Babatunde Fashola, the Minister for Power, Works, and Housing, reaffirmed that the current administration is determined to correct the trend of poor maintenance and has established the process for the repair, maintenance and restoration of 50 bridges across the country. Provided the House of Assembly supports the scheme and approves the funds, the project would run for three years.
The government plans to commence with 70 billion to 100 billion naira in 2017. Worried about the state of the bridges, Fashola, while inspecting the ongoing rehabilitation of Lagos Road Bridge on Tuesday, said that the near-completed project was awarded some years back by the former administration. Then, it was indicated that due to some misalignments and fracture, the outer ring road leading to the Third Mainland Bridge was in delicate shape.
Many of the bridges built in Nigeria in the last fifty years have not been under any form of maintenance. But because the present administration is dedicated to making infrastructure, especially roads, and now bridges, a priority, the portfolio resides under the power and leadership of Fashola. During his tenure as Lagos state governor, he embarked on a huge infrastructural renewal of the Lagos metropolis. To the extent that within the first four years of his term, key highways were transformed and painted, new roads were opened up with flyover bridges and towards the end of his tenure state-of-the-art bridges were constructed to substitute the rundown old ones.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges,” Fashola said. He added that part of the campaign promise of the present administration is to make good road accessible during his tenure, “as we can see the construction on Lagos-Ibadan expressway commenced in 2016.”
With the optimism that greeted Fashola’s appointment as a federal minister, one would assume the ministry of works has a plan to work on the bridges. As Nigerians, we would make reference to his past work and expect nothing less. However, the minister said that the government had done all the survey and assessment to unravel the problems of the bridges. For instance, the proposed expansion of the road in the Iyana Ipaja axis of Lagos last year was delayed due to some challenges. The state government was forced to demolish properties worth millions before dwellers could evacuate the premises. This experience has become a norm in Nigeria when people are told to vacate land areas managed by the government.
Fashola could, of course, want to achieve so much within the three-year period. However, the deteriorating Third Mainland Bridge is made worse by human activities such as sand filling and ecological factors that result in erosion. This road has moved as a result of some sub-soil displacement. Fashola said and assured the immediate repair of the very critical ones before the bridges wear out and collapse. The project to repair the Third Mainland Bridge, which was slowed down by funding, would be completed in November 2017.
Shortcomings expected that might be faced during the repair of bridges
At the moment, 270 billion naira has been allocated for the repair, maintenance and restoration of the 50 bridges across the nation which is expected to run for a 3-year period. But construction might be delayed as Fashola himself decried indiscriminate parking and trading activities in some parts of Ebute Ero, toward the Third Mainland Bridge, with the awareness that situations like this, most times, create a lag in project time frame, stretching the proposed plan in the process.
Most of the campaign promises of the current administration have not been actualised. For example, not one anticorruption case has been finalised in court. Also, plans which include enforcing nine years of compulsory basic education to every Nigerian child and programs that promote skills acquisition and teacher training are yet to begin, the distribution of 5,000 naira to poor people just commenced this year, free feeding to schools is not in the pipeline and the federal government N-Power project was only finalised late last year.
Finally, the Ministry of Works under Babatunde Fashola’s leadership has commenced some project starting with the third mainland bridges been the most credible one at the moment, however, the contractors, Julius Berger PLC and RCC started the project in November 2015 and are expected to complete the project by July 3, 2017. Also, during the course of the ongoing project an injunction that was passed by Bi-Courtney since far back as 2012 resurfaced to challenge the termination of the concession contract awarded by the federal government. However, the case was dismissed but this kind of ordeal draws back a project and made the new contractors step back for a while which can create a lag in the project time frame.
With all that has been said, a delay in the House of Assembly’s approval of the funds will also stretch the time frame of the project which ought to have commenced.