We commend the Federal Government for its decision to repair 50 bridges across the country within three years, at a cost of N270 billion. This is one of the most proactive decisions ever made by any government in the country in the last 20 years. In the past, such decisions were usually taken after a major catastrophe, such as the collapse of a major bridge with attendant fatalities.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, made the announcement during an inspection tour of the rehabilitation of the Lagos Ring Road Bridge Abutment and Approach to the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos.
He explained that the repair of the bridges would be in phases. It will start with the very critical ones, at a cost of between N70 billion to N100 billion in one year, so that they do not collapse. It will then move to the less critical ones.
The Third Mainland Bridge is Nigeria’s longest bridge. It is the key link between Lagos Island and the mainland. The minister explained that some columns and beams of the bridge are threatened by a variety of ecological and human activities, such as erosion and sand filling.
The road, he added, has moved as a result of sub-soil displacement but the repair was delayed by funding difficulties. It will, however, be completed by November. He warned the residents of Ebute Ero, the bridge’s neighbourhood, to stop indiscriminate parking and trading activities by the bridge. He also urged the engineers to commence work on the realignment of the Apongbon Bridge, also in Lagos.
The contractors of the Apongbon Bridge had reported that the piers, alignment, decks and piles had been adversely affected and needed strengthening by another layer of steel and concrete and that a new kind of cement was being used to reduce the salinity of both air and water, to reduce the degeneration of the Bridge.
That most bridges in Lagos and other parts of the country have been neglected does not come as a surprise. If roadways, which require much less expertise and outlays to maintain, can be ignored until they become death traps and traffic nightmares, how can bridges which often appear impregnable to the untutored eye receive due attention?
It is gratifying that the minister has promised the routine maintenance and rehabilitation of 50 bridges, if his proposal receives the support of the legislature.
The government has done all the surveys and assessments of the problems with the bridges. What it is waiting for is the appropriation of funds to begin the execution of the projects. We urge the National Assembly to do this speedily.
Some of the bridges were built during the colonial era and are more than 60 years old, with barely any attention paid to their maintenance since they were constructed.
The Niger Bridge, for instance, has been a source of worry owing to the heavy traffic on it, which is sometimes static, owing to traffic congestion. This has necessitated a second Niger Bridge to ease the pressure on the existing bridge.
The Lokoja Bridge and Yola Bridge are two of the many other bridges that are in need of urgent maintenance. It has been the good fortune of the country that there has not been a major mishap on these bridges. The minister’s efforts will further reassure Nigerians that the country’s bridges are receiving the deserved attention.