The Lagos State Government’s seven-day ultimatum issued to occupiers of open stalls under the razed section of Eko Bridge at Oke Arin Market in Apongbon will not be extended, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu warned on Monday.
The Governor said all illegal traders under the damaged bridge have till Wednesday (next two days) – the day the ultimatum will lapse – to vacate the site and remove their belongings, after which Environmental Taskforce officers will move in to clear wreckage left under the bridge, following the last Wednesday fire outbreak allegedly caused by inflammables stored under the bridge.
Sanwo-Olu was on the site of the inferno at Apogbon area alongside his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and cabinet members, for an on-the-spot assessment of the level of damage on the 48-year-old infrastructure.
Following the fire incident, the Government indefinitely suspended vehicular movement on the affected part of the bridge to allow for safety test and integrity examination on the facility.
Five market groups used the open space under the bridge at the Oke Arin section of the Eko bridge for commercial activities. They are Aromoleti Esho market, Shoe and Bag market, Irewolede market, ECOWAS market and Asejere market. The inferno allegedly erupted from the area where wine traders occupied.
On sighting Sanwo-Olu at the site, a crowd of traders affected by the fire incident gathered and made passionate appeal to the Governor not to shut the market. But their plea met a stiff resistance from Sanwo-Olu, who insisted that the traders’ unsafe practices led to the situation that caused the fire outbreak, which wreaked havoc on the busy bridge.
The Governor bemoaned persistent destruction on vital public infrastructure within the State, disclosing that Lagos had recorded major damage on eight bridges across the State in the last two years. The development, Sanwo-Olu said, usually takes a toll on socio-economic activities and slows down productivity.
He said: “We have issued a seven-day notice to all illegal occupiers under the bridge. We have gone to see the extent of the destruction in the bridge; it is an unfortunate incident and the situation that caused the fire was a clear indication of how public assets should not be used. I want to reiterate that our ultimatum is still on and Wednesday is the deadline. Anybody that has anything valuable to him must remove it now, because we are starting extensive clearing of the site.
“Between last two years and now, we have had eight fire incidents on our bridges. Each time something like this happens, it affects everyone of us and the economy. The implication is far reaching and this will not be accepted as a norm. It costs more resources to put the damaged bridges back in shape and the activity takes more time to be completed. We cannot continue to have a few people who are engaging in actions that cause damage to public assets to put everyone at risk.”
Sanwo-Olu said the State and the Federal Government would be conducting a joint investigation on the affected parts of the bridge to ascertain the level of rehabilitation work required to put it back in shape. He said the reopening of the closed section of the bridge may not happen until after structural engineers completed their investigation and certified it for use.
He said the Government’s main focus in the interim was to bring normalcy back to vehicular movement along the routes and ease the pain commuters are going through in the axis.
The Governor directed removal of vehicles parked on the elevating ramp at Ebute Ero towards Constain and ordered the presence of police and traffic officers to manage movement around alternative routes in and out of Marina.
He said: “Once we can be orderly in movement across alternative routes, we would have eased journey time for commuters and people can still see that the movement to and from Eko Bridge at Apogbon axis has certainly not been hindered. The Federal Ministry of Works that owns the asset should come back and work collaboratively with us to ensure that normalcy returns as soon as possible.”
Addressing the traders, Sanwo-Olu told them that commercial activities would be restricted under the bridge, pointing out that plans were being made to relocate the traders to places where they would safely conduct their businesses.
Aside from slowing down traffic, the Governor said activities under the bridge raised security concerns for the traders and commuters.
“We can all see that the traders have refused to take care of public assets. All of the things that were happening under the bridge are totally unacceptable. Our Government is not about making life difficult for our citizens. The citizens should know that their commercial activities need to be done in places that have been designated as proper markets.
“The State Government is working with the Local Government chairman and the representatives of the affected traders to identify where we can relocate the displaced traders immediately, so that they do not lose their source of livelihood. If we should allow the traders to be back under the bridge and go back to how things were being done, it means that we are being reckless,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet also visited Obalende Bridge for evaluation of the safety of the infrastructure.