This Is Lagos

December 7, 2010

Lagos bridges: A network of fear, uncertainty

By Okey Ndiribe
“ I have noticed that the fly-over at Ijora which leads to Apapa vibrates strongly whenever I am driving through it.

Infact, the vibration is usually stronger if one is driving beside an articulated vehicle” said Raphael Agbola who is a Lagos-based commercial bus driver  while speaking to Vanguard  recently at the CMS Garage in Lagos Island.

He continued: “ I have also observed that I experience vibrations on the third mainland bridge whenever I drive through it”.

A fly-over in Lagos

Indeed, several other motorists narrated that they have had  similar experiences while driving through several other bridges and  fly-overs across the metropolis. Another commercial bus driver who spoke on condition of anonymity said he had also felt similar vibrations while driving through the fly-over which runs parallel to Marina in Lagos Island.

Investigations by Vanguard revealed that many of the bridges have been neglected over time. For instance, section of the bridge which links Tin-Can Island with Apapa is in a deplorable state. A trip through the section of the bridge which leads to Liverpool road revealed that the surface of the bridge had become uneven.

A section of it  had become severely depressed in the manner of a wet bare ground run over by a heavy vehicle. Investigations have also indicated that the flyover across the front of Bonny camp in Victoria Island vibrates very strongly when vehicles are passing through it.

Indeed, there are widespread fears among  motorists in the state  that some of the major bridges and fly-overs across the metropolis may collapse without warning.

However, when contacted the Federal Controller for Works in Lagos Engr. Ejike Mgbemena insisted that the third Mainland Bridge and others within the state were in good shape. But he also  said that contract for the rehabilitation of the third mainland bridge would soon be awarded.

Engr. Mgbemena’s assurances notwithstanding,  Engr. Kunle Adebajo a former President of Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers said there is a need to constantly check the condition of all bridges in the state adding that  all of them had specific life spans.

Although he maintained that vibration on a bridge was not an indication that it was in a bad shape, he nonetheless said that if  strong vibrations were noticed on a bridge it ought to be investigated by certified structural engineers to find out whether the bridge had been damaged in any way.

Said he: “If a bridge was not vibrating before and it suddenly begins to do so, certainly there should be a need to find out why it is so”. He further explained that if any abnormal condition is noticed on a bridge, it is important to investigate the cause immediately “since a stitch in time saves nine”.

He then posed the question: “When was the last time qualified structural engineers inspected the bridges in Lagos?”

It would be recalled that one of the numerous bridges at  Ijora collapsed several years ago. The incident did not result in any loss of lives.  Despite the fact that the incident happened about eight years ago, it is doubtful  whether the authorities learnt any lessons  that would compel them to institute appropriate measures aimed at preventing  a recurrence in other parts of the state.  It is believed that  because no lives were lost no efforts were made to evaluate the state of other bridges across the state.

Media reports indicated that the Ijora  bridge did not just suddenly collapse; it had been exhibiting signs consistent with structural fatigue, degradation and neglect. Many regular users of the bridge said the signs that all was not well with bridge were all too obvious. Passers-by   recognized the fact that the structure  needed immediate attention, but the authorities supposedly responsible for the upkeep of the bridge never realized the urgent nature of the situation until the   bridge  came tumbling down.

Not long after the collapse of the Ijora bridge,   experts reported that the multi_billion naira Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, had developed structural problems. The bridge’s  pavement surface had become uneven and the pillars on which the bridge rests had shifted from their original spots. In the world of Civil engineering, uneven pavement and displacement of the piers, are indications of more serious structural problems.