Akpongbon Bridge: More pains as ‘agberos’ collect tolls from motorists

Increasingly, it is becoming pain in the neck for motorists who have to access their homes and offices on Lagos Island through Akpongbon Bridge which suffered fire incident three months ago.

Besides the traffic congestion that keeps them on that route for hours, the motorists also have to contend with an ugly experience on the burnt bridge where miscreants popularly called ‘Agberos’ now collect tolls from them.

The street urchins who are engaged in this illegal act unchallenged by either the security agencies or authorities of the state government, charge their victims as much as N200 per motorist on that conquered ‘territory’.

A worried driver on Bolt, the ride-hailing app, who spoke to BusinessDay on Thursday said, “the toll operates for 24 hours every day since the bridge got burnt three months ago. Traffic crawled due to the downpour Thursday evening as cars inched slowly by fluorescent-lit stalls and pedestrians with umbrellas and in transparent raincoats.”

The anonymous driver added, “no leave, no break; every day they are there; we are suffering and smiling. If they tell us to contribute to repair that bridge, we will.

In recent times, traffic on Third Mainland Bridge is hell, always choked, because motorists want to avoid not just the gridlock on the burnt bridge, but also the toll charged by those who apparently “own Lagos.”

Read also: Eko Bridge: Be patient with us; we feel your pains — FG tells motorists

Earlier in the day, following a harrowing experience commuting to the Island, this reporter had contacted the Acting Controller of Works in Lagos, Forosola Oloyede, to ascertain from her when the suffering on the bridge would end.

Oloyede appealed to the motorists for patience, noting that they felt their pains because they were also part of the pain.

“We are appealing to the motorists in particular who spend hours commuting on that bridge to be patient with us; we feel their pains because we are also in it; we commute through that bridge too, so we know what the suffering there is.

“But we need to do the work and do it very well. If you go there now, you will see we are done with the columns (pillars); we need to do other aspects of the work caused by the fire incident; we also need to replace the bearings. All these will take time. We don’t want to do it halfway. It is better we take our time and do it once and for all. So, let’s just bear the pain once and for all too. We are looking at the next six months to get the work done,” the Acting Controller assured.

In the last three months, driving experience on Eko Bridge, a major route to Lagos Island from the Mainland, has been stressful. Suffering for everybody who has anything to do on the island has been deep. With the rains, it is intensifying as, frequently, vehicular movement comes to a standstill.

Descending the small bridge that links Eko Bridge to Outer Marina, leading to CMS bus-stop, just on the approach of Akpongbon Bridge, is a nightmare. This has been made worse by the flooded end of the bridge that stretches towards the UBA roundabout. Small vehicles cannot navigate the heavy flood.

“This is what we see here on daily basis. This is not a flash flood so it does not disappear quickly. It is only big vehicles like this and Coaster buses that go through this route. No small vehicle will try it,” the driver of the LT 300 bus that carried this reporter from Mile 2 to the Lagos Island on Thursday, noted in anger.

The driver who decline a request by this reporter to disclose his name said he was angry, not with the federal government, but with the Lagos State government which, according to him, “is pretending as if it does not know that people are suffering on that bridge.”

“They are busy playing politics while the country is burning. This is just the suffering on the road. Go home and you meet greater suffering. There is no light and no petroleum for your generator because that too has become another diesel or gas,” said a passenger, talking to nobody in particular.

The anonymous passenger wondered why it was taking so long for the repair work to be completed.

When Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, came to inspect the burnt bridge along with other bridges in Lagos, he assured that government would soon complete repair work that had already started. But no timeline was given by the minister and he said this about two months ago.