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Third Mainland Bridge re-opening

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After almost eight months of partial and sometimes total closure, the reopening of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, on Saturday February 27, is expectedly a big relief to commuters who have endured traffic gridlock and other unpleasant experience during the period. Overall, the major maintenance carried out on the bridge by the Ministry of Works, along with management of traffic by Lagos State authorities, are commendable. The maintenance signposts how a fledgling city, like Lagos, should be managed in modern times, particularly during a pandemic.

Although some routine works were carried on the bridge over the years, government’s intervention that prompted the major repair was timely. Works Minister Babatunde Fashola had lamented that the Third Mainland Bridge had not been maintained in 25 years. It is unthinkable for anything untoward to happen to any section of the longest bridge in Nigeria. However, the recurring ritual of opening and closing of the bridge raises questions about effects of artificial intervention in the ecological balance of water and land.

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The closure on July 6, 2020 was preceded by extensive public enlightenment, involving the federal and state government agencies responsible for highways, traffic control, safety and emergency services. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 Pandemic, officials of Federal Highways Division, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigeria Police, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority synergised to plan and publicised alternate routes. Nonetheless, it was a harrowing experience for the motoring public who bore the inevitable dislocation with stoicism and adaptability.

In previous closures of the bridge, the section from Adeniji Adele to Ebute Metta was the focus of engineering work on expansion joints. That first segment was constructed by PGH Joint Venture consisting Borini Prono, Impresit Girola and Trevi Group. It was commissioned by President Shehu Shagari in 1980. At the time, residents of the metropolis expressed anxiety that the pending movement of the federal capital to Abuja could result in abandoning the second section. However, during an official visit to Lagos State in 1985, Governor Gholahan Mudasiru took President Babangida to the hanging halt of the first section and exit to Ebute Metta.

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Right on the spot, Babangida gave the order for the extension to Oworonshoki, to link with Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

The second section was constructed by Julius Berger. The two-section bridge was named after Babangida on completion in 1990. From the opening of the first segment, motorists wondered why they experienced a roller coaster ride, with the synclines at the locations of expansion joints linking successive decks resting on foundations piled deep down into the bottom of the lagoon. That is the segment immediately after Adeniji Adele outbound, where the bridge crosses the currents of the lagoon coursing to Carter Bridge and the Marina. The second part of the bridge is over shallow waters of the lagoon fronting the University of Lagos, where small patches of land could be seen at low tide.

Many years ago, there was a shift in one of the piers carrying the inner ring road above the Five Cowries Creek.

This was attributed to dredging at Bonny Camp. The historical reference indicates the danger of indiscriminate dredging and the extending of the foreshore through sand-filling. Developers have even dared to carry this to the ocean with the ambitious Eko Atlantic City. Astounded by such audacity, the architect John Godwin raised the alarm in his book on “150 years of the great City of Lagos” and titled it “Sandbag City” warning that with global warming and the resultant melting of ice in the Arctic, the levels of the oceans are rising worldwide.

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The Lagos State government recently issued a halt on sand-filling in Banana Island, Osborne and Ilubinrin.

Hopefully, this intervention can stem a looming disaster. Our developers and town planners had long jettisoned the principle of city limit, not only in Lagos metropolis, but nationwide. Years of rural-urban migration have resulted in sprawling housing construction that does not always allow time for approved lay-outs. Certainly, the services that were designed for a city quickly became inadequate. In all large cities, potable water does not reach a great percentage of the residents. In the greater Lagos metropolis, development pressure areas have extended into the contiguous areas of Ogun State, such that the two states need to work together for a Marshal Plan action to provide needed infrastructure, especially roads and streets.

The Third Mainland Bridge is a reflection of the drift to urban areas; with traffic in-bound in the mornings and outbound in the evenings. At the end of the direction of flow, traffic builds up backwards, resulting in dead weight that is unhealthy for bridges. While the officials have endeavoured to ensure continual flow of traffic at the landings, the sheer volume of vehicles and indiscipline of commercial minibus operators do not allow any positive results.

As Lagosians rejoice at the re-opening of the Third Mainland Bridge, it is worth recalling that the completion of the bridge occurred because of Babangida’s military fiat. The synergy that has accomplished the recent repair works necessitates that the Federal Government actualises Babangida’s pledge in 1992 that, despite the relocation of the Federal Capital to Abuja, Lagos will be treated as a special area.

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