Two major bridges in the South are crumbling and need immediate rehabilitation.
The Third Mainland Bridge is in dire need of rehabilitation as repairs executed by the Ministry of Works did not meet the required standard, a senator has said.
Gbenga Ashafa (ACN-Lagos ) made this revelation on Thursday at a Senate sitting. If the bridge is not immediately worked on, it will collapse, Mr. Ashafa warned.
He told newsmen at a briefing later, that an independent assessment showed that repair works carried out in October 2012 by the Ministry of Works did not meet the required standard.
“Repair works embarked upon during the last quarter of 2012 by the Ministry of Works, were just mere window dressing on the expansion joints.
“A recent report by some experts in concrete structural engineering found out that the last repairs that were done at the end of October did not meet the entire requirement. The experts went back after those remedial actions were taken and came back with the report that something has to be done urgently.
“So when this alarm was sounded, we thought we have to make it a subject of urgent national importance,” he said.
At the sitting, Mr. Ashafa raised a motion on the urgent need to investigate and avert the imminent collapse of the bridge.
Shola Adeyeye (ACN –Osun) said the motion requires urgent action.
He said that holding public hearing on the issue would delay the process of rehabilitation.
“When you build a bridge and don’t maintain it, no amount of prayer can save you.
“We don’t need public hearing. What we need to do is to direct our engineers in the Ministry of Works to assess the bridge immediately and report back to us,” he said.
Senate orders investigation
The Senate therefore mandated its Committee on Works to investigate and proffer solutions to avert the deterioration and imminent collapse of the bridge.
The committee was also mandated to work in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Works to find out the current state of the bridge and to take urgent action to rectify all the structural damages.
Mr. Ashafa said the Third Mainland Bridge is a national monument on which not less than 70,000 vehicles ply daily. He stressed the need for “comprehensive” repairs to be carried out on its foundation.
On his part, Barnabas Gemade (PDP-Benue) urged the Senate Committee on Works to impress it upon the ministry to accelerate work on the bridge.
He advised against holding public hearing, and said that the experts would not be willing to provide the solution to the problem at such a forum.
Babafemi Ojudu (ACN–Ekiti) advised that that the assessment should be handled only by experts from within and outside the public service.
“We should find a way to get experts from within and outside the Ministry of Works to give us unbiased assessment.
“We should stand up and do something urgently and should not leave this critical matter to public officials,” he said.
On August 10, 2012, Third Mainland Bridge, the longest in Africa, was partially closed, to enable repairs that would forestall collapse. The partial closure caused untold hardship to residents of Lagos, who had to spend several hours in traffic.
Several resources and manpower, including 700 officials from the Lagos State Government and some more from the Federal Government, were deployed for the period of the repairs to direct the traffic situation at the time.
On October 30, the bridge was re-opened amidst cheers for the government because true to its schedule for the repairs on the bridge, works were completed within three months.
Barely four months later, the Senate finds that the bridge still has defects despite claims by the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, that the bridge did not have any structural defect and would not collapse.
Another bridge is falling down
In a related development, the Senate on Thursday urged the Federal Ministry of Works to undertake immediate reinforcement, repairs, and rehabilitation of the River Niger Bridge at Onitsha.
The Upper legislative chamber said the resolution is to avoid the tragic consequences of the possible collapse of the bridge, which links the South-East, South-South and some Northern States of the federation.
It also enjoined the Federal Ministry of Works to take immediate action to commence work on the second Niger Bridge project before the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Moving the motion, Hope Uzodinma (PDP- Imo) said that the poor state of the bridge led to the conception of a second Niger Bridge project as a permanent structure to contain the heavy traffic across the bridge.
“The River Niger Bridge is in a horrifying state of decay with imminent threat of collapse sooner than later.
“The second Niger Bridge has remained on the drawing board for too long with no manifest practical step towards its actualisation as the River Niger Bridge may collapse without notice.
“This could result to a major national catastrophe and tragedy of unimaginable proportions,” he warned.
In her contribution, Margery Okadigbo (PDP-Anambra) expressed concern over the issue of the second Niger Bridge project saying it has been turned into a campaign promise.
“Till date nothing concrete has been done about the second Niger Bridge. It seems the issue has become a political campaign thing.
“We are hoping that the bridge would materialise by the first quarter of this year as promised by the Minister of Works,” she said.
Also speaking, Chris Ngige (ACN-Anambra) said the issue has made the people of Anambra to view their elected officials as fraudulent.
He decried the long delay in the commencement of the second Niger Bridge, and said that the government should give priority attention to its actualisation.
“This matter has taken too long that those of us from Anambra are now seen as fraudsters, who use the issue of the bridge for vote procurement,” he said.
The Senate President, David Mark, said it is paramount that prompt action be taken to rehabilitate the River Niger Bridge.
He stressed the need for the Federal Government to take issues of infrastructural development seriously to enhance the nation’s economic progress.
“The most important thing is that the bridge, which is currently in use should be rehabilitated.
“The second Niger Bridge is important, but the one we have at the moment should be made operational. We should be very serious about infrastructural development,” Mr. Mark advised.