Olakunle Olafioye, Daniel Kanu and Agatha Emeadi
Mr Toriola Emmanuel resides in Alagbado area of Lagos State, but works on the Island. He is one of the tens of thousands of residents of Lagos who contend with hectic traffic situation in the state on a daily basis in order to eke out a living.
Over the years, he had had to come up with different strategies of circumventing the terrible traffic situation in the state, but each of his strategies often came with their own challenges, thereby forcing him to ditch them.
The introduction of ride-hailing platforms, a more organised commercial motorcycles in the state few years ago, later proved to be the final solution to his problem. But the euphoria, which greeted his respite from his hellish gridlock experience to and from his office did not last as the state government soon outlawed the platforms. Since then, Mr Toriola said that his problem to and from office has multiplied.
Prohibitive transport fare, which motorists often blame on a number of factors, including the poor state of some roads in the state and endless construction and repair works going on in other major roads, among others, have combined to force motorists to limited number of routes in the state thereby worsening the already debilitating traffic condition in the state. But Mr Toriola’s frustration is just about to increase as the Federal Government last week announced plans for partial shutdown of the Third Mainland Bridge, the major link between the Mainland, where he resides and the Island where he works, for a period of six months to enable it carry out a major maintenance works on the bridge.
The Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr Olukayode Popoola said that the partial closure which is billed to commence on Friday, July 24 would start with the closure of one lane of the bridge for a period of three months and upon the completion of repair works on the closed lane, it would be opened up while repair works would begin on the second lane and last for another three months.
The news of the planned partial closure of the bridge is anything, but cheering to thousands of other commuters and motorists who ply the second largest bridge in the continent regularly, especially with similar closures on other major roads in the state.
Motorists and commuters who spoke to Sunday Sun expressed fear over the decision to partially shut the bridge, arguing that it is ill-timed and not in the interest of Lagosians.
A transporter, Mr Lucky Ogbeide said that road users are bound to pay dearly for the planned closure.
“The planned shutdown is coming at a time when Ikorodu Road, as well as Gbagada Expressway, which are major routes to the Island, has been partially shut. On the other side, Eko Bridge is still closed while works on Costain Bridge is on hold. So, what is the wisdom behind the decision to close down the Third Mainland Bridge now? The decision would only compound road users’ woe,” Ogbeide argued.
The apprehension of road users in the state is not limited to the impending chaotic situation on the alternative roads announced by the government, but also it includes the fear of unreasonable hike in transport fare, as well as fear of safety and security of lives with the subsisting curfew on human and vehicular movements between 10:00p.m and 4:00a.m in the state.
“This is a case of an inept government frustrating its citizens with its inability to deliver. Let’s not forget that the Lagos State government has banned the operations of commercial motorcycles in the state while BRT has failed to live up to government’s hype of solving the transportation problems of providing efficient and affordable transportation system in the state. What all these are pointing to is that Lagosians should brace up for more hardship on the roads,’ Mrs Evelyn Eguaroje said.
The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Boboye Oyeyemi, in a statement issued by the FRSC Public Education Officer (CPEO), Bisi Kazeem, last week in Abuja, said that traffic would be diverted to make way for the maintenance work on the bridge.
The statement read: “The expected diversion for Phase A in the morning – from 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – motorists plying from Oworonshoki to Lagos Island traffic will only be on the Lagos Island bound lane. In the afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., motorists travelling from Lagos Island to Oworonshoki, traffic will only be on the Lagos Island bound lane,” he said.
The FRSC boss said that alternative routes had equally been identified for motorists plying from Ikoyi, through Osborne as a result of the closure.
“Motorists from Obalende on Lagos Island intending to use the bridge “are advised to navigate through Carter Bridge-Iddo-Oyingbo-Adekunle-Herbert Macaulay way-Jibowu-Ikorodu road and connect their destination’’.
Alternatively, he said motorists should go through Carter Bridge-Ijora Causeway – (Ijora Olopa by LAWMA Office) Eko Bridge through Funsho Williams Avenue-Ikorodu Road for further transit.
“Motorists from Lekki/Victoria Island intending to use the Third Mainland Bridge are advised to use the Ozumba Mbadiwe Road or Ahmadu Bello Way-Bonny Camp Independence Bridge (Mekunwen Bridge) – Onikan (by Zone 2 Police Zonal Headquarters) – Marina Bridge-Apongbon-Eko Bridge-Funsho Williams Avenue to Ikorodu and so forth.
“For road users driving inwards Adekunle from Adeniji and from Lekki/Ikoyi/Obalende/Lagos Island, they are advised to Link Cater Bridge-Iddo-Oyingbo-Ebute Metta-Adekunle to advance further,’’ Mr Oyeyemi advised.
