The perfection and imperfection of 4th Mainland bridge
While basking in the euphoria of the announcement about the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to commence the construction of the 38km 4th Mainland Bridge by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, on Wednesday 25 May, this year, we need to be mindful of the tiny foxes that may spoil the vine.
In other words, our government need to be watchful so that they do not oversight the important details that may cause the pen of undue diligence to overwrite the major advantages of the bridge.
Obviously the many years of awaiting the bridge were not wasted as the government ensured the scoping of quite suitable paths for the bridge. Accordingly, the proposed alignment of the bridge will pass through Lekki, Langbasa and Baiyeiku towns along the shoreline of the Lagos Lagoon estuaries, further running through Igbogbo River Basin and crossing the Lagos Lagoon estuaries to Itamaga Area in Ikorodu. Further, the alignment will also cross through the Itoikin road and the Ikorodu – Sagamu Road to connect Isawo inward Lagos Ibadan Expressway at Ojodu Berger axis.
Recently, the Lagos State government also disclosed the new alignment will also save 2,200 houses from demolition as against old alignment which was to claim over 3,000 houses. By implication, just about 800 houses will be demolished for Fourth Mainland Bridge. In other words, the new alignment of the bridge has reduced the huge economic losses to state as the government has saved over 73 percent of cost of demolition and resettlement of indigenes. In the same way, the social cost to the state has also drastically reduced as fewer persons/households and communities will be displaced from their present location.
Also, the attributes of the bridge itself adequately compliments the suitability of path, the scope of the bridge promises to cover or comb. It is given that the bridge will feature a four-lane dual carriageway with each comprising three lanes and two metres hard shoulder on each side which will incorporate a generous median to allow for both future carriageway expansion and light rail facility. The bridge, among others would also accommodate cyclists and pedestrians and feature two service areas as well as additional pedestrian crossing.
Truly, there is no gainsaying the fact that magnanimous benefits will be derived from this project as the features and the scope-path or alignment of the bridge ensures that it will cut travel and commuting times and ease roadway traffic. The bridge will create shortcuts through notable routes that will redirect traffic from the overly congested existing roads and bridges. It will serve as an alternative route to the eastern axis and decongest traffic in the state.
The axis the bridge is destined to cut across will improve trade as it will provide the required transportation compliment to the rapidly growing industrial activities on the Eti-Osa – Lekki – Epe corridor of the state. Objectively, the bridge is a broad project aimed to strategically re-direct the haulage of goods on roads and decongest traffic amid concerns that vehicles, particular heavy trucks, are increasingly destroying the roads of the state. In addition, the bridge will save time as movement can now be done faster.
It will increase the number of persons, goods and services that can be carried through the roads in the states. Thus, the bridge is principally geared towards economic growth of the state via increased commercial activities, especially considering the phenomenal population growth of the state which is over 21 million people.
Quite importantly, the alignment of the bridge has a global impact as it will reduce the air pollution spewed from traveling vehicles and huge trucks as travel time reduces. In line with sustainable development goals and the U.N. climate change summit held in Paris last year, the bridge will effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The alignment of the bridge will lead to increased unity among the adjoining axis and the state as a whole. The bridge will enhance connectivity as it would be made up of eight interchanges to facilitate effective interconnectivity between different parts of the state. The alignment will not only eclipse one area or axis to another but will further unite the areas like never before to areas across the third mainland bridge- which generally make up the major Central Business District of the state.
Interestingly, despite the current discord in the other parts of the country and the world in general, the bridge will bring about inclusive growth vide the unity it promises. Thus, the bridge will help to build a future that is inclusive — not divisive. That is, the bridge promises a future that is not only favourable to higher income earners, but it also promotes increasing upward mobility and less inequality. Though, the bridge may contrast the disparity of the society, it expands the peoples’ diversity as it recognises evenness among the people and locations. Suffice it to say the bridge is honourable to the common man in the state.
The bridge will make the life of Lagosians, particularly the people in that axis, more and more comfortable as it will bring convenience into the road-transport system in the state. That is, the quality of life of the people will be improved as the imputation of convenience into the transport sector in the state is also a key requirement for its sustenance of economic growth.
However, the questions abound beyond the schedule and cost of the project. That is, questions are not just a matter of if the massive project will be brought in on time and on budget as the bridge is expected to gulp N844billion and is to be delivered in three years. The bridge is unique in at least two ways. One, it is the first time in the history of the state, that the government will be embarking on the construction of this kind of lengthy bridge which is put at 38km. Two, the project is to be solely funded by the private sector as it is also going to be the first time a bridge of this calibre would be created without federal funding.
At present the longest bridge in the state is third Mainland Bridge which is among the more than 28 bridges in the state. In other words, the forth mainland bridge will be dethroning the third mainland and other historic bridges in Africa.
If not for any other reason, the first-time nature of this project to the state government is bound to give room for pitfalls in the planning and construction of the bridge. As revealed by the governor, the bridge would accommodate three Toll Plazas incorporating state-of-the-art tolling system which are still being tested from financial point of view.
As fancy as this sounds, the reality is highly unfriendly to the masses as it is not pro-people. Thus, the tolling system may negate the crucial advantages the bridge holds. While the bridge may dethrone other historic bridges in Africa in terms of physical attributes, it may be under-rank in terms of social values.
Apparently, the financial motives, over the social motives of the bridge, is what is significantly responsible for the expression of the commitment of major stakeholders including the government, the consortium of consultants and investors in the delivery of the project. The reason for the toll gates and other financial entry-point of the bridge is not distant from the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) method of funding the project.
Though the government may want to take credit for embarking on a project of this volume in money and technicality without federal funding or technical support, the resort to PPP method of funding in this dimension is not innovative, dynamic and sustainable as it poses to be . In other words, albeit the funding has been said to be a testimony to the confidence the partners and investors in the project have in the state government and the Nigerian economy in general, the initiative is pregnant with a number of backlashes.
Practically, the project can be sustainably funded by taxpayers’ money, fees and levies charged by road transport ministry, agencies, unions, commissions and other road-transport organizations in the state. Alternatively, or jointly, it might be funded from financial support from external organisations. Imposing a toll fare on tax payers would be quite absurd and unsustainable. The three toll plazas may be impedimental to the bridge’s sustainable goals as they will re-introduce a divisive — not inclusive – policy as it will favour principally higher income earners, thereby increasing the inequality in the society. Adebiyi, a practising Estate Surveyor and Valuer, is graduate in Estate Management from the University of Lagos. firstname.lastname@example.org