BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
BEFORE the Lagos State government wielded the sledge hammer on squatters under the Marine Bridge area of Apapa three months ago, all sorts of anomalies and criminalities were game.
For those familiar with the bridge, the area was a beehive for criminal elements, who were into selling and buying of hard drugs and weapons. But since a new lease of life began that ended nightmares of gridlocks and insecurity in the area, driving on Marine Bridge seems not to pose any more threat.
However, in truth, no observer really needs a civil engineer to forecast the structural integrity of the bridge given the level of wearing, a havoc wreaked by human activities on some of the pillars upon which the entire structure rests.
Coming from Apapa, one wing of the bridge that leads to Sapara thoroughfare has been permanently closed for a while due to a recent fire incident that damaged two pillars upholding that particular section. The state of many pillars upon which the bridge rests from Marine Beach in Apapa to Ijora Causeway directly opposite the Costain Loop, is also suspect.
The sorry state of the bridge came to the fore shortly after the state government, with support from the Federal Government, put an end to the menace of traffic gridlock and illegal parking of tankers, trailers and trucks on the bridge. During the operation that eventually restored order to Apapa and its axis, federal government’s officials led by the coordinating minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, visited the Marine Beach, Creek Road and Ijora Causeway, and acknowledged the degree of damage done to the area.
At the instance of Apapa’s degraded environment, dilapidated bridges and collapsed drainage system, the FG promised to intervene. Three months have gone by and the area is yet to receive any such assistance.
Alluding to the apparent neglect, Governor Babatunde Fashola during a recent visit to Apapa, lamented the litany of Federal Government’s failed promises, citing instances where the central government had pledged interventions on critical issues within federal jurisdictions with respect to Lagos State and its failure to make good its promise, which he said, was not fair and just.
He made reference to the ocean surge, which is eroding Alpha Beach in Lekki. Fashola cited the FG’s failure to refund over N60 billion, which the state government spent to rehabilitate federal roads in the state, noting that the latest instance “is the clearing of Apapa and its environs, which has opened up Apapa Central Business District after years of economic paralysis.
“The state government has been solely responsible for the sustainability of Apapa since we completed the removal of the shanties. So far, the Federal Government has not contributed its quota. We cannot bear the burden alone because this port is the number one seaport in the country and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority is evidently responsible for the traffic gridlock along Wharf Road.”
Fashola noted that the Federal Government does not compensate Lagos State for all the damage it did to infrastructure in the state. “We get nothing from all the money they are making from the ports. I would expect a FG with conscience to take a decision that since we are running our tankers through your roads, this is what you get every year to repair the roads.
“Instead, they are carving out our land. But we have started reclamation of our territory with or without them. Regenerating the blighted areas would cost over N12 billion,” he said.
Giving the breakdown of what it cost the state to clear Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway, Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said it cost N100 million to clear all the shanties and remove abandoned vehicles from this axis. “We have completely cleared the place. And today, it is very easy for one to drive through Apapa, but the state is yet to receive FG’s response in different areas it pledged to make intervention.”
UNTIL early May, Apapa was a no-go area despite its strategic significance to the country’s domestic economy. This was partly due to illegal parking of trailers, tankers and trucks, which almost entirely took over the entire roads leading to Apapa, where the country’s key seaport is located. Consequently, a number of businesses had no other choice than to relocate from Apapa to save their capital.
This was worsened by the indiscriminate mounting of shanties in different parts of Apapa by illegal occupants, whose activities had escalated crime rates. According to the Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environment and Special Offences, Mr. Bayo Suleiman, it explained why cases of robbery, rape and all sorts of criminalities were rife in the area, thus threatening individuals and businesses alike.
He, however, said with the advent of the new era, which has yielded much result, the gains of the exercise, such as reduction of traffic gridlocks, removal of criminal hide-outs and shanties and cases of degradation that are being remedied, must be sustained.
On the next line of action, the Special Adviser to the governor on the Environment, Dr. Taofeek Folami, said unveiling of the Apapa Regeneration Plan followed the demolition exercise.
“We will be landscaping the space we reclaimed in Marine Beach and create a recreation centre for residents of Ijora and Ajegunle. Some of the facilities that will be available at the recreation centre are basketball court, a football pitch, among others.
“We have done the design for the project. The streetlight from Ijora to Apapa has been designed and the estimate made. At Ijora Olopa, there would be a basketball court and boxing rings, where residents of Oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Iganmu and Alaka, among others, can come and relax at their leisure.”
Folami added that besides sport facilities, which would adorn the reclaimed spaces, an outdoor advert boards would be created at strategic places, which would serve as a source of revenue for the state.
Bello said the cost of regenerating Apapa is huge, which explains why Governor Fashola set up an inter-ministerial committee to ensure full implementation of the project. The ministries to be involved include the Environment, Agriculture, Works and Infrastructure, and Lagos State Advertising Agency (LASAA).
“The project is quite big and might be difficult to put a specific cost to it because it will require that the drainage system be rehabilitated and road infrastructure fixed. At the moment, the state government needs over N6 billion to reconstruct the road from Marine Beach to Apapa alone. This is as a result of the petrochemical products spilt on the roads by those who turned the roads to their workshop, causing major degradation to the environment,” the commissioner stated.
Explaining the damage done to the area, Bello said all the spilled oil from the tankers goes underground and pollute the underground water.
“From this, ultimately, residents will extract water for use and tomorrow, we will be talking of cancer and related diseases. The people must be made to understand this. We are determined, however, to transform this place”.