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LASG, fix and reopen the Lagos airport road bridge

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The delay in reopening the closed Lagos airport road bridge at Toyota Bus Stop more than four weeks after the critical busy road was shut following a tanker explosion is most insensitive and embarrassing. The scenario further exposes the lack of seriousness and complacency in government. There is no dedication, or call it commitment by the government to make life comfortable for the citizenry.

The system is not working. This is not in doubt, otherwise, whatever needs to be done should have been done to reopen the bridge for traffic to flow and end the suffering of motorists and commuters using the bridge. How else do you judge a system that is working?

If care is not taken, that link bridge might join the catalogue of abandoned roads or those that are perpetually being reconstructed every year unending, while road users suffer untold hardship. The Lagos–Ibadan expressway is the grandfather of such roads. It is an example of how not to govern any society.

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I was on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway returning to Lagos from Owerri on January 7, 2021 after the Christmas and New Year celebrations, when information reached me that a petrol tanker exploded and was burning on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway near Toyota Bus Stop and that traffic was being diverted. I immediately decided to divert to Ikorodu road to get home.

Subsequently, the Lagos State Government (LASG) announced the closure of the airport road bridge at Toyota Bus Stop indefinitely. Closed ‘indefinitely,’ for a busy arterial highway leading straight to the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, the busiest airport in Nigeria. You now begin to ask whether the authorities have lost sense of urgency for such a bridge that deserves immediate attention. This is scandalous and embarrassing.

Ever since then, the bridge has remained shut and motorists are going through hell to access the Muritala Muhammed International Airport and nothing is being said about it anymore.

There are only two access roads to the airport – the Oshodi-Agege axis at Along Bus Stop and the Apapa-Oshodi at Toyota link Bridge. With the closure of the Toyota link bridge, all vehicles coming from the Mile 2 axis via Apapa-Oshodi route must have to divert through mostly dilapidated access roads to reach the airport, which is a herculean task.

How would someone rushing to catch a flight at the airport be able to make it given the road closure and the perennial traffic gridlock on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway?

According to the Commissioner for Transportation, Frederic Oladeinde, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic to enable the state government conduct structural tests on the bridge. Certainly, conducting an integrity test on the bridge following the tanker explosion is a very cogent reason.

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But how long would it take to conduct the test? Even if the pillars holding the bridge crumbled, given the strategic position of the bridge, why can’t engineers be mobilized overnight to fix it in the public interest?

As it were, if the integrity test is taking months to carry out, how long will it take to rebuild the bridge if the test turns out that the bridge will have to be demolished and rebuilt?

In announcing the closure of the bridge, the commissioner announced alternative routes pending the outcome of the tests and the reopening of the bridge to traffic.

Said he, “Motorists from Toyota will make use of the service lanes by Armed Forces Resettlement Centre to BOC Gases on old NAFDAC headquarters, through a U-turn at Cappa on Agege Motor Road to Bolade/Oyetayo Street (Oshodi-Isolo Local Govt Secretariat) through Bolade on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway via Charity in order to reach International Airport Road.
 
“Motorists from Bus Terminal 2 Transport Interchange, inwards Charity on Apapa -Oshodi Expressway, can connect International Airport Road from Toyota Bus Stop through Anthony Oke to Ikorodu Road on the service lanes and return via Anthony Oke inwards Oshodi Oke to Charity and connect International Airport Road,” Oladeinde said.

The commissioner said in the light of this development, the Lagos State Traffic Management Officials (LASTMA) will be deployed to the corridors to control and manage traffic flow along the axes during the course of the diversions.

“The government is assuring the motoring public that the Airport Bridge shall be opened for use as soon as the tests or requisite intervention makes it safe and secure to do so. The government, through this statement, appeals to all road users along these corridors to drive safely and patiently by following the traffic advice while assuring them that any inconvenience this may cause is temporary. ”

This development came after the House of Representatives member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency II, Ganiyu Johnson, visited the scene of the incident, in company of his legislative aides and called for integrity test to be carried out.  
“As a structural engineer, I can confirm to you that the structure at the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway that links Airport Road has been badly affected,” Johnson, a former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State, said after inspecting the scene of the incident.
 
He said it was imperative to put the bridge connecting the nation’s seaport to the busiest airport in Africa on partial closure, considering the volume of traffic recorded daily till the integrity result would be out. He called on the Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to act fast.

The Apapa-Airport road is reportedly the busiest road in West Africa. It is unimaginable that the road through which millions of vehicles heading to and fro the busiest airport in Nigeria would be closed with a wave of hand and those concerned go to sleep.

In functional societies where things work, that road would not be allowed to be shut for twenty four hours without being fixed and reopened no matter what damage occurred. I have examples to buttress my point.

Sometime ago, I travelled to Cairo, Egypt for a conference. On our way to the hotel, there was this pothole on the road near the front of the hotel.

Being used to more dangerous potholes in Nigeria, my friend and I didn’t take it as anything. In Nigeria potholes are left as normal part of the landscape but not in Egypt.

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The following morning, we were surprised to note that pothole had disappeared. It had been repaired overnight and the spot looked as if nothing happened there.

The other example happened in far away Sweden where, again, I went to attend a conference. One afternoon, there was a sudden heavy downpour that lasted for about an hour. As soon as the rain stopped, everywhere was dry again.

But there was this puddle of water at a particular spot on the road that created an eyesore. In a twinkle of an eye, one heavy machine came and sucked off the puddle to make way for traffic. I was amazed by the urgency with which that was done, unlike in Nigeria, where vehicles and people wade through dirty floods whenever it rained.

The point of this comment is to call on the Lagos State Government authorities to fix and reopen the Lagos Airport Road Bridge at Toyota Bus Stop without further delay. If the bridge needs to be demolished and rebuilt, so be it. Lagos can’t be answering the Centre of Excellence, when basic infrastructures are shambolic.

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