One year after partial closure of Eko Bridge, tales of woes from residents, motorists
• It’s Busy As Usual For Traders Under The Bridges As Govts Fail To Enforce Eviction Order
• Closed Bridge To Be Re-opened By End Of May— Federal Works Controller
One year after the fire incident at Apongbon market under the Eko bridge led to the partial closure of the bridge to vehicular movement, the section of the flyover has not been re-opened. As a result of the closure, many residents and motorists have been going through untold pains and hardship in their bid to connect Lagos Island.
The failure of the state and federal governments to enforce the eviction order issued to traders and other persons operating illegally under bridges on May 9 gave rise to another fire incident on November 4, which affected another section of the bridge, compounding the pains of motorists and commuters.
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 operating under the bridge.
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 the Eko bridge.
Ironically, the May 9 directive was not the first the government would issue to those operating illegally under bridges. 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 Fashola was issuing the order, he said that the inferno at the Apongbon section of the bridge would not have happened if people were not trading there.
But one year after the first fire incident, initial closure of a section of the Eko bridge and about five months after the second fire incident and subsequent closing of another section of the bridge, many residents are daily lamenting the chaotic experience they go through while trying to connect Lagos Island from the mainland and vice versa.
After both fire incidents, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde had advised motorists 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 could 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. The commissioner added that Ijora-Olopa (by LAWMA Headquarters) through Eko Bridge to Costain would also be open to motorists.
Sharing her experience on how she has been connecting Lagos Island and returning home daily, Tawa Adejumo, a trader, said that as a result of the closure of sections of Eko Bridge, she now connects Lagos Island through Oyingbo from her base in Mile 2.
According to her, the route helps her to get to the market with less stress of spending hours in traffic. She said that rather than take a bus to CMS or Eko Idumota, from Mile 2, she usually takes a bus to Oyingbo and connects another bus to Eko Idumota with the buses driving against traffic from Iddo to connect Lagos Island.
She revealed that sometimes when heading home after work, she walks to Iddo roundabout or Ijora Olopa to take a bus to Orile or Mile 2. “So, it has not been a pleasant experience since the bridge was partially closed. But I am surprised that one year after, such an important bridge has not been reopened.”
For Deborah Bassey, who works in Victoria Island, getting to work and returning home daily has continued to be with pains. She revealed that she also goes through Oyingbo bus stop. She said that from Oyingbo, she takes another bus to Idumota from where she boards a bus to CMS before taking another to Victoria Island. She added that at Oyingbo and Idumota, she usually walks some distance before boarding the next bus.
According to her, the discomfort is much more when heading home because the traffic snarl is more chaotic while connecting Costain. According to her, to by-pass the chaotic traffic when returning home, she sometimes boards a bus to CMS from VI and from there, she takes a long walk to Eko Bridge to take a bus to Orile.
According to Tunde Johnson, it has been hectic 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.
“Currently, if you cannot navigate your way and connect the Third Mainland Bridge, the best alternative is to go through Ijora-Olopa to connect 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.”
Omasheye John said that it has been one hellish experience going to work and returning home, especially on work days, due to the closure of the bridge, observing that a journey that should not take 10 minutes could take over two hours from his part of the city, Lawanson.
“In the last one year, I tried to leave home as early as 4:30am to bypass the traffic. As a result, I do not sleep well, which has a way of negatively affecting my productivity. I just imagine what many who stay in farther parts of the city go through to be able to connect the Island using the Eko Bridge route.”
John wonders why it is taking the government to fix the bridge when it is not that a new bridge is being constructed.
“It is not that a new bridge is being built, it is just to fix a damaged section and residents are wasting man-hours. The drivers have increased transport fare as a result of the long hours they spend navigating the route due to the traffic. So the commuters bear the brunt.”
He noted that the fire accidents are a product of the negligence of a few who have now put the whole residents in pain. He therefore said that the government must go beyond pronouncement of eviction of traders and other operating illegally under bridges. “The government must go beyond pronouncement to back it up with enforcement,” he stated.
Also speaking, Cordelia Jesugo Adetunji, who works in Ikoyi but stays at Satellite, in Amuwo-Odofin, said it, has not been easy waking up early to beat the traffic, health wise. “But when I remember the traffic I am going to face, I will forcefully had to compel myself to wake up and leave home early.”
According to Adetunji, that it took government this long to effect the repairs really shows that they don’t have the masses at heart.
She said sometimes she risks boarding vehicles taking one way to beat the traffic and to be able to clock in on time at the office.
“The government purposely abandoned the repairs and concentrated on election, leaving the bridge unattended to with the masses suffering from their failure,” Adetunji said.
Surprisingly, despite the several eviction orders, under bridges in the state are still illegally occupied and used for unapproved activities.
Some of such bridges include 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.
In a chat with The Guardian, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Mr. Umar Bakare, said that the ministry is optimistic that by the end of May 2023, the bridge would be fully open to vehicular movement. He said that though some rehabilitation work would still continue on the bridge, they would be repair works that would allow the bridge to be opened for motorists to ply the closed sections.