Professionals in the construction industry have called on government and its agencies to rise up to their responsibilities of ensuring sanity so as to avert a repeat of the mayhem that became the fate of the Leventis/Apapa Bridge prior to its reopening last Wednesday.
That Nigeria is faced with a miserable infrastructure deficit is no news. In fact, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December 2018 predicted that by 2040, Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit would hit $878bn.
Also, that the country is completely bereft of a decent maintenance culture in all facets of its being is also no news. However, what is news is the degree to which its citizenry consciously and deliberately contributes to the decay that has become the fate of its remaining badly depleted infrastructures.
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The functionality of infrastructures, be it transportation, communication, sewage, water and electric supply, etc, goes a long way to determine the strength of any economy. There is no amount of funds that can be injected into an economy or reforms that can be carried on it that would have any positive impact, if the infrastructures are not functional.
Some developed countries of the West such as the United Kingdom and the rest, have succeeded in leapfrogging their economy by focusing strengthening and funding their infrastructures. When the infrastructures are functional, every other sector is forced to pick up.
Even though the amount of monies budgeted annually for infrastructures in Nigeria is somehow miserable, considering its impact on the other sectors of the economy, corruption and unpatriotic tendencies have gone a long way in denying Nigerians the true value of investment in that sector.
Such was the fate of the Leventis/Apapa bridge in Lagos where some time in 2016, some unscrupulous elements selling petroleum products underneath the bridge set that vicinity on fire, thereby burning the bridge and destroying its beams, to the extent it had to cave in.
This singular activity set the economy back by several degrees as motorists plying that route were subjected to a hellish kind of hardship; in addition to which the monies that were supposed to have been invested in infrastructures elsewhere, were used to carry out capital repairs that took Julius Berger more than two years to complete.
However, one other contribution to infrastructure decay that has confounded Nigerians, is the act of indiscipline and impunity by tanker and truck owners on that route. How does one explain the permanent presence of a lineup of stationed tankers and trucks all the way from Apapa to Onipanu at Ikorodu Road and the length of Apapa Oshodi Expressway on top of the bridges that have a limited amount of weight to carry?
Though the Lagos State government is not happy with the development, from all indications it is beyond them.
Even though, during the reopening of the Leventis/Apapa bridge last Wednesday, Funsho Adebiyi, Director Highways, Federal Ministry of Works, South West, disclosed that government was going to take drastic action against all forms of abuses that would cause damage to bridges in Lagos, Nigerians are aware that it is just an empty threat as the activities have been ongoing for quite a long time. If the government had actually wanted to arrest the situation, they would have done that long ago, especially, as it concerns truck and tanker owners association.
While commending the Federal Government for carrying out the repairs and reopening of the bridge, Engr. Robbie James Owivry, immediate past National Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) disclosed that the activities of miscreants under the bridges can be easily managed.
Citing the Ikeja LASUTH Bridge as an instance, he advised that government should station law enforcement agents underneath the bridges or build barriers around the stretch of the bridges underneath to monitor movement of persons. According to him, once people cannot gain access to the underneath part of the bridge, it then becomes secured.
“If you check the bridge around Ikeja by LASUTH, you find law enforcement agents around that area, making it difficult for miscreants to gain access and carry out nefarious activities there, especially, turning the place into their place of abode. The same thing can be done in other places where you have such facilities. Unfortunately, if you don’t handle Nigerians with iron hands, you are not likely to get any positive response.”
Looking at it from another angle, Owivry noted that the major problem is basically the heavy duty vehicles plying and sitting on the bridges. After determining the weight of vehicles that can ply the bridges, government, he said, can always mount barricades at the point of accessing the bridge.
“Mounting a barrier at the point of accessing the bridge will better check such vehicles. When you get to the point of accessing the bridge and discover that your height cannot go through, evidently, you will be forced to look for alternative route. I think that will be more effective.
“On the other hand, you can mount law enforcement agents at the edge of the bridge to control vehicular movements. But then again, that one has its own challenge, you are not likely to have law enforcement agents 24/7 in such location.”
Also, Engr Ombugadu Garba, Chairman, Apapa branch of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) noted that the reopening of the bridge will boost the economic life of people that ply the route, but also asked if underneath the bridge is supposed to serve as accommodation and market place for miscreants?
He explained that a lot of things are going on in the country which ought not to be and then called on government and its agencies to wake up to their responsibilities.
“Agencies of government must ensure that those bridges are cleared of any activities that would endanger the people and the infrastructure. All those areas serve as hideouts for unscrupulous fellows and most of these atrocities go on under the bridges. They should do everything within their power to prevent a repeat performance.
“Another aspect is that the stakeholders, especially, the truck owners association should be sensitized. Let them also know the implication of their actions on those bridges so that once they are sensitized some of these menace will be reduced. Also, government needs to open other means of transportation like the railway system. If they are constructed and maintained, the pressure on our roads will be reduced drastically; it will also make our roads durable.”
For Engr. Akintayo Akintola, former chairman, Ikeja NSE, he noted that he hope the miscreants are not back to under that bridge. The problem, he said is with sustainable maintenance. He however asked if the nation was maintaining for maintaining sake or for sustenance purposes.
According to him, the bridges are meant for moving vehicles and not stationery vehicles. But that when trucks and trailers get stationed on top of the bridges, Nigerians shouldn’t expect a miracle.
“It is like you buying a kitchen knife and using it to cut grasses, it won’t work. Sometimes, we redesign in our usage for what is supposed not to be. Also, how do we maintain, do we wait for the infrastructure to get so bad before we can talk of repairing them like what happened on Third Mainland bridge.
“Our government is interfering in so many things but at the end of the day things get out of hand. They should give it to the right agency to maintain and allow them to do their work, don’t interfere. Only ensure they do their assigned jobs. Because we lack maintenance, the road that is supposed to last for 30 years, ends up lasting for two years.”
A call was put across to Inuwa Abdullahi, vice chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) on how he thinks stakeholders, which includes his members, can contribute to the maintenance and longevity on the nation’s infrastructure. He responded that he was busy and that he was going to call to respond to the question.
However, even after a second call, he picked and gave the same excuse and as at the time of filing this report, he still has not called back neither did he respond to a text message that was sent to him to that effect.