The plan by the federal government to close the Ijora-Apapa Bridge in Lagos for â€œpermanent repairsâ€ will cost the country over N200 billion, if the bridge is blocked for two months.
The government makes between N1.2 trillion and N1.3 trillion annually from the ports through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Also, stakeholders believe closing the bridge without first fixing the Tincan portion of the dilapidated Apapa-Oshodi Expressway will amount to shooting itself in the foot.
They called on the government to have a rethink and fix the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway before closing the Ijora-Apapa Bridge for repairs; otherwise, there will be no access to the ports.
President, National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero, told THISDAY that closing the Ijora-Apapa Bridge without proper traffic management will lead to cargoes been divert to other countries.
According to him, â€œIt will make no sense, if they go ahead and close the bridge without alternative roads to the port. The Tincan section of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway has completely collapsed. That road must be fixed first and the trucks on the Ijora-Apapa Bridge that has extended to Western Avenue and Maryland must also be cleared before anything can be done.
â€œI can tell you that the country will lose a lot of cargo and billions of naira in revenue. Daily, Nigerians who ply that road suffer undue hardship; some are killed by falling containers and trucks. Why add more insult to injury? It makes no sense why anybody will think of this. They should immediately reverse the decision and first provide alternative means of getting in and out of the Apapa port, which is the gateway to the Nigerian economy.â€
An official of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) said the government had to provide alternative means of getting in and out of the port.
The official, who did not want his name in print, however, argued that the government will not lose much revenue since it is a partial closure.
The federal government had recently announced that it would close the Ijora-Apapa Bridge for â€œpermanent repairsâ€ as soon as stakeholders come up with alternative routes for use by commuters.
The Federal Controller of Works, Lagos, Adedamola Kuti, said this in Lagos recently. He assured that Julius Berger Plc, the contractor handling the project, was ready to move to site.
The controller noted that the ministry was working on effective traffic diversion alternatives that would ensure minimal stresses on users then.
Kuti stated that the bridge was still in use because of an earlier emergency repair work done by Julius Berger to stabilise it. According to him, Messrs Buildwell Nigeria Ltd, had completed permanent repairs on an extension of the bridge, which was damaged by fire.
The controller explained that when Julius Berger returned to site, it would carry out permanent repairs on the portion of the bridge awarded to it.
â€œThe repair work will be done on the bridge slab on the outbound Apapa carriageway. The situation we have found ourselves now is that for Julius Berger to start work, it means we have to divert traffic and we are still looking for the best alternatives.
â€œWe have all sorts of trucks; Lorries on this Apapa road, and as a result of that, we are having problems of diversion and that is what we are still looking at. We hope that very soon, we will be able to come up with the best solution on how to solve the traffic situation there.
â€œWe are grateful to the federal government that has intervened by awarding the contract for the permanent repairs of the bridge to Julius Berger Construction Company. We will be coming up with solutions on traffic diversions in the next few days,â€ he said.
Kuti said meetings were already ongoing with stakeholders and traffic regulatory agencies on how best to tackle the problem and ensure minimal stress for road users.
Some materials needed for the repairs of the bridge could not be sourced locally hence the contractor could not work on the bridge during its earlier closure to traffic, he added.
He assured that adequate announcements would be made when the diversion of traffic would be made. He appealed to road users to comply with directives of law enforcement and traffic agencies then.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on August 5, 2016, inspected the dilapidated bridge, which was damaged by fire. The effect of the fire exposed some of bridgeâ€™s steel layers.
After a meeting with relevant stakeholders on August 7, 2016, Fashola ordered the immediate closure of the bridge.
Julius Berger Plc moved to site the following day to begin emergency repair works. An impact assessment of the bridge was thereafter carried out by Julius Berger, which advised the federal government to embark on its permanent repairs.