Experts have warned of the imminent danger hanging around the Apapa-Ijora Bridge, a major entry route into Apapa, where Nigeria’s most utilised seaports; Tincan and Apapa ports are located.
The experts’ warning comes as BDSunday checks reveal a dilapidating/collapsing bridge in need of urgent attention if a disaster of monumental dimension is to be averted.
Afolabi Adedeji, managing director of Ethical Business & Management Associates, warned that the continued delay in attending to the dilapidating bridge has made it a disaster in waiting. According to the expert, the bridge is one that requires regular maintenance because of pressure coming from the volume of traffic it carries. He warned that Lagos, having evolved from capital city to economic nerve centre of West Africa, the economy of Nigeria would be at risk “if the bridge was allowed to get to a point of failure. “If this happens in the morning, the casualty figures will be unimaginable,” said Adedeji, who added that it was time the Federal Ministry of Works stepped in.
BD SUNDAY’s probe into the activities of the Federal Ministry of Works show that the Apapa-Ijora Bridge has not received any major maintenance for over three decades now despite bearing the weights of heavy-duty trucks and tankers carrying dry and wet cargoes in and out of Apapa on a daily basis. Over 1,000 container laden trucks, petroleum tankers and other articulated trucks ply the bridge every day.
All the expansion joints that help keep the bridge in form and facilitate smooth ride have loosened up, creating deep ditches, with very negative impact on traffic flow. A ride on the bridge show that it is now seriously wobbling, a development experts warn portends serious danger to the public and goods that are taken through the bridge to and fro Apapa.
A source within the Federal Ministry of Works in Abuja told BD SUNDAY that each time a request toward fixing the bridge is made; it is always swept under the carpet. “The bridge has not been maintained since God knows when. I can’t remember,” said our source.
However, Godwin Ekeh, federal controller of works, South-West zone, said plans were ongoing to repair damaged expansion joints on major bridges in Lagos. He said though challenged by funds, the Federal Ministry of Works had begun with the Eko Bridge and would move to other bridges in Lagos.
Also, John Adebowale, a motorist, lamented poor maintenance culture in Nigeria. He said often time, public facilities are allowed to completely rot before intervention by the government.
“I recall the case of Third Mainland Bridge a few years ago. It had reached a point where panic messages were being sent out that the bridge was vibrating and collapsing, before the Federal Ministry of Works mobilised to fix the damaged expansion joints. The same is happening on Ijora-Apapa Bridge with nothing being done, said Adebowale.
According to him, aside damage to vehicles; the bridge is vibrating and requires urgent intervention. “Engineers from the Federal Ministry of Works need to visit the bridge urgently and critically look into what can be done. Whenever I am trapped in traffic, I usually feel the vibration while inside my car.”
Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, also recently raised the alarm about the danger the bridge poses to the motoring public. While hosting the Presidential Committee for Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) led by its chairman, Martin Luther Agwai (retired army general) at Lagos House, Ikeja, Fashola argued that the SURE-P funds ought to be pool to build enduring infrastructure and maintaining existing ones.
“There are about 28 bridges in Lagos that belong to the Federal Government that have not been maintained in the last 40 years,” said Fashola who identified the Apapa-Ijora Bridge as becoming a nightmare to drive on.
“The expansion joints of the Apapa/Ijora Bridge have widened so dangerously that it is a nightmare to drive on it. Some of the studies that we did I have sent the report to the Federal Ministry of Works showing what needs to be done and how much it will cost to do them,” he said.
Fashola advocated a massive investment in infrastructure across the nation with proceeds from the nation’s oil, saying if well invested; the fund would help bridge the infrastructural deficiency which has stunted the country’s economic growth.
He also called for a policy framework that would enable intervention agencies of the Federal Government such as SURE-P, to deliver enduring and long-term benefits across the country. He argued that since oil prices fluctuate globally, the Federal Government should be able to invest proceeds of the commodity during boom times on enduring infrastructure and services that benefit the larger society.