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40 days after, burnt Apongbon bridge awaits evacuation, repairs

By Benjamin Alade
06 May 2022   |   2:47 am
Last Monday marked Day 40 since a fire gutted a section of the popular Apongbon Bridge and forced it to shut down for safety reasons, but to date, residents still await the commencement

Apongbon bridge

*Evicted traders seek resettlement, support

Last Monday marked Day 40 since a fire gutted a section of the popular Apongbon Bridge and forced it to shut down for safety reasons, but to date, residents still await the commencement of repairs and full evacuation of occupants underneath.

The bridge, which connects the mainland to the Island parts of Lagos, also shelters the popular Apongbon market underneath, from where fire surged on March 23, 2022, destroying several shops.

As of yesterday when The Guardian visited, the major artery is still cordoned off to vehicular movement, though state officials have moved to the site. Shop owners and others in close proximity were still busy trying to salvage goods ahead of the forewarned demolition.

State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had on March 27, given the traders three days to vacate or risk demolition of shops, and the task force has since moved bulldozers to the site for demolition.

Affected traders, however, sought the government’s intervention on relocation, appealing for alternative locations to reduce suffering.

A marketer, Agboola Rasaq, said: “Since the fire incident happened, we have been running helter-skelter. We don’t know where we are going. Even the government hasn’t promised anybody anything. They just came here and demolished everything and what we are hearing now is that they want to put buses here.

“We can only plead with the government to help us. Maybe they would find somewhere to put us. As you can see, millions of people are here, eating and earning a living to feed their families. There is no way we can go, there is no other business we can do, and we can’t steal.”

Rasaq added that all their investments are staked under the burnt bridge.

“As you can see, there is no stability. The policemen are pursuing everybody all around. See containers, everything has been dismantled. We bought this container for over four million naira, only to dismantle and dispose of it cheaply at N250, 000. Yet, the government is collecting Land Use charge of four million naira per 10 years – at the rate of N400, 000 per container a year,” he said.

Another trader, Joseph Igwebuike, said they are afraid. “Yesterday, for instance, they didn’t allow us to gain access to the place. They blocked the whole entrance to this place and pursued us like dogs. We are feeling bad; no market, no customers. That is the problem we have here.

“We are feeling bad. Our goods just got burnt, we could not salvage anything. The only ones we are managing are those outside the stores.”

He noted that in a civilised society, they would have been evacuated and resettled.

“Despite losing everything to fire, the government is still ejecting us out without compensation. The day the governor visited, he told us that the local government chairman and leaders would tell us where to go. Till today, we didn’t see or heard anything about that. You cannot just tell a person to leave where he is feeding his family just like that.”