The Lagos State and federal government Tuesday night hurriedly closed a section of the ever busy and economically strategic Eko Bridge in Lagos to traffic, causing what was clearly a nightmarish traffic situation for all Apapa and Island-bound motorists Wednesday morning. The dust is yet to settle.
The reason for the unannounced closure of the bridge was a yawning crack on the bridge which the government authorities reasoned had rendered it unsafe for use by motorists and other users.
Repair work is yet to commence on the crack because, according to Adedamola Kuti, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, a comprehensive investigations have to be carried out to determine the extent of damage on the bridge bearings discovered to have gone bad.
Though nobody knows yet, until perhaps when the investigations are concluded, the cause of the crack, experts are of the view that what has happened on Eko Bridge simply foretells the looming danger that awaits Apapa Bridges which have become a loading bay for thousands of trucks enroute the ports.
For the wrong reasons, Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city, has been in the news for years. The city has garnered notoriety for its legendary traffic gridlock which has killed many businesses and forced many landlords out of their houses to become tenants in other parts of Lagos.
Apapa is also a port city where all the access routes, including bridges, have been occupied, almost permanently, by trailers and tankers whose combine weight is exerting pressure on the stability of the bridges.
Both civil and structural engineers have frequently raised the alarm on the danger those trucks left stationary on the bridges pose to the port city, stressing that it is time for government to do something about the continued occupation of those bridges by the trucks.
“Government should see the crack on Eko Bridge, which also serves as loading bay for some Apapa-bound trucks, as a wakeup call,” says Johnson Chukwuma, a structural engineer.
Chukwuma in a telephone interview recalled the tragedy in Italy, the largest city in Rome, where, a couple of years ago, a highway bridge, the Morandi Bridge, collapsed over Genoa, causing people, cars and huge slabs of concrete to fall hundreds of feet onto the city below.
“That unfortunate incident in Italy holds a grave lesson for Nigeria as it calls to mind quickly the disaster probably waiting to happen in Apapa where thousands of trailers and tankers, surging towards the ports, are parked almost permanently on the Ijora-Apapa Bridge; they are exerting enormous pressure on the bridge and weakening its structural stability,” he said.
Gabriel Ojo, a civil engineer, says even though it is most unlikely that the bridge structure and integrity will be adversely affected by the ‘empty’ trucks, many of those trucks are not in perfect condition.
“And because they are not in perfect condition, the trucks are likely to have oil, including petrol, diesel, engine oil, brake oil, dripping on the bridges; these are organic solvents that naturally dissolve the asphalt topping and cause the bridges top and decks to deteriorate very fast”, he explained.
Femi Akintunde, an engineer and GMD/CEO, Alpha Mead Group, affirms, stressing that heavy duty trucks packed at close proximity to one another and in static condition over a long period of time have adverse impact on the bridges.
“What this implies is that the combined weight of the vehicles packed in this condition will be far more than what the bridge was designed to carry under normal condition,” he explained.
There is no gain-saying that heavy traffic is capable of collapsing a bridge and it could be argued that the Italian bridge couldn’t have been as busy and stressed as Apapa Bridge which witnesses over 2,000 private and commuter vehicles daily plus the stationary trucks which are piling pressure on it every minute.