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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Third Mainland Bridge – What I Saw

I travelled between the Island and the Mainland in Lagos taking the Third Mainland Bridge. The 11.8km Bridge had been shut down for repairs since Tuesday, January 9 according to an announcement by the Federal Ministry of Works. We were told that the Bridge would be open for mainland inbound island travels between 12 am to 12 noon, while those travelling from the island to the mainland should go through Eko Bridge, and only use the Third Mainland Bridge from 12 noon. I was very skeptical.

On many occasions in the last eight years, the same Bridge had been shut down for rehabilitation at various occasions, either to fix the ramps or some engineering defects.

Lagosians paid the price in terms of time lost to traffic hold ups on the alternative routes, and the hardship of commuting in a city where the island seems to be the centre of gravity. Despite the various delays of the past, the Bridge remained largely a poor stretch of road. The potholes never seemed to disappear. There was even a time this same Bridge was vibrating and you could feel it. The rails had been removed in parts. The managers of the road provided street lights at a point, but those lights didn’t function for up to a month. Based on past experience, I was convinced that the Tinubu administration and the team at the Federal Ministry of Works were back to their old game. But this time around, I was mistaken. My skepticism is misplaced.

Having confirmed that it was now possible to take the same route from 12 noon to the Mainland, the other day, I shrugged off the stress of more than a month and headed towards the Mainland. I saw busy workers on the Mainland-bound side of the Bridge, but in a short while we were diverted to the other side which had been completed to some degree. I became excited. The other side of the Bridge had been thoroughly resurfaced, not the patch-patch work that we used to see oh, a complete make-over, and as we drove towards the Mainland, there was no vibration. No potholes. Even the lanes were properly marked with fresh, clean paint – black and white, and I saw painters giving the entire stretch of the Bridge a decent face lift. I didn’t know when I told the driver: “Wonders! In this same country? You mean this is possible?”

We had a very smooth ride all the way to Oworonshoki, where again there was another diversion towards Oshodi. But I had seen enough to justify my excitement. I noticed though that the lights had not been fixed – I hope they would get to that, and that all the broken rails will be restored. We may raise questions about cost later, and the Federal Ministry of Works must be prepared for that, but with what I saw, I believe that when that Bridge is fully rehabilitated, the people of Lagos would have every cause to thank the Tinubu administration for a job well done. Speaking for myself, I do not mind even if that Bridge is shut down for another two months until the make-over is properly done. This time around, the government seems to be doing a good job. You may not understand but those who know the way things are in this country will get the message: travelling on a good road in Nigeria is so unusual it calls for excitement, if not celebration.

Commissioned in 1980 by the Shehu Shagari administration and completed for public use by President Ibrahim Babangida in 1990, the Third Mainland Bridge is the longest bridge linking the Mainland to Lagos Island. The two others are Eko and Carter Bridges. Since 2012, the Bridge has been having issues; it is either it vibrates, or there are visible cracks on it, so wide the water below could be seen, it would in due course become a preferred spot for those seeking to commit suicide, which is why I think the side rails need to be raised so high that it should be impossible for anyone to jump into the Lagoon below by climbing over the barricades. In 2020, the Bridge was even closed for repairs for six months, and again in 2021. But for the first time, I see much improvement.

I am tempted to think that this difference can be traced to the fact that the current Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi, former Governor of Ebonyi State is a civil engineer. This is precisely what we mean when we say that President Tinubu and governments at all levels must learn to put round pegs in round holes. If you appoint an accountant to supervise a construction project, he is not likely to know what it entails to build a road. He would be looking at figures and fail to see the road. Senator David Umahi, as a former CEO of an Engineering Company knows all the details about construction from design to finish. No contractor or official would go to him and give him a fake Bill of Quantities or try any trick – the same tricks that he himself must have applied as a young Engineer. We have seen the evidence in what he is doing with the make-over of the Third Mainland Bridge. President Tinubu should give him other assignments: give him more roads to fix – the Ibadan-Ife-road for example, and the road to Benin. Based on what I saw, I am inclined to say that Senator Umahi is doing well.

He has the potential to become one of the promising Ministers in Tinubu’s cabinet, but he must stay away from making political statements. The other day, he put his mouth into the labour crisis and accused labour leaders of being unpatriotic. I think he should concentrate on his PWD, wheel-barrow assignment and avoid moralizing about subjects he does not understand. He will get some response from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) when the deadline that the body gave the Federal Government expires, this week, by the way, tomorrow, March 13.

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