Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge: A Monument for Posterity

03 Jun 2013

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Lekki Ikoyi Bridge

Conceived in 2008, the Lagos State Government finally unveiled the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge last week amid celebrations of return to democratic governance in 1999 and the raging debate over what the bridge cost and why it should be tolled. Despite the protracted debate it has generated, the bridge remains not just a remarkable piece of architecture, it is bound to attract tourists from far and wide, writes Gboyega Akinsanmi

Lagos came alive last week when stakeholders gathered at Lekki to mark the 14th anniversary of Nigeria’s transition to civil rule. Like the previous year when the Lagos Traffic Radio was unveiled, Governor Babatunde Fashola this year inaugurated West Africa’s first cable-stayed bridge, the Lekki-ikoyi Link Bridge, which stands out among other strategic projects developed in the country since the return to democratic rule in 1999.

Looking at the bridge one kilometre away from Lekki Phase I, one definitely admits that its novelty is not in doubt, at least, in Nigeria. Its aesthetics in particular is compelling enough to attract tourists, mainly from different states of the federation and even neighbouring countries. Its significance too demonstrates the strong will of a state government to make a difference in a country where projects are conceived and hardly finished.

Altogether, this new imposing structure attracted the former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, the state’s first civilian Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, its first Military Governor, Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson and key stakeholders to be witness to history of a new Lagos, which Fashola said former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua did not allow the politics of the federal government to undermine. 

But more convincingly, the bridge’s significance was captured in the address of the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who said the bridge was conceived one year into the Fashola administration in 2008. The commissioner simply said the bridge was a palpable solution “to the bottleneck (which resulted from real estate growth) that characterised the Ikoyi-Lekki-Victoria Island axis of the state”.

Hamzat’s statement was obviously a testimony to the fact that the volume of traffic on this axis was higher than the capacity of available roads. He said the axis “is the fastest growing real estate corridor in Africa. It recorded tremendous growth in the number of people residing or working along the corridor. This led to the need to create an alternative route. Our choice is this new cable-stayed link bridge, the first of its kind in West Africa”.

At this instance, Hamzat explained that the bridge “was designed to service and provide the access road around the Elegushi Roundabout and Lekki Phase I”. Instructively, five years after its conception, the same administration was able to hand over the bridge, an imposing architectural masterwork, in a way that recognised the power of people’s collective will to make a meaningful change after decades of decadence and stagnation.

This was also corroborated by the Managing Director of Julius Berger Plc, Mr. Wolfgang Goetsch while giving technical details about the bridge, which his construction firm planned, designed and constructed. For him, the bridge is a visual testimony of modernisation, which will not only be a symbol for Lagos, but also for Nigeria and Africa. The feat was recorded five decades after Julius Berger built the Eko Bridge, the first bridge it constructed in Nigeria.

According to him, the technical details of the bridge comprise a length of about 1.35 kilometres with its impressive pylon visible from afar. He added that the design required specialised engineering know-how and the construction made necessary the need “to introduce and understand new methods. It has two principal parts: a 722-metre long full ‘span approach bridge’ on the Lekki side located just above water level and a 635-metre long cable-stayed bridge with a precast structure called the ‘main bridge’.

“The main bridge is suspended from a 91-metre high pylon and provides the 9-metre headroom above water level to allow for maritime traffic. All bridge deck elements were pre-fabricated in Julius Berger’s production facilities here in Lagos. The span elements of the approach bridge were installed by two specially designed launching girders. The main bridge section comprises pre-cast segmental box girder elements installed according to the balanced cantilever principle utilising tailor-made launching girder and lifting frames.

“The pylon with its two curved legs characterises the appearance of the bridge. Up to a height of 50 metres, the pylon is A-shaped, after which the pylon legs change form and curve outwards to the top. The highly difficult in situ works were carried out by means of specialised self-climbing framework systems. For inspection and maintenance purposes, both pylon legs as well as the main bridge superstructure are accessible from the inside”.

He further explained what made up the bridge’s substructure and superstructure. For the foundation of the bridge structure, Goetsch said the close-end driven steel piles “with a diameter of 914 millimetres and an average length of 50 metres were used. These steel castings were then reinforced and filled with concrete. The pylon structure is built on 43 bored piles with a diameter of 1,524 millimetres and a maximum of 75 metres”.

But beyond what the bridge was made up of, Fashola acknowledged the intervention of the late Yar’Adua, who he said made the construction of the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge a reality. The late president’s intervention became necessary after the bridge was designed and the design showed that four houses had to be demolished for the bridge at the Ikoyi end. But according to the governor, two of the properties belonged to the federal government.

