That closure of Third Mainland Bridge
The plan to close the ever busy Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, once again, from August 23-26, 2018, portended great suffering for the people.
Managing vehicular traffic in the mega-city has become a herculean problem with no solution in sight.
We are confronted with a picture comparable to packing thousands of people in small room and shutting the only door. The consequences are better imagined.
Chocking and suffocation will be the fallout.
In the case of Lagos, within the four days of the bridge closure, the economy will suffer; many businesses would close shop until the bridge is reopened.
And movement for the over 20 million inhabitants swarming the city will be seriously hampered.
I am talking of a city that is perpetually chocked up with traffic.
A city with only three bridges across the Lagoon, including Cater and Eko bridges connecting the Lagos Island with the Mainland.
These bridges have been taken over by heavy duty tankers and trailers waiting to access Apapa and Tin Can Island ports to load and off-load cargo.
To divert traffic from the Third Mainland Bridge to the so-called alternative routes would spell bedlam.
As far as Lagos is concerned, there are only three bridges. If one is shut, only two are left.
So, talking about alternative routes as if there are other five to 10 bridges available is a misnomer.
If Cairo, Egypt’s capital, with about seven million people has more than five bridges across the Nile River to decongest traffic, why should Lagos with some 20 million inhabitants not have more bridges?
This simple comparison shows the extent successive administrations in Nigeria have failed the people.
If we have had governments with vision and interest of the people at heart, Lagos, having been the federal capital from independence and now the commercial nerve centre of the country ought to have more than five bridges at least.
The bridges could vary in structural design to reduce cost. Everything must not be concrete. Engineers know what to do if called.
After all, the Third Mainland Bridge is structurally different from the Niger Bridge at Onitsha.
There are other structurally less complicated bridges that could be built across the lagoon to decongest traffic.
Sadly, the proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge is yet to see the light of the day due to political shenanigans.
It is high time government realised that the bridges in Lagos could no longer accommodate the volume of business and population.
Therefore, relying on the maintenance of the bridges alone (assuming that is done), is not a solution to the traffic gridlock that defines the metropolis.
New bridges and flyovers need to be built as a lasting solution.
According to the Lagos State Government the 3rd Mainland Bridge will be temporarily shut down for four days starting from midnight of August 23 to midnight of August 26, 2018 for Investigative Maintenance Test to be carried out.
The State’s Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Ade Akinsanya, who disclosed this in a statement, said the decision was taken after due consultation with the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
The four-day closure, according to Akinsanya, will enable the contractors assess the true state of the bridge after which works would commence by the end of the year or early in 2019.
In order words, the four-day closure is only a prelude to a longer closure due later.
Ordinarily, the closure of a bridge anywhere in the world, usually for routine maintenance, sends a sense of responsibility on the part of the concerned authority.
It ought not to bother the public in so far as there are alternative routes available to the people.
Quite often, the maintenance sessions are hardly made public or known to many people; reason being that the maintenance schedules is embedded in the lifespan of the bridge.
Little or no disruption is caused while the maintenance goes on.
And of course, the people are conscious of it. It doesn’t come like a thunderbolt without preparation.
Members of the public are supposed to know the contractor handling the bridge and their maintenance schedules to enable people and businesses plan ahead.
This is not the first time the bridge was closed. Between July 1 and November 6, 2012 (a period of five months), the bridge was shut for repair works to be carried out. During that period, Lagosians had hectic time moving from one part of the city to the other.
Six years after, another session of repairs is in the offing.
The question is whether this is how similar iconic bridges in other climes are maintained.
The Genoa Bridge that collapsed in northern Italy the other day reportedly killed 43 people along with properties destroyed.
But one thing is clear; there is a contractor that has responsibility for maintaining the bridge.
It is either the contractor failed in its duties or did not do it well.
But somebody is on ground and accountable for the bridge. Who is accountable for the Third Mainland Bridges and others across the country?
According to Akinsanya, “The 3rd Mainland Bridge which was opened about 30 years ago by the then military government has had haphazard maintenance and repairs in the past which the present Federal Government is committed to correct by carrying out proper and continuous maintenance and repairs on it.”
This is where the problem lies. There is no maintenance culture in Nigeria.
Infrastructures are built and abandoned to decay as the years roll by.
This applies to our roads, bridges, airports, stadia, public buildings, name it.
The Third Mainland Bridge is a metaphor for the official irresponsibility and neglect of our national assets.
It is this decadence that has ruined the Apapa ports thereby making it almost impossible for normal operations to take place.
There are no roads for trailers to evacuate containers off-loaded from merchant ships.
The problem has become intractable beyond the capacity of government to handle.
The result is that it takes about a month for trailers and tankers to access Apapa ports once they arrive in Lagos.
And since there are no parking bays, the vehicles sleep on the bridges and flyovers thereby compounding the problem of traffic and putting lives and properties in danger.
Why the Third Mainland Bridge was left unmaintained for years only for the authorities to wake up one morning to remember that it needs maintenance without fathoming the huge economic and social implications is perturbing.
It is high time government woke up from slumber to serve the people.