Following the damage caused by a fire at Apongbon bridge due to illegal activities, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has given occupants under Lagos bridges 30 days to vacate or risk forceful eviction.
Fashola, who went round to see the situation under some bridges in Lagos Island with senior officials of the ministry, lamented that illegal activities of mechanics and traders have impacted negatively on the bridges.
Some of the bridges visited include Eko, Apongbon, Obalende and Third Mainland, where he sensitised traders, artisans and other encroachers on the dangers of their operations.
He extended the evacuation ultimatum to the encroachers under the bridges till June 19, appealing that they comply voluntarily to avert the use of force.
The minister also said the colossal damage to Apongbon Bridge was being addressed by the contractors handling the project.
He appealed for stakeholders’ understanding over the discomfort they would experience during rehabilitation works on the bridge and others in the state.
Fashola made the appeal at a stakeholder meeting on the comprehensive repair of the Eko and Apongbon bridges, held at Ijora-Olopa, in Lagos, after the tour of the bridges.
Stakeholders in attendance include representatives of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), transport companies, Apapa Local Council officials and traffic regulatory agencies.
Top officials of the Federal Ministry of Works, the Permanent Secretaries of the Lagos State Ministries of Environment, Transportation and Office of Infrastructure, alongside their directors, were also present.
Fashola, at the interactive session, said that several portions of Eko Bridge became worn out due to years of neglect, hence the ongoing interventions.
The minister said the Federal Government was tackling the problem holistically and needed the support of stakeholders for smooth operations.
He said: “The ministries and Local councils need to help us create awareness for people to know that we all have roles to play during rehabilitation works.
“We (Federal Government) know the problem, we know the solution, we have a plan but we need your support,” he said.
The minister appealed to representatives of the truck operators to encourage their members to build truck parks.
He urged them not to always resort to subtle threats or blackmail” each time issues of their excesses constituting public nuisance were pointed out.
The contractor and Managing Director, Buildwell Plants and Equipment Industries Ltd, Mr George Mhanna, who gave a breakdown of the schedule for rehabilitation works on Eko and Apongbon bridges, said works would be done in phases, prioritising the worst sections.
Earlier, Director, Highways, Bridges and Design, Mr Oluropo Oyetade, in a presentation, said 20 bearings had been changed on the 4.1km Eko Bridge.
According to him, the bridge, which links Lagos Mainland with Island, has 12 ramps.
“We have 1,732 bridges nationwide, from which Lagos has 105 and fourth in the ranking, after Taraba, Niger and Cross River.
“Out of 105 bridges, we have intervened in 23, with 10 completed, 11 ongoing and two new contracts in the 2022 budget. The new ones are Carter Bridge and Iganmu,” he said.
He said that the first phase of emergency repair of the Eko Bridge was carried out in June 2020, during which another set of defects was noticed.
This, according to him, led to another contract award for Phase II in September 2020.
“Again, more defects showed up and the Honourable Minister now directed for a holistic review of the whole bridge.
“These took all Directors of Highways months to accomplish and culminated in the award of Comprehensive Maintenance of Eko Bridge in February 2022,” he added.
Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Mr Olowoshago Kamal, who represented Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the event, promised collaboration for speedy completion of the rehabilitation works.
The Chairperson of Apapa Local Council, Mrs Idowu Senbanjo, expressed worries that traders of a popular fish market and truck operators were insisting on remaining under the bridges and on roads.
She said this was because of promises they claimed the government made to them, expressing concerns on how to evict them.