It is perhaps an understatement to say that the people of Lagos State are going through harrowing experiences in commuting around the city; to work places or their homes. That is surely one of the prices to pay for the building of infrastructure particularly roads, which are not just crucial to daily life activities but mostly in dilapidated conditions. Road construction is going on in most parts of Lagos State but the ones that are of major concern and causing the greatest dislocation to people are those on major roads and bridges. As the country’s commercial hub and aspiring megacity, Lagos deserves special attention by both the federal and the state governments to expedite action on the works but also to provide contingency measures to relieve the huge number of commuters.
In particular, the on-going repair works on the ever-busy Eko Bridge has compounded the endemic traffic situation between Lagos Mainland and the Island. Most of the traders in Idumota and other parts of Lagos Island now trek long distances, some all the way from Stadium, Alaka and Costain, where the gridlock often stretches to on busy week days. The work on this critical bridge should be expedited to reduce the stress and suffering of the people. Part of the repairs should be done at night.
Since March 23 this year when the repair work started on Apongbon Bridge following a fire incident that burnt a section of the bridge, leading to the closure of a section of Eko Bridge, commuting to and fro the Island every day has become hellish, almost a journey to the middle of nowhere. The situation was compounded over the past weeks after the Federal Government closed additional sections of the Eko Bridge in response to another fire incident on the bridge. Motorists experience tough times going to the Island and, on occasions were confounded, trapped and unsure how and when to get to the island. Traffic was at standstill. The Third Mainland Bridge that could have provided an alternative route to the Island was equally in gridlock.
The spill-over effect of both sections of Eko Bridge closure is being badly felt on the adjoining roads leading to Costain, Oyingbo, Yaba, Surulere, Ijora, etc and commuters on all these routes had a large dose of stress all through the days.
Reports say Eko Bridge was completely shut from the national stadium. Also, Carter Bridge is impassable as traders, area boys and mini-buses popularly called ‘Danfo’ clogged the Idumota end of the bridge. Consequently, to access Oyingbo and head to Third Mainland Bridge was herculean. With Eko Bridge and Marine Bridge closed for repairs, and Apapa Road that leads to Costain blocked for rail works, motorists on their way to the Island or Mainland are simply helpless. This is a problem caused by people trading under the bridges and, through their activities, igniting fire every now and then.
The attitude of both the Lagos and federal governments to fire incidents under Lagos bridges has left a lot to be desired because of their very slow, indecisive response, and absence of contingency measures to ameliorate the ensuing heavy traffic build up. This has been compounded lately under Ijora Bridge, Apongbon Bridge and lately Eko Bridge as a result of unbridled marketing activities under these bridges. Mercifully, the Third Mainland Bridge is spared perhaps because it runs through the lagoon. But government cannot afford let off its guard as Nigerians are capable of just anything. Sadly, the federal and Lagos State governments have surreptitiously become spectators of the traffic chaos on the bridges; quick only to close the bridge after fire incidents.
Quite often, the three bridges connecting the mainland to the island – Cater, Eko and the Third Mainland bridges – are taken over by heavy duty tankers and trailers waiting to access Apapa and Tin Can Island ports to load and off-load cargo. This problem is getting perennial and needs to be fully addressed. Even the three bridges when operational without encumbrances, are barely adequate to ensure free flow of traffic particularly during peak hours. To divert traffic from the Third Mainland Bridge to the so-called alternative routes spells bedlam due to paucity of alternative routes. Lagos is yet to develop mass transit system for the teeming population while water transportation is still in its infancy.
When Apongbon Bridge was burnt, the Federal Government closed the Eko Bridge for what they called “emergency repair.” After three weeks of back-and-forth movement, Build Well was drafted to commence the repair work with December 2022 as the completion date. With the deadline only weeks away, the repairs are nowhere near completion.
The need to maintain the bridges cannot be over-emphasised but there are standard procedures for maintaining such critical link way in a city teeming with population and heavy traffic. Government should know how to get things done without inflicting too much pain on the people. Roads repair for instance can be staggered with repairs of the bridges. A situation where the state government embarks on road repairs at the same time the Federal Government is working on the bridges shows lack of synergy and collaboration. The pains are inflicted on the people. Roads can be repaired in phases to minimise suffering. Government can be more strict against parking and loading vehicles on the bridges, which is antithetical of durability. Illegal stalls and markets under the bridges should also be banned.
Government should have a strict timeline for repairing the road. Moreover, road maintenance culture needs to be spiked to ensure that neither the bridges nor the roads are abandoned for too long without maintenance. Government should be alive to its responsibility because government is measured by roads infrastructure, its quality and quantity, among other parameters.