Contrary to expectations that the section of the bridge that takes motorists out from the Island to the Mainland would be opened by weekend, June 17, the bridge remains closed to traffic with the contractor urging motorists for patience.
Olukorede Kesha, the controller of works in Lagos, had told BusinessDay in a telephone interview Wednesday, last week, that the outbound section of the bridge would be opened by weekend.
“I think we should open that section of the bridge by weekend,” Kesha, said, making it the second time she said the bridge would be opened but it did not. The first time was a couple of weeks ago when she said that section of the bridge would be opened by the middle of June, precisely on Thursday, June 15.
But Buildwell Plants & Equipment Industries Limited, the contractor handling the repair work, says though repair work on the burnt section of the Apongbon Bridge is completed and ready for use, it cannot be opened because of pending work on the burnt section of Eko Bridge at Ijora Olopa end.
“We cannot open that section as earlier planned because we are still working on the Ijora Olopa section of the Bridge which was burnt late last year when we were still working on Apongbon,” one of the site engineers told this reporter who visited the site Tuesday morning.
When our reporter visited, work was upbeat on the inbound section of the bridge as the workers were seen digging and laying a rubber expansion joint on the bridge. Some workers were also seen mixing and casting concrete mixture on that section of the bridge.
“This is what we need to do at Ijora Olopa end of the bridge. There are two of them there just as we have them here—one iron and the other one rubber,” the site engineer who did not want to disclose his name told our reporter.
Another worker, who introduced himself simply as site supervisor, also told this reporter that they needed to finish the work at Ijora Olopa before opening any section of the bridge.
“Our challenge here is traffic, both human and vehicular. It has been very difficult managing traffic here and this is whuy we have been here in the last 14 months. If we open any section of the bridge now, it will be a problem because it will increase traffic, maybe more than we have seen,” he said.
The supervisor assured that they would continue to work hard to ensure that they finished the two sections by the end of this month and open the bridge for motorists to have good driving experience.
The repair work on Apongbon Bridge which was burnt by fire on March 23, 2022 was scheduled to be completed in December 2022 but this did not happen because, on Friday November 4 of that same year, a section of the Eko Bridge also got burnt, leading to the extension of the completion of work on Apongbon to May 2023 by Babatunde Fashola, the former minister of works and housing.
The repair work has dragged for 15 months and still counting. Four different controllers of works have worked on this bridge and yet it is not over. Olukayode Popoola started the repair work on the bridge. Not long after, he was replaced by Forosola Oloyede who handed over to Umar Bakare who, was succeeded by Kesha, the present controller.
“That simply underscores the unseriousness with which the government treats the work on this very important route to the business hub of the country’s commercial nerve centre which, arguably, is the economic hub of West Africa,” Isaac Folurunso, who lives in Ilupeju but works in Victoria Island, noted.
“If they had wanted to treat the work as an emergency, one controller should have been kept on the job to see it through. I want to believe that there is no sense of emergency on this work,” he added, wondering if the June end date reopening the entire bridge would happen.
Since the two fire incidents on Apongbon and Eko Bridges in March and November 2022 respectively, it had been hellish for motorists who commute from the Lagos Mainland to the Island or from the Island to the Mainland. Their woes have been worsened by the reconstruction work on the road linking Eko Bridge to Apapa which began about three weeks ago.