By Uche Amunike
Fifteen months after the closure of one of the three bridges that link the Lagos mainland to the Island, owing to rehabilitation work ongoing due to a fire outbreak, the federal government has collaborated with the Lagos State government to have the Eko Bridge reopened, Saturday, leaving commuters and motorists excited.
Recall that the Eko Bridge faced serious damage at the Akogbon section, after Illegal traders caused a fire that weakened the main and supporting pillars of the bridge, eventually prompting the government to close it for extensive repair along the entire stretch.
After 15 months, motorists and commuters who have experienced months of pain, driving in and out of Lagos Island were largely relieved as the state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Federal comptroller of Works, Engr. Oukorede Keisha did a drive through ceremony that had the Eko Bridge reopened.
According to Sanwo-Olu, repair works at the Akpongbon axis had been completed, but the maintenance work would continue on the infrastructure, which would also lead to intermittent closures in the coming months.
He apologized to Lagos residents. On behalf of the federal government for the delay experienced in making the bridge usable again, as he explained that it would be risky to reopen it without proper reconstruction of the damaged section.
Hear him: ‘It is with great delight to announce that we have carried out comprehensive tests with the contractor from the Federal Ministry of Works and we believe that Apogbon section of the Eko Bridge can now be opened for motorists. But the maintenance work on the entire bridge has not completed. There are lots of bearings that still need to be reinforced along the entire stretch of the infrastructure.’
‘In future, there will be more intermittent closures at different sections of the bridge but the period may not be longer than one or two weeks. This is necessary for us to jerk up the bridge and complete the maintenance work. We are reopening the bridge to bring relief to road users, who have endured hardship due to the repair work,’ the governor stated.
He further explained that the contractor in charge of the bridge would as well, fix the ancillary roads along the corridor so as to ensure that the bridge is no longer misused, moving forward.
Sanwo-Olu also condemned the continuous trading under the bridge and sounded a note of warning to the traders and illegal squatters to remove all their belongings and vacate the space under the bridge as he gave them an ultimatum of 7 days to do so.
He mandated the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offenses Enforcement Unit (Taskforce), to destroy any illegal structure they find under the bridge at the expiration of the 7-day ultimatum.
His words: ‘We are using this medium to warn those trading under the bridge that we will not tolerate any form of illegal activities under this bridge and other bridges in the State. The bridges are important assets to the State and we cannot fold our arms and allow a few people to destroy them.’
‘We have seen the effect which the destruction on Eko Bridge caused the entire city. We cannot afford to have these bridges shut down again because of illegal activities. We will clear all squatters from Ijora Olopa to Costain and there will be zero tolerance for market activity under the bridge’, he averred.
On his part, Keisha lauded the Lagos State government for their collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Works in meeting up with the target and success of having the Eko Bridge reopened as its success was largely because of the involvement of the state government.
She stressed that before the fire outbreak, major maintenance work was ongoing on the bridge, but that it had to be abandoned to focus on the damaged sections. She maintained that the contractor would continue the maintenance work now that the Eko Bridge is reopened, so as to reinforce it for public safety.
Hear her: ‘The reopening of the bridge would not have been possible if the Lagos State Government had not come to our rescue. If not for the intervention of the State Government, what is happening here would not be achieve.’
‘We appreciate this collaboration and timely support. Having considered the hardship on motorists, Governor Sanwo-Olu brought the machinery of the State to the assistance of the Federal Government and get the work done.’