The popular Epie-Creek runs through the length and breadth of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital and
empties into the Ekoli River. Prior to the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996, no resident lived across the Epie-Creek. It was bushy, only suitable for farming by the locals then.
However, owing to the influx of people into Yenagoa from all parts of the country as a result of the state creation, development of the new city became rapid. Today, the other side of the creek is now a busy town on its own. The only problem still plaguing those living across the main city is the inability of past and present governments to criss-cross the creek with standard motorable bridges to ease mobility. The whole length of the creek can boast of only two bridges located at Etegwe-Tombia and Igbogene-Okolobiri roads.
The people are now left with the option of locally constructed wooden walkways often referred to as kpako or monkey bridge. While some of the makeshift bridges are constructed by communal efforts, others are done buy business oriented individuals.
This takes us to a particular wooden bridge, opposite Peace Mass Transit Motor Park, Okutukutu where every passerby adults pay a sum of N20 while children and students drop their N10 before crossing. With the bridge so strategically located, residents of that axis do not need to travel to as far as Etegwe-Tombia bridge before turning round to get to their homes. To save themselves the stress of turning round, many pedestrians do not see any qualms dropping their N20 to be able to walk across.
Meanwhile, others who see the payment of N20 per crossing as a big financial burden are grumbling bitterly. Mama Vero, as she is fondly called by the people of her neighborhood, is one of those embittered by the situation. Her recent complaint has gone viral on the social media where she is calling on the state government to come to their aid.
Mr. Okafor, a businessman, who spoke to TNN Metro, said he was a regular user of the bridge but lamented that they had no option than to pay because government had not deemed it fit to construct bridges to link the communities. "I use this bridge every day. It saves me the stress of turning to Tombia junction and pay another transport back to my place of work which is just my opposite here", he said.
Owner of the commercial wooden walkway christened as Teoet Island Bridge, Mr. Tuebi Sapere-Obi told our correspondent that his inspiration to construct the bridge was drawn from his Lagos experience. The 35 year old graduate of Building from University of Lagos recalled that such wooden bridges constructed for toll collections were common sights in Lagos. As a young graduate, Tuebi said there was no job anywhere for him hence he began to run after politicians with the "I am loyal" syndrome. His woes, he said, were compounded when his uncle Mr. James Dugo was sacked as commissioner.
The father of two narrated that he started the 116 kilometres bridge project in 2013 when he rented an apartment across the Epie creek and had difficulties assessing residence.
He said "it is the condition that I found myself and the place I lived that brought about this concept. Above all, it is God that gives wisdom. In 2013, l rented an apartment here because it was affordable. When the flood came, the bridge around my area was submerged because it was low. They now brought canoes to ferry people where each person paid N40. It was then the thought came and I kept asking myself, "can we do something even if government is not ready?" I spent 13 years in Lagos where I also studied building in UNILAG. The Apapa Bridge to Ajegunle is one area I walked pass and I saw people paying money. We paid N10 then". He noted that he saw no reason why Bayelsans would not do same if he constructed the bridge.
He revealed that through his sister who works in a bank, he was able to secure a loan to start the project which lasted for 20 months and gulped close to N2 million, pointing out that the work was tedious. Tuebi expressed appreciation to God that rather than looking for the so-called white collar jobs that were nowhere, he was now an employer of labour.
He noted that he had nine staff under him, four at the collection point and five in his bar located at the extreme of the bridge. He added, "today, my greatest joy is that people pay me money and still thank me for alleviating their plight".
One of his staff, Mr. Johnson Tekena who was at the collection point told our correspondent that he was happy working there because he could now put food on the table for his family after many years of joblessness. "Our government don't care much about the youth. I am a graduate but there is no job. I have worked here for three years. I am one of the many Bayelsa youth that this bridge has taken off the streets", he noted. He explained that each adult pays N20 to pass while children and teenagers on school uniforms pay N10, noting that very elderly person were allowed to go without payment.