One morning, barely two weeks ago, Mr. Tony Black, not his real name, had hopped into his vehicle to enable him to catch an early morning appointment in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria’s effervescent commercial capital city.
To his chagrin, he had barely travelled 4 kilometres from his Ketu base, a Lagos outskirt, before he ran into serious traffic. The impression given to people is that Lagos roads had recently become easier to ply because of the pervading poor economic conditions. It’s a truism that most Lagosians, indeed Nigerians, don’t regularly put their vehicles on the road because of the high cost of fuel, maintenance, etc. But not with the Third Mainland Bridge!
As Tony approached Oworonshoki Interchange, his vehicle slowed down to join the traffic snarl going to Lagos Island. For the first 6 kilometres on the bridge, it was hell. Most potholes had turned into craters and the decaying asphaltic overlay had become eroded and corroded.
As Tony inched along, the dilapidation became more chaotic and embarrassing. He met a multiple of vehicles that had crashed into each other, thereby compounding the messy traffic situation.. “Where is our culture of maintenance?” Tony asked himself. If the bridge had been routinely maintained, this would not have happened, he soliloquized.
But why wait till the bridge becomes almost impassable and dangerous to commuters before small holes or cracks are mended? Why wait till innocent lives are wasted before we see the need for routine maintenance? These are compelling million-dollar questions.
Truly, the Third Mainland Bridge has become a death trap. Most Lagosians plying the route now travel with their hearts in their mouths, especially at night. It is now a common sight to see multiple accidents at various spots on the bridge. It is common for vehicles to run into each other as they make efforts to dodge the potholes and craters. Some bash each other while dodging the gaping holes to save their tyres and connecting rods. Many give way on the bridge.
Unfortunately, many lives have been lost in the process. The other day, a PSP Compactor Refuse Truck jumped into the Lagoon for no other reason than the poor condition of the bridge. Lives were lost in that accident.
Last month, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced that some remedial work was to be done but was cancelled at the last minute because of heavy rainfall. ln any event, why wait till when everything has fallen apart before we announce a mere patchwork? Even though we know it is a Federal highway, both governments should show commitment.
At the twilight of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, then Works Minister, announced a N6.3 billion naira rehabilitation contract for the bridge. The first poser is why pay such a humongous amount for a mere surface flooring? Why wait until there remained two or three weeks to end his tenure, before announcing such a contract? l smell a rat!
I’m not an engineer and neither lay claim to any knowledge of quantity surveying, but I insist the cost is horrendous. He was Minister for eight years, time enough to do the job with less than 30-40 percent of its current value.
The new Minister, Dave Umahi, will do well to quickly attend to the job before Lagosians begin to find themselves at the bottom of the Lagoon. And this is no exaggeration. If a whole Compactor Refuse Truck could jump into the Lagoon, smaller vehicles may begin to do so too, as the bridge becomes more difficult and dangerous to ply because of its deteriorating condition.
Luckily, last week, the new Minister for Works Mr. Dave Umahi, a civil engineer, announced the approval for the rehabilitation of the bridge. He said that the entire 11.8 kilometres stretch of asphalt overlay would be scraped off and replaced with concrete. The new concrete technology is far superior, cheaper and more durable than the asphaltic technology, which gets eroded within a shorter period. There should be no excuse for delay or any bureaucratic red tapes!
It looks like Umahi wants to work. Therefore, Engineer Umahi should proceed speedily before the Third Mainland Bridge becomes what apprehensive Lagosians have dubbed it: “Bridge of Death.”
COKER ONITA, A VETERAN JOURNALIST, WAS PUBLISHER/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF TODAY’S CHOICE MAGAZINE, AND CONSULTANT/COLUMNIST WITH INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS LIMITED.