Nigeria is nicknamed “the giant of Africa” not just because of its population size, but its potential as well. Successive governments have tried to improve on the infrastructure in the country as an instrument for breathing life into the nation’s economy; a lot of rail, road and power projects are being built across the country today. But we take a look at one of the landmark infrastructural achievement of post-independence Nigeria: the third mainland bridge. We bring you the history, the conception and the construction of Lagos’ iconic bridge.
The third mainland bridge is the longest out of three bridges that connects the Lagos Island to the Mainland. Measuring about 11.8km in length, the third mainland bridge is much longer than the Eko and Carter bridges; which also connects Lagos Island to the mainland. The third mainland bridge was constructed by construction giants, Julius Berger plc and completed during the regime of Gen Ibrahim Babaginda. It was opened by the President in 1990.
The third mainland bridge was the longest bridge in Africa until the 6th October bridge in Cairo was completed in 1996. It starts from Oworonshoki, with links to the Apapa-Oshodi expressway and Lagos-Ibadan expressway, and stops at the Adeniji Adele interchange on Lagos Island. Midway through the bridge, there is also a link that leads to Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba.
The third mainland bridge is a very important infrastructure for the daily commuting of Lagosians. People living in Ikeja, Agboyi-Ketu, Ikorodu, Isheri, Oworonshoki, Gbagada, Yaba, Maryland and Oshodi, are regular commuters to and from the Lagos mainland to the Island – the commercial hub of Lagos State. On weekdays, the third mainland bridge usually witnesses very high vehicular movements, even on holidays. It is a major Lagos icon, and when on it, it can offer a nice view of different spots in Lagos; the Lagoon, Makoko – which is a shanty town built on the Lagoon, and the University of Lagos Waterfront. The third mainland bridge is so highly used and requires constant remedial works and renovation.
There have been various renovations on the bridge; daily commuters had reported noticeable vibrations in 2006 which indicated that it required urgent attention. Remedial works have been done on portions of the bridge at different times, and during these renovations, it is normal that it usually leads to partial closure of the bridge to accommodate for the repairs to go ahead. As at 2013, these vibrations were no longer noticeable, after work had been completed on the bridge. In 2012, there were rumours of cracks on the bridge which was denied by the authorities. The bridge was also designed with the colours of the Nigerian flag during the last repairing exercised carried out on the bridge and the eight-lane bridge was wearing a new look.
Construction Of Third Mainland Bridge
Former military President, General Ibrahim Babaginda was interviewed recently on the maiden publication of ‘Matters of Heritage’ and when asked about the completion and commissioning of the bridge by his regime, he had this to say;
“If I remember very well, in 1982 or 83, yeah, I saw a programme, “The Squandering of Riches”, on an American television channel. They were reporting on some of the white elephant projects that African governments embarked upon. I watched as the lead presenter climbed the abandoned 3rd Mainland Bridge and as he talked, he gave it as an example of how African governments embarked on projects and never completed them. And when he got to the point where the construction stopped then, he said nobody could tell where the construction was leading at that time and that he was of the opinion that it could well lead to oblivion. That struck me and informed my desire to change that narrative. I saw it then as an insult, a foreigner talking about my country in that manner. I also saw it as something I needed to do something about if given the opportunity”.
“That was what happened. And fortunately, as God would have it, in 1985, I was appointed the military president. I remember the thing very well. It is in my head. I told myself I was going to ensure the completion of the project. So, I called Raji Rasaki who was the military governor of Lagos State at the time. We sat down and had a good chat about it. As usual, he said, ‘Well, this is a state government. We probably don’t have the money to complete it’. And I said, ‘No, let’s put our resources together and see what we can do.”
“There was Julius Berger. There were PGH and Bank Anthony, an Italian contractor and one or two others, and then Lagos State government itself. So, I brought them all together and said, look, this is my intention, is it doable? They all looked at me and said yes, it was doable provided I was going to provide the money. And I said money won’t be a problem, because the state government, Federal Government and PGH were going to provide the money. So, the engineers and everybody said yes, it could be done. It happened to be my birthday, when we had that meeting.”
“So, I said, ‘I will have to commission this bridge on any of my birthday’. That was a challenge I gave the engineers and they took it very seriously. So, Colonel Raji Rasaki and I put our heads together and, sure, the money was made available so that when the work started, there wouldn’t be any delay due to lack of funds. We got the money ready and the engineers were mobilized to site. That was how the completion of the 3rd Mainland Bridge restarted. By God’s grace, they fulfilled their promise and on my next birthday, I commissioned that bridge. I was very happy, very proud of it. The engineers were good. They were serious. They were patriots. They worked their heads off.”
“It was the longest bridge in Africa at that time and mostly built by Africans. So, this is the story behind that bridge. I am happy. I did not spend up to N1 billion on that bridge. Today, you have to spend about N1 trillion to build that bridge. You see the bridge still standing strong. It will continue to stand strong because the government is doing well with it; they are maintaining it.”
Attacks On The Bridge
In November 2016, the Nigerian police arrested the leader of a militant gang plotting to bomb the pivotal third mainland bridge. He was arrested in a hideout at the Majidun River bank in Ikorodu on the 2nd of November, 2016. He was caught with two cartons of Galantine Dynamite Explosives and one hundred and twenty-five detonators in the boot of a Toyota Camry. The suspect fled but was caught a while later, and the attack which would have been a major catastrophe was averted.
The terrorist group ‘Boko Haram’ also failed in their attempt to cause massive destruction of lives and properties by blowing up the third mainland bridge in April 2013. Nigerian intelligence chiefs had announced the arrest of a couple of Boko Haram members who were conveying illegal weapons of mass destruction to Lagos State. It was revealed that the terrorists conveyed the weapons inside some of the fuel tankers that ply major roads to the commercial nerve center of the country. The security chiefs when briefing the National Assembly top-guns, admitted to the reality of the planned attack and told federal legislators that the terrorists had planned the attack in a bid to cripple the Nigerian economy.
Other routes to take when the bridge closes
During renovations and remedial works on the bridge, it is normal that the bridge will have to be closed for work to commence and during closure, there are other routes motorists can take to move to and fro the Lagos Island.
For motorists who are travelling from the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Agege, Ogba and Ikeja, utilize Oshodi through Mushin and Ojuelegba to get to Carter Bridge and from there you can connect Lagos Island.
Motorists coming from Ikorodu, Maryland could ply Funsho Williams Avenue, formerly, Western Avenue through Yaba to Oyingbo and connect Eko Bridge to enter the Lagos-Island.
Passengers who are leaving Lagos Island are expected to take the Eko Bridge and Carter Bridge route into the Mainland, and those who are in Lekki and Ajah would have to make use of the Epe axis link through Imota into Ikorodu.