He therefore explained what happened after the bridge was designed, the concern among member of the State Executive Council was whether the late president would release some of the properties of the federal government, which he said, would be affected. Provided the late president had not sanctioned the demolition of the properties, Fashola simply said perhaps the concept of the bridge would have remained a pipe dream.

Fashola said: “At the height of the dispute between the Lagos State Government and federal government over Ikoyi properties which had already resulted in a court case, some of my colleagues felt that we would not get the federal government to cede property to a state controlled by the opposition party to build a bridge for the people.

“While President Yar’Adua surprised them, he did not surprise me. This was the same president who had released our local government funds that were illegally withheld. When I showed him the design and explained the project to him, he simply invited Alhaji Yayale, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation... He gave his outright blessing for the release of some of the properties, which were federally owned and were impeding the project. He was in my view the first builder of this bridge.”

But for the late president’s intervention, Fashola said the bridge would have been a mirage. He therefore captured the late president’s directive to Yayale thus: “SGF, there is this bridge in conception by Lagos State Government. It will affect some properties over which we have a dispute with the state government in court. Without prejudice to the outcome of the case, please release the two properties. Our court dispute or political differences cannot stand in the way of our people’s development”.

Comparing to other infrastructure projects, Fashola said the state government had done something similar in Okota with the Okota-Itire Link Bridge, which eased traffic for seven local governments as well as in Falomo with the construction of Falomo Ramp.

“A similar bridge is being built in Agiliti to connect communities that have been separated by water for forever. Another is being executed in Ajao-Ejigbo area with the construction of a link bridge and road to connect another area separated by the Ejigbo canal from time immemorial. It is the same reason for a similar project, a four lane bridge in Isheri-Ijegun-Isolo area, to provide crossing over water, connect separated communities and reduce journey times and the associated economic and social costs,” he said.

He added that his administration was working ceaselessly on the fourth Mainland Bridge and that the state has made a lot of progress to soon commence an alternative model of crossing the Lagoon from Lekki to Ikorodu with the completion of the Ipakodo and Badore ferry terminals.

But using the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge comes at a cost. The tolled bridge will cost different categories of vehicle owners varying amounts of money. Fashola said users of the bridge would have to pay a toll each way, with salon cars paying N250.00, motorcycles with 200cc capacity and above - N100.00, mini-vans, SUVs and light pick-up trucks - N300.00, while non-commercial buses with a maximum seating capacity of 26 persons will pay N400.00 each way.

He also placed restrictions on some types of vehicles from using the bridge. He said the restriction would affect such vehicles as commercial motorcycles (a.k.a. Okada), tricycles (a.k.a. Keke Marwa), commercial buses including danfos and high capacity buses (i.e. commercial buses exceeding a maximum seating capacity of 26), and heavy duty trucks, articulated trucks, lorries and other vehicles, which are not listed for tolling.

Expectedly, the tolling of the bridge has generated intense debate in different parts of the state. On the eve of its handing over, a proposal for tolling was brought to the state House of Assembly for ratification. It showed that 73 per cent of the gross revenue from the tolling would go to the state government while 27 per cent will to the concessionaire, Lagos Tolling Company, which is expected to collect tolls and manage the toll plaza.

But the proposal, which named a tolling firm, Lagos Tolling Company as concessionaire, caused disconcertment among the lawmakers who queried why a the bridge that was built 100 per cent with public funds should be tolled. Many lawmakers could not comprehend the reason for tolling a 1.35 kilometre bridge. Some believed there was no need to toll any infrastructure, which public funds or taxpayers’ money was used to develop.

Specifically, the deputy speaker, Hon. Kolawole Taiwo punched the proposal for tolling the bridge on the grounds that the request of the State Executive Council was not in accordance with the Public-Private Partnership Law of Lagos State, 2011. He argued that the proposal “has nothing to do with the Public-Private Partnership Law. This is not about the provision of infrastructure because the bridge has already been constructed using the taxpayers' money. So why should we still toll a bridge that we have built with our money?

“This proposal is coming too late. Our consent should have been sought before the construction of tolling system or the bridge itself. They simply built it in anticipation that we will just approve it. For me, I do not want to be part of this. In deciding this, we must look at the future and what could happen when we are no longer on the floor of the Assembly. The project was started years ago and you are just bringing the document for urgent consideration and approval, it is not the best. It needs time for examination, so a time frame should be given”.

The tolling aside, there have been questions raised on the cost of the bridge. Even though the stat government has claimed that 700 new jobs were created, it has not officially released what it cost to develop the bridge. Reports unofficially put the cost of the bridge at N29 billion.

But in spite of the controversy its actual cost and tolling might have generated, the bridge remains one of the finest infrastructure projects ever to be executed in Nigeria since the return of democratic governance 14 years ago.  

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