The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has briefed transportation stakeholders on the ongoing rehabilitation works on bridges nationwide including Eko Bridge and the recently burnt section at Apongbon with an appeal to commuters for cooperation as the Federal Government provide solutions to the vital road transport infrastructure neglected over the years.
Addressing a Town Hall Meeting of the Stakeholders including representatives of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), transport companies, Apapa Local Government officials and traffic regulatory agencies held at the Conference Room of the Ministry’s Central Workshop in Ijora, on comprehensive repair of the bridge, and others across the country, Fashola explained that the repairs on Eko Bridge had become expedient as several portions of the bridge had become worn out due to years of neglect.
Fashola, who had earlier gone round to see the situation under some bridges in Lagos Island, including Oja Oba/ Third Mainland Bridge/Ring Road, Obalende under Bridge and Apongbon under Bridge incuding the burnt section, where he sensitized traders, artisans and other squatters on the dangers and risks to life that their operations constitute, also extended the evacuation ultimatum to the squatters till June 9, warning that they either comply voluntarily or face forced eviction.
At the meeting also attended by top officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the Permanent Secretaries of the Lagos State Ministries of Environment, Transportation and Office of Infrastructure, alongside their Directors, at Ijora-Olopa, in Lagos, the Minister said the government was tackling the problem holistically, and needed support of stakeholders for smooth operations.
Soliciting for the support of the Lagos State Ministries of Environment, Transportation and Office of Infrastructure, as well as the Local Governments, to help create awareness among the people over the roles to be played by all stakeholders during rehabilitation works, Fashola added, “We know the problem, we know the solution, we have a plan but we need your support”.
The Minister also appealed to the transportation Stakeholders to encourage their members to build truck parks, urging them also not to always resort to “subtle threats or blackmail” each time issues of their members parking in the wrong places was pointed out to them.
Fashola said that the colossal damage to the Apongbon section of the Eko Bridge was being addressed by the contractors on the project.
Speaking with some of the business owners under the bridges, Fashola said government was giving them one month to relocate their businesses from under the bridges, saying that what happened at Apongbon section of Eko Bridge was an eye opener and government would not want a repeat of the incident.
“We are building new bridges and maintaining some old ones so it will not be right to continue to allow you people to do business here as usual. Your businesses here constitute a threat and government wants you people to leave”, the Minister said assuring commuters on Eko Bridge that Government was working hard to mitigate their inconveniences while the rehabilitation work lasts.
Recalling that Eko Bridge was built in 1975 and noting that it serves as a a strategic link between the Island and Mainland areas of Lagos, Fashola, who said emergency repair work has already commenced on the Bridge including the damaged section, cited its strategic importance to Lagosians as reason for the expediency.
On the burnt section of Eko Bridge at Apongbon , the Minister, pointed out that the repair work needs planning, adding, “I have instructed the Ministry’s Engineers to carry out comprehensive assessment of repairs we need to carry out to know what it will cost government”. He explained that the cost was not in the 2022 Budget “because nobody planned for it”, but added, “So, we have to navigate and overcome the problem”.
Earlier, while delivering his welcome address, the Director of Highway Bridges and Design Engr. Oluropo Oyetade, said Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing was supervising 1732 bridges across Nigeria adding that Lagos State, with105, ranked fourth after Taraba, Niger and Cross River.
He said out of that number, government has intervened in 23, with 10 completed, 11 ongoing and new contracts awarded for Carter and Iganmu Bridges in the 2022 Budget.
According to the Director, the first phase of the emergency repair of Eko Bridge was carried out in June 2020, during which another set of defects were noticed adding that this led to another contract award for Phase II in September 2020 during which more defects were detected, adding, “The Honourable Minister then directed for a holistic review of the whole bridge. This took all Directors of Highways months to accomplish and culminated in award of Comprehensive Maintenance of Eko Bridge in February 2022”.
In his own remarks, the State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented at the event by the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Olowoshago Kamal, promised collaboration with the Federal Government for speedy completion of the rehabilitation works.
While expressing concern on how to evict traders in a popular fish market and truck drivers who have occupied the under bridges, Chairperson of Apapa Local Government, Mrs. Idowu Shobanjo, said that the traders and the truck operators were insisting on remaining under the bridges and on roads adding that they anchored their insistence on alleged promises the State government made to them.
Several business activities including mechanic workshops, ram market, welder workshops, selling of other various commodities were going on as at the time the Minister and his team visited the under bridges.