and the bridge is an essential infrastructure for their daily survival and development programmes.
Before now, the Town Chief at Mabang village, Chief Ibrahim Kargbo, said since the collapse of the bridge, nine years ago, there were no vibrant commercial activities going-on in that part of the country. He said that has created lot of sufferings for majority of the people living in communities along the Song-Moyamba road, as most of them depend on trading goods from Freetown to communities between Songo and Moyamba Town for their livelihoods.
Chief Ibrahim Kargbo also said lots of people have lost their lives including school children and pregnant women by boat accidents across the Ribi River in attempts to access schools and hospitals.
He cited a case that happened few years ago when a pupil who was taking exams in one of the community schools across the Ribbi River got drowned by boat accident, and that incident discouraged most parents to allow their kids to go across the river to attend Junior Secondary Schools, especially during the rainy season when the river is rough and the water level is high.
Aminata Kamara, a young business woman who buys most of her goods from the capital city Freetown and trade them in villages along the Songo-Moyamba road, said they were almost cut off from Freetown because of the collapse of the bridge, except for some of them who can brave it across the river using dugout canoes, or the old and only hand-pulled ferry as means of transportation across the Ribbi River.
Now that the bridge has been commissioned by President Bio, it will now boost trade and commerce along those communities and they will no longer endanger their lives using canoes to access other towns and villages, including various chiefdoms in Moyamba and the western urban districts.
The bridge which boundaries Koya chiefdom in Port Loko and Ribi chiefdom in Moyamba districts has been a major infrastructural challenge since its collapse for people in that part of the country before commencement of its construction on 26th March, 2018.
The bridge will now contribute significantly to relaunching the social and economic growth of people in that part of the country, and it will ensure a safe and reliable route for vehicles to ply on and reduce travel time, vehicle operating costs, and accidents across the Ribbi River.
The Moyamba-Moyamba Junction roads and bridges rehabilitation project is considered to be one of the largest infrastructure development project funded by the EU in Sierra Leone