But stakeholders are pessimistic that the alternative routes mapped out by the commission would have little or no effect on the already congested routes.
A real estate expert, Mr Saheed Fuhad said that the planned closure of the bridge has once again called to question the wisdom behind the suspension the operations of the well organised ride-hailing platforms like ORide, MAX, Gokada, which according to him, would have come handy during the period.
“The government does not seem to care about what the people would go through during this period. The only viable alternative now is to use the waterways. But unfortunately, water transportation has not received the necessary attention from the government such that if the people decide to resort to that option, it is certain that the infrastructure on ground on our waterways cannot accommodate the volume of traffic which we see on our roads,” he stated.
Mr Fuhad also pointed out that while commuters from and around Ikorodu and Apapa could seek solace in water transport, those from Iyana-Ipaja, Agege and other parts of the mainland are left with little or no alternative, but to contend with the attendant gridlock of the closure.
Sunday Sun gathered that many commuters in and around Ikorodu and Apapa had already resorted to ferry alternative to link the Island since the state government placed the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles on major roads in the state.
In Ikorodu axis, findings showed that workers heading for Apapa, Lekki, Sandfill, Falomo, CMS, and those on the Island routes now use the ferry terminal at Ebute.
And with the partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge, ferry operators are hoping that more commuters would no doubt take to the option to avoid being held down in the logjam expected from the closure.
Mr Sunday Awoniyi, a regular user of the ferry facility told Sunday Sun: “I use it regularly to connect the Island as they resume each day at 6:30 a.m; it takes just 25 minutes or less to get to the Island. The cost is N1000.”
At the Ebute terminal in Ikorodu, our correspondent noticed that there are smaller boats and the bigger yellow boats known as WaXi, with commuters expressing satisfaction with the services of the operators.
“The good thing about the Ikorodu Terminal is the swiftness and effectiveness with which the ‘ticketers’ operate.
“After getting your ticket, you join the next queue to write down your name and the phone number of your next of kin just in case. Then you proceed to get your life jacket. The instruction is that wearing of life jacket is compulsory. You are allowed to bring your personal life jacket. If you don’t have a personal jacket, you must use the one handed over to you before boarding the boat,” Awoniyi noted.
Sunday Sun further gathered that companies also engage the services of ferry and boat operators to convey their staff across the water as a way of easing their stress going and coming from work.
Lanre Atolagbe is one of the Beach Masters manning the jetty at the end of FESTAC, close to Shoprite.
He told our correspondent that a good number of companies around the area had arrangements with commercial boat operators to commute their workers.
“That boat you see is going to MRS to ferry their staff from different locations to this jetty, where it will be easy for them to find their different ways home. Low capacity boats carry between eight and 10 passengers while modern company boats lift between 12 and16 passengers and they can go as several times as possible daily.
“From here, boats take workers to Tincan Island, Liverpool, CMS, and as far as Lekki. The charges for Tincan and Liverpool, the commercial boats charge a token of N500 only, while those heading for CMS and other parts of the Island charge between N1,500 and N2,000. A chartered boat from Liverpool to CMS costs N5,000 while full load charter charges as much as N10,000. From FESTAC here towards Lekki, Banana Island on charter costs between N15, 000 and N18, 000,” Atolagbe revealed.
Kemi Alao, is another regular boat user. She works with SIFAX in Apapa and said riding on boat to and from her office is time-saving.
“It has been a wonderful experience and it is okay. We have arrangement with this particular boat man to pick us every evening when we close from work, but in the morning when we are going, we can join any one. It helps to save us from unending congestion on all Apapa routes,” she said.
With the incessant closure of the Third Mainland Bridge for routine maintenance and its attendant discomfort on road users, stakeholders want the Federal Government to consider alternative solution to the perennial problem occasioned by the constant shutting down of this all important bridge.
“We have been talking about the Fourth Mainland Bridge since God knows when. The reality is that Lagosians need more than three bridges to cross the lagoon. The population of Lagos is more than 17 million and we only have three bridges to cross the lagoon. We need the fourth, fifth and sixth mainland bridges. But instead of thinking about fourth Mainland Bridge with almost the same length as the Third Mainland Bridge, we can have shorter bridges across the lagoon at different points. For instance, if you are in Badore in Ajah, at the back of the lagoon one will be looking at Ikorodu. We can have a bridge across that area. If you are at Iyana-Oworo, you will also be looking at the other side of Ikorodu, we can also have another shorter bridge across that area. We don’t have to insist on having one elaborate bridge that is not immediately realizable,” Mr Fuhad suggested.