Ijora-Olopa Fire: Road users agonise over second blockade n Eko Bridge
Since last Monday, Wilson Omoniyi has been having a torrid experience commuting to and from Lagos Island as a result of the cordoning off of another section of the Eko Bridge, following penultimate week’s fire incident at the Frozen Foods Market, Ijora-Olopa, in Apapa Local Council.
After what looked like a very hectic week, Omoniyi said: “You can imagine the experience that I and other workers who journey to the office five times a week through this route have had this past week. Currently, if you cannot navigate your way and connect the Third Mainland Bridge, the best alternative is to go through Ijora-Olopa to connect to Apongbon, which is also gridlock-ridden, with commercial buses plying one way, leaving only a lane to those on the right of way to connect Marina.
“The impression one gets is that the state government when taking these decisions fails to take a lot of factors into consideration. If the governor or his commissioners experience what happens on the so-called alternative routes for a day, or two, maybe they would be swift about managing the traffic situation and also expedite action in improving roads across the state.”
Apart from Omoniyi, many other residents of the state are also lamenting the chaotic experiences that they are going through while trying to connect Lagos Island, to the mainland and vice versa.
Bizarrely, the fire incident at the Frozen Foods Market under the Ijora-Olopa section of the Eko Bridge that necessitated shutting down another section of the bridge occurred exactly 150 days after both the federal and state governments failed to evict traders and other illegal occupants that are operating under the bridge, who had even been given a marching order.
Without a doubt, the failure of the state and federal governments to enforce the eviction order issued on May 9 perhaps gave rise to another fire incident on November 4, which affected the bridge, and now inflicting untold pain on motorists and commuters.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had on May 9, issued a 30-day quit notice to all those operating under bridges across Lagos State to vacate. This was a result of the March 23 fire incident at Apongbon Market that damaged a section of Eko Bridge.
Ironically, the May 9 directive was not the first that was issued after the Apongbon fire disaster.
On the day of the fire incident at Apongbon, the federal and state governments’ representatives at the scene of the inferno jointly issued a 7-day ultimatum to everyone operating under bridges in the state to vacate.
While issuing the order then, Fashola said that the inferno at the Apongbon section of the bridge would not have happened if people were not trading there.
Reacting to the latest fire incident, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, explained that the diversion will allow the Federal Ministry of Works to carry out a comprehensive integrity assessment to ascertain the level of damage caused by the fire incident for the safety of motorists.
He said in line with this development, motorists are advised to make their ways to their various destinations using Ebute Ero to Police Post, through Adeniji-Adele Bridge to access Carter (Idumota) Bridge, Ijora-Olopa, Ijora-Oloye, Iganmu through Costain to continue their journey.
The commissioner also stated that motorists could alternatively use Ebute Ero to Police Post in accessing Adeniji-Adele Bridge, through the Third Mainland Bridge to Herbert Macaulay Way through Adekunle Street, opposite Panti Police Station.
He added that commuters can also use Alagomeji to access Murtala Mohammed Way, through Oyingbo, to Iddo, Ijora-Olopa through Ijora-Oloye to Iganmu, and Costain to their desired destinations.
He added that Ijora-Olopa (by LAWMA Headquarters) through Eko Bridge to Costain would also be open to motorists from Monday, November 7, 2022.
Affirming that the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, (LASTMA) will be on the ground along the alternative routes to minimise inconveniences, Oladeinde assured that the state government was fully committed to ensuring the safety of the commuting public within the metropolis.
Also recounting her experience moving in and out of Lagos Island, Peace Maurice, who lives in the Itire area of the state, but works at Marina, said that from last Monday she, like many others, has been trekking from Costain to Marina, “and it has been frustrating.”
“I wanted to do a video depicting the extent of the suffering that we were going through and send it online, as we were walking on the bridge, but somehow I ended up not doing it. Blocking the bridge at this time is crazy because of the volume of people heading to Idumota, and there is a long queue with many stuck for hours.
“Those that are going to work arrive at their offices largely worn out. We want the government to expedite action in whatever it is doing because the people are suffering. We appreciate the fact that the government is doing its work, but this second roadblock makes commuting to Lagos Island a hellish experience. People are complaining and bitter,” the embittered road user said.
She added: “The transport fare is so expensive now because the route that we hitherto paid N200, we are now being charged N500. Imagine paying N500 from Kilo Bus-Stop to Costain, and then paying another N500 to CMS. That is how bad it is, and there has not been a salary increase.
“We want the government to hear our voices and do its best to put an end to this issue. The trekking that is going on around here is massive, and we have been suffering for more than six months since the place was first cordoned off in March we do not know how long it will take for the job to be completed.
“We want the government to help us hasten up the job to spare those who work along that corridor the pains that we are experiencing,” she concluded.
For Adenike Adetayo, another road user, commuting on Eko Bridge has not been a pleasant experience of late, especially since the bridge was already partially closed due to the earlier fire outbreak a couple of months ago.
According to her, the new incident has worsened the experience of passing through Ijora to the island.
“Carter Bridge is worse because there is always traffic snarl even in the early hours of the day, and that is not funny, and commercial buses are taking advantage of the situation to hike fares. This is just very stressful.”
Some of the bridges in that state that illegal occupants are still operating under them are Carter Bridge, Marine Beach Bridge, Iganmu/National Theatre Bridge, Fadeyi-Empire Flyover, Ojuelegba Bridge, Anthony Bridge, Cele Bridge, Shitta Bridge, and Mile 12 Bridge among others.
Under each of these bridges, the illegal occupants are principally traders, artisans, miscreants, and recyclers. There are also makeshift buildings that serve as homes, kiosks, and workshops.
A director in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Lagos, who pleaded to be anonymous, informed that the integrity test on Eko Bridge would soon be done, stating that the bridge elements need to be cool before any integrity test can be done. And if you go to the site, it has been cleared, sound blasting is going on, and the contractor is on site. The experts to do the integrity test will begin work soon.
“The minister who also appealed to traders to vacate the under the bridge warned them of severe hazard. They promised to leave within a month, but they have not till now, he said.
The director, however, promised that with the new incident the eviction order would be enforced.
On his part, the state commissioner Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, maintained that all the traders and other illegal occupants under bridges would be flushed out in a matter of days.
“The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and the state government are going to take action on it. The bridges belong to the Federal Government, so it is not something that we can take unilateral action on, but we would cooperate with the Federal Government to flush these occupants out.”
When asked why the state government failed to enforce its earlier eviction orders, Omotoso said: “Now, it is going to be enforced. Around the time of the incident, many of the traders and illegal occupants moved out. So, we did not see why there should be any enforcement then. The traders and illegal occupants only returned because the eviction was not enforced. But the state government is going to join hands with the Federal Government to ensure that they leave. We are going to meet on the matter and take action.”
On the poor traffic management around the cordoned-off areas, and the poor state of the alternative routes, Omotoso said: “I do not know what they mean by poor traffic management, as experts in the ministry and traffic officers are there day and night.”
He stated that government would not tell people to park on the bridge or drive one way. “But, must we get a whip to cane people before they know what is right? I do not think the government has a fault when residents failed to obey rules after they had been told what to do.”