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Airport link bridge: Where Fashola, Sanwo-Olu failed Lagos 

By Martins Oloja
05 September 2021   |   4:22 am
I would like to step aside from commenting on cluelessness nurtured by mediocrity in high places in Abuja this week so that we can begin some charity from Lagos, the father of Abuja.

Access to the bridge linking International Airport road cordoned off. PHOTO:FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

I would like to step aside from commenting on cluelessness nurtured by mediocrity in high places in Abuja this week so that we can begin some charity from Lagos, the father of Abuja. Specifically, it is beginning to appear that we ‘over-cover’ Abuja and thereby cover up a lot of things for the most critical elements in our quest for federalism – the Governors and our representatives in both state and federal parliaments. There is therefore a sense in which we can lament that our democracy isn’t working and cannot deliver any good to us unless we begin to look beyond Abuja for blames and solutions. 

This week, I would like to call out the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola and the Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu. These are not ordinary men we should just call out anyhow without a just cause. The two are connected with the economic capital of Nigeria and West Africa, Lagos. Fashola was governor of Lagos state from 2007-2015. The other one is in office and in power, presiding over an economy that is competing with the federal government’s. I have written extensively about the relevance of Fashola as one of the few Nigerian leaders we should regard as ‘strong and reliable’ when it comes to considering those who should lead this unfortunate country tomorrow. He didn’t pay me to write whatever I have written about him as a disciplined and courageous governor of Lagos State. In any case, most residents of Lagos state would always remember him for his simplicity, devotion, resourcefulness and commitment to the discipline of execution of strategic plans. Sanwo-Olu, the current Governor od Lagos state has shown some flashes of brilliance on some state matters, but not the one we can borrow from yet: he hasn’t rounded off his assignment and ‘finished strong’ as Steve Farrar, a management guru would say. 

Today, I would like to ask the two giants what actually went wrong with governance system powered by the boisterous governing party, the APC, the platform on which they serve to the extent that the two of them could not fix just one burnt pillar of the most important Link Bridge to the international and local Airports in Lagos for eight months. We need to ask them why they failed the people of Lagos state and indeed the nation. Once upon a time, the authorities in Lagos, notably under the strongman of Lagos politics, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, labeled abandoned projects and roads in Lagos, “Sorry, it is a federal project” That was the time the federal government was being governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Lagos was an opposition state. But the same Lagos has been under the same political party in Abuja since 2015.

There should therefore be no excuse and crisis of coherence and partisanship. This is one significant thing I mean here: why should it take eight months for the federal and Lagos state governments to fix just a burnt pillar under a very important bridge that leads to the airport and even Ikeja, the seat of power and other critical places within Lagos? The Airport Link Bridge, the point at issue got burnt by a critical Toyota Bus Stop, near Oshodi and had been closed for traffic since January 10, 2021. For those who may be asking ‘Airport Link Bridge’ and so what, here is the thing, the bridge is not a prominent one like the Second Niger Bridge, but it is more significant than can be described here. The federal Bridge links road users and haulage workers from the only two functional ports, Apapa and even West Coast of Africa to Lagos airports and several areas contiguous to the Lagos seat of power. The Bridge also links so many critical areas between Lagos and the very Industrial Ogun State. It is a very economically significant ‘Link Bridge’, which ordinarily should not be trifled with for even weeks.

But curiously, the Bridge has been closed incredibly for eight months and it has not been opened for business at press time. What happened to the real Fashola, who was governor of Lagos for eight years? What happened to synergy that should exist between the former Governor of Lagos State who is now the Minister of Works and Housing and the Governor of Lagos state that they couldn’t pay attention to this critical Bridge that has made numerous travellers to miss their local and international flights? What happened to Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing and former Lagos Governor generally believed to be serious with governance that he could not call even the Lagos Governor to fix the Bridge without any contract award? What happened to Lagos State Governor who allowed the Nigeria’s wonderful federal police in Lagos to condiscate many hapless people’s cars and extort others who have been driving against traffic because of irresponsibility of governments in Abuja and Lagos for the past eight months? If it is taking more than eight months to fix a burnt pillar under a bridge, how many years will it take them to deliver a much-advertised Fourth Mainland Bridge? What happened to the organic Fashola? Is it politics in Abuja or politricks in Lagos or corruption fighting corruption in the Federal Ministry of Works or Lagos State Government? From the Office of the Citizen, we demand a clear and credible explanation why the federal and Lagos state governments could not fix a Link Bridge’s one pillar for eight months. The Guardian’s Head Office is a stone’s throw from the pillar at issue. We have written more than twelve significant stories on this debacle, yet no sense of urgency to serve the people. It is a shame on democracy and the majesty of representative democracy that no member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, House of Representatives in the Area or Senator representing the Zone has visited the closed Bridge since January 10, 2021. They all fly over the bridge. 

