• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Eko Bridge: We are doing our best to end motorists suffering, FG reassures

Eko Bridge: Contractor urges patience, explains why bridge remains closed

As suffering on Eko Bridge continues into the new year, the federal government has, again, assured that it is doing its best to ensure that the suffering does not last longer than necessary.

It has also assured that “God willing”, the May 2023 deadline for the completion of repair work on the burnt Apongbon Bridge, which is the reason for the closure of the Eko Bridge, will not be exceeded.

Umar Bakare, the federal controller of works in Lagos, who gave these assurances in a telephone chat with BusinessDay on Tuesday, said that work was on-going even with limited resources available.

The completion of repair work on the Apongbon Bridge was moved from December 2022 to May this year following the fire incident on the Ijora Olopa end of Eko Bridge which needed urgent attention.

This incident also led to the closure of another section of Eko Bridge, thereby worsening driving experience on the bridge and also increasing both time and cost of commuting to Lagos Island from the Mainland.

“Even during the Christmas holidays, it was not a drive-through here; we still had delays on this bridge,” Franklyn Okafor, a trader who lives in Festac Town but has his shop in Idumota, Lagos Island, recalled.

Okafor noted that as early as January 3 this year, commuting to the Island was already challenging, wondering why, even in an election year, both the federal and Lagos State government cannot work on this very important route to reduce people’s suffering.

It is not only on Eko Bridge that people suffer because of the closure of this bridge. The spill-over effect of closing both sections of Eko Bridge is felt badly on the adjoining roads leading to Costain, Oyingbo, Yaba, Surulere, Ijora, etc and commuters on all these routes have a large dose of stress every day,” Okafor said.

He noted that the ongoing repair work on Eko Bridge has compounded the traffic situation between Lagos Mainland and the Island, lamenting that 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 days.

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The suffering on this bridge was avoidable if both federal and Lagos state governments have had the political will to deal with the cause of frequent fire incidents on Lagos bridges.

Obafemi Hamzat, the Lagos Deputy Governor made a commitment to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, when he (the minister) came on inspection of the burnt section of Eko Bridge that the state government would stop trading activities under the bridges as part of measures to stop the fire incidents.

But till today, trading is still flourishing under the bridges including the ones that have had fire incidents.

“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,” Emma Ameke, a port worker, observed.

He said that this has been compounded lately by the fire incidents under Ijora Bridge, Apongbon Bridge and Eko Bridge resulting from uncontrolled marketing activities under these bridges, pointing out the Third Mainland Bridge was spared because it runs through the lagoon.

Ameke commended the Lagos state government for the road construction that is going on in most parts of the state, saying that 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 work.

He, however, advised that contingency measures should be provided to relieve the suffering of commuters. “There are standard procedures for maintaining critical link ways in a city with teeming 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,” he said.

“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. Pains are inflicted on the people. Roads can be repaired in phases to minimise suffering. Government can be stricter against parking and loading vehicles on the bridges while illegal trading under the bridges should be banned,” Ameke advised.