By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos—The Federal Government, yesterday, announced plans to shut indefinitely the collapsing Ijora-Apapa Bridge to traffic for palliative work to be carried out from today, saying the measure became necessary in order to save lives and property.
The Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who made the remark at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting on the defective bridge at Apapa, Area “B’ Police Command, said that access to Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city, through the bridge will henceforth be restricted as the bridge which has failed at a very precarious spot will be shut down temporarily from today to allow the construction firm carry out detailed work on its collapsing part.
According to Fashola, shutting down the bridge was a difficult choice but saving lives was a better choice than the inconvenience the closure of the bridge would bring.
His words: “It is a sobering experience that the Federal Government is now dealing with many years of neglect and abuse of the bridge by traders.
“There are many other bridges across the country that are begging for attention, maintenance and repairs.”
Fashola recalled during the inspection of the bridge last Thursday that the over 40-year-old Apapa bridge had not received proper maintenance since it was constructed, “yet it continued to take axle loads that exceeded its capacity due to the busy nature of the terrain.
“The bridge has really been battered and abused by us, and as a result, we are having the contractor now to do a total evaluation of what is seen and unseen, so that we can restore the bridge to something close to its original form by the time we finish.
“We will change the expansion joints, mill the surface, replace the surface and also replace some of the reinforcements and strengthen them. We cannot reach a conclusion until we see all the engineering requirements, designs and costs,” he said.
The bridge is one of the two major routes to Nigeria major ports but has suffered terrible neglect over the years, just like the second route — the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway – which has also been degraded by the activities of trucks and tanker drivers, who park indiscriminately and even defecate on the expressway.
He said Julius Berger, the construction firm would carry out repair on the bridge, saying whatever was to be done presently would be a temporary measure.
While explaining that the repair work was not included in the 2016 Federal Appropriation Law, Fashola added that major work on the bridge would wait till next year when it would be captured in the budget along with other identified bridges across the country on which stressed tests would be conducted to ascertain their stability or otherwise.
Fashola therefore, appealed to stakeholders, such as; truck owners associations not to see the closure of the bridge as an excuse to shut in fuel supply or to choke the environment with indiscriminate parking of trucks on the road which could ultimately, inflict untold hardship and suffering on other road users.