The Airport Link Bridge was closed to vehicular traffic because of a fire accident, which occurred after a tanker loaded with 33, 000 litres of diesel exploded, damaging a bridge pillar. The contractor initially was scheduled to start work on the pillar of the bridge damaged in June, six months after the bridge was closed, only for the company to stop work after a week.  This flip-flop has been compounded by poor traffic management on alternative routes provided by the government for motorists and commuters heading to Airport Road. 

After six months that the Airport Link Bridge at Toyota, Lagos was closed to motorists and road users, the Federal Government commenced repair works, two months ago only for the contractor, Plycom Nigeria, to abandon the site a few days later, according to one of The Guardian reports. Three weeks after inactivity, investigations revealed that certain factors had led to the contractor discontinuing work at the construction site. An operative of the construction company claimed work was stopped because there was need to divert traffic to allow work on the section of the bridge directly on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. Incredibly, the worker explained that the week the diversion was to be undertaken, Hitech, another construction company, started reconstructing the service lane of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway inward Oshodi. This, he said, disrupted Plycom’s plan.

According to reports, the development got motorists, residents and other road users, who have been bearing the brunt since the bridge was closed in January this year, wondering why their representatives at all levels have not been protecting their interest.  In some democracies that work, it would have been the remit of the representatives to be putting pressure on the Works Minister and the Governor to repair the pillar within weeks. Sadly this is Nigeria where our overpaid representatives of the people hardly know about even critical challenges in their constituencies. They are not afraid of the people. They think they need only money, and the judiciary, not the people to win elections. This is a reproach to the majesty of democracy in Africa’s most populous nation. 

The bridge is on the borderline of Oshodi-Isolo and Mushin constituencies. The lawmakers in these constituencies include: Senator Solomon Adeola- representing Lagos West, while those in the House of Representatives are Dr. Dawodu Bashiru (Oshodi-Isolo 1), Ganiyu Johnson (Oshodi-Isolo 2) and Bolaji Ayinla (Mushin 2), Ali Adeyemi Yusuf (Mushin 1).

Others in the State Assembly are Shokunle Hakeem (Oshodi-Isolo 1), Nureni Akinsanya (Mushin 1) Olayiwola Olawale (Mushin 2) and Jude Idimogu (Oshodi-Isolo 2). Since the closure of the bridge, none of these lawmakers has visited the site. This is the stuff our democracy is strangely made of. There have been multiple accidents on Oshodi-Apapa highway as repairs began on the only Bridge pillar on 15 August, 2021. Specifically, The Guardian’s (newspaper) gate and fence were destroyed by trailers late last month because of this official tardiness. 

In a curious twist of fate, a day before the gate was destroyed at 4.30 am, a trailer had hit and destroyed three electric poles close to the second gate of The Guardian. 

The Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr. Olukayode Popoola need to answer questions on why it would take eight months just to fortify a pillar that has caused untold hardship to the people. We may also need to ask the federal Controller what it will eventually cost Lagos taxpayers to repair just one pillar that has taken us eight months. At the weekend, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde,  remained silent on the opening of the Link Bridge. He too needs to apologise to the people, in this regard. But there is one curious thing about the undue delay of official action the Link Bridge, which Fashola and Sanwo-Olu should explain to the people: Did they actually need a contractor to repair the pillar under the bridge whose integrity was doubted after many watchers felt Julius Berger, a foremost construction company could have repaired in a week (even in the night) because Lagos state Government is a major stakeholder in the company. In the main, if this negligence nurtured by official insensitivity is what representative democracy can cause in the economic capital of Nigeria, do we actually need this monster called democracy?