Lagos Island, Mainland commute turns hellish on Eko Bridge closure

Commuters faced a nightmare on Monday as they spent several hours in traffic commuting from Lagos Mainland to the Island and vice versa.

Most of the traders in Idumota and other parts of Lagos Island had to trek long distances, some all the way from Stadium, Alaka and Costain, where the gridlock stretched to on Monday morning.

Since March 23 this year, when 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 Lagos Island every morning has become a painful journey for many.

This was made worse last weekend when the federal government closed another section of the bridge as a response to the fire incident on the Eko Bridge on Friday. Though the driving experience going to Lagos Island was bad all through the weekend; it was on Monday morning when motorists were confused, trapped and unsure of how and when to get to the island. Everywhere was blocked.

Most motorists from the Mainland had to take the Third Mainland Bridge to enable them to access the Island. That too was on standstill for the better part of the morning with wear and tear on motorists and their vehicles.

The spillover effect of both sections of Eko Bridge closure was badly felt on the adjoining roads leading to Costain, Oyingbo, Yaba, Surulere, Ikora, etc., and commuters on all these routes had a large dose of stress on Monday morning.

“Eko Bridge is completely shut from Stadium and, as we always know, Carter Bridge is impassable because the area boys and mini-buses popularly called ‘Danfo’ have clogged the Idumota end. To access Oyingbo and head to Third Mainland Bridge is simply hell this morning,” a motorist who did not want to be named told this reporter.

The motorist, who lives on the Island but has his business on the Mainland, recalled how he spent two hours commuting from Apapa to Ikoyi, a journey that would ordinarily not take more than 40 minutes.

With Eko Bridge and Marine Bridge closed for repair work, and Apapa Road that leads to Costain blocked for rail work, motorists on their way to the Island or Mainland are groaning.

Motorists have described as insensitive and unacceptable the attitude of both Lagos and federal governments to fire incidents under Lagos bridges. This has happened under Ijora Bride, Apongbon Bridge and lately Eko Bridge as a result of marketing activities under these bridges.

“Why are the state and federal government officials watching as if they are helpless when people set up markets under the bridge and, once there is any fire, they are quick to close the bridge,” the business owner queried, stressing that Lagos cannot function with only Third Mainland Bridge.

“The only reason the Third Mainland Bridge doesn’t have an ‘underbridge market’ is the sea; if it was overland, it would have been burnt many years ago,” he said.

When Apongbon Bridge was burnt in March, the federal government closed Eko Bridge for what it called “emergency repair”. After three weeks of back-and-forth movement, Build Well was drafted to commence the repair work with December 2022 as completion date.

It remains to be seen how that completion date would be achieved despite the assurances by officials of the federal ministry of works and housing. Forosola Oloyede, acting federal controller of works in Lagos State, told this reporter that they were working hard to end motorists’ suffering on Eko Bridge.

On the closure of the additional section of the Bridge, Oloyede said: “The closure would last till comprehensive inspection and integrity tests were carried out. The reason for this is to avert any catastrophe and safeguard the lives of pedestrians and motorists. The Inspection and integrity tests are planned to be carried out as soon as possible. Further updates on the closure will be communicated as events develop.”

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“We are yet to see the real definition of Lagos as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ or Africa’s Model Megacity. Cities don’t function this way; Lagos is a city in static motion and that affects not only the residents’ physical and mental health, but also the economy of the state,” Emma Ameke, a port worker, told BusinessDay on Monday.

“Despite being a coastal city with enough water bodies to support efficient water transportation, what we see at the few jetties in the city don’t add up.”

A visit to the Apapa-CMS jetty by Flour Mills of Nigeria showed a grossly under-developed transportation system crying for more government attention. The crowd at the jetty on Monday scrambling for the few rickety boats spoke volumes about the water transportation system in the state.

Lagosians are eagerly waiting for the completion and use of the on-going Blue Line and Red Line projects in the state expected to be completed in December 2022 and first quarter of 2023 respectively.

“That is a mass transit system that will help decongest the roads. But we are just trusting God that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will not allow politics to take the place of governance. He is a candidate for the February elections and so is his godfather; It will only take God’s Grace for him to remember his contract with the people,” Ameke said.