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Cablegate: Nigeria: Lagos' Third Mainland Bridge Closure

VZCZCXRO7858
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0321/01 2241204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111204Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0112
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9788
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000321

SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR FOR AGAMA
STATE PASS USAID FOR NFREEMAN, GBERTOLIN
STATE PASS EXIM FOR JRICHTER
STATE PASS OPIC FOR ZHAN, MSTUCKART, JEDWARDS
STATE PASS TDA FOR LFITTS, PMARIN
DOC FOR 3317/ITA/OA/KBURRESS
DOC FOR 3310/USFC/OIO/ANESA/DHARRIS
DOJ FOR MARIE-FLORE KOUAME
TREASURY FOR RHALL, DPETERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN ECON PGOV NI

SUBJECT: NIGERIA: LAGOS' THIRD MAINLAND BRIDGE CLOSURE

1. (SBU) Summary: The partial closure of the Lagos Third Mainland
Bridge, the arterial road between the city's commercial islands and
the mainland, will last from early August to October, severely
disrupting already congested traffic. The Federal Government and
the Lagos State Government's (LASG) wrangling over the closure date
resulted in public confusion and a lack of readily available
transportation alternatives. Commute times for local employees of
ConGen Lagos have risen dramatically, but so far operations have not
been disrupted. Official travelers to Lagos should consider the
impact of significantly worsen traffic on meeting and travel
schedules. End Summary.

Third Mainland Bridge: Lagos' Commercial Lifeline
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) On August 2, contractors began repairs on the Third Mainland
Bridge (TMB), one of three bridges that connect the Lagos' business
districts on Ikoyi and Victoria Island with the mainland. The 12
kilometer, four-lane TMB, completed in the late 1980's, is the
longest and most heavily used of the three bridges and is the
primary route from the commercial islands to Lagos' Murtala Muhammed
International Airport and the ports. During repairs, one half of
the TMB will be open for one way traffic flow into the islands
between midnight to noon and in the reverse direction for the
remaining time. Repair work is scheduled to last until early
October 2008.

Rehabilitation Due to Lack of Maintenance
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Tunde Ekunsumi, Federal Controller of Works for Lagos,
Ministry of Transportation, told EconOff and FacMaintOff on August 3
that a lack of maintenance on the TMB over the last ten years
necessitated the rehabilitation. In the last two years, extensive
vibration, uneven pavement surface, and shifting bridge pillars have
been observed and expansion joints have suffered damage. The
Ministry has hired the bridge's original construction contractor
Inco Consultant Milano along with the Borini Prono construction
company to rehabilitate the TMB.

Lagos State Plays Politics,
Unprepared for Closure
--------------------------

4. (SBU) News media announced the TMB's two-months closure in the
weeks leading up to July 18, but the Federal Ministry of
Transportation (MOT) postponed the closure to August 2 after the
Lagos State Government (LASG) objected to the July 18 closure,
citing the lack of a comprehensive alternative arrangement for
commuters. Ekunsumi dismissed that claim saying the dispute between
MOT and LASG was purely political, implying it was a debate over
control of infrastructure projects in the state, and that LASG had
been fully aware of the rehabilitation timetable for over a year.
(Note: ConGen Lagos first heard of the Bridge's closure July 9. End
Note)

5. (U) Idowu Ajanaku, Chief Press Secretary for the Deputy Governor
of Lagos State, told Econoff that the state has reacted by adding 50
buses to its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network and plans to add
another 50 buses to the fleet in two weeks time, bringing the total
to 200 buses. By the second week of the closure, there are plans
for a 30 boat ferry system to operate on a 24 hours basis from the
portside on the mainland to the islands. (Note: Where and how the
LASG will find 30 seaworthy ferry boats in two weeks time is
unclear. End Note) Some roads currently closed due to
rehabilitation will be temporarily opened as alternative routes.

Walking the Bridge
------------------

6. (U) FacMaintOff and EconOff conducted a site visit of the bridge
on August 3, with Federal Controller Ekunsumi, noting equipment and
construction materials installed along the side of the bridge.
Bridge lighting was available for the portion of the bridge
undergoing rehabilitation, but the rest of the bridge was dark
(Note: This is not unusual given Nigeria's unreliable power grid. On

LAGOS 00000321 002 OF 002


the night before the closure, Ekunsumi found the entire bridge unlit
and ordered 2,000 liters of diesel to fuel the generators for the
section of the bridge undergoing rehabilitation. End Note) The
Managing Director of the primary repair contractor said rain, which
prevents the casting of cement, could delay completion of the
project. Lagos' rainy season typically runs through August.

An Opportunity to Make a Little on the Side
-------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Not surprisingly, a project of this scale has already seen
its share of graft. Ekunsumi told EconOff and FacMaintOff that the
Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Lagos State Traffic Management
Authority (LASTMA), and the police force asked for Naira 30 million
to assist with traffic control. Ekunsumi negotiated the price down
to Naira 10 million, built the money into the budget as a contractor
cost, and asked the contractor to disseminate the money to the three
agencies. Policemen were reportedly charging motorists Naira 100
(USD 0.85) to use the diversion route on the first day of the
closure.

Switch-Off Schedule Ineffective
-------------------------------

8. (U) EconSpec noted confusion in the coordination of traffic flow
over the first two working days of the bridge closure. According to
EconSpec, on the first day island-bound traffic was slower than
normal, and buses stopped along the bridge to pick up commuters,
compounding the congestion, and adding two extra hours to her
commute. In general, ConGen Lagos Locally Employed Staff (LES) have
arrived at work on time, but commute times have increased from 30
minutes to two hours on top of already long commutes. Some LES have
expressed concerns over safety and security due to the early morning
departure. The Regional Security Office has not received reports of
security incidents.

9. (U) On the days leading up to the closure, EconOffs observed a
mini run on the banks, with Lagosians rushing to the banks to
withdraw money in case they could not access banking services over
the following few days or weeks. Companies based on Lagos islands
reportedly adopted contingency measures, from putting essential
employees up in hotels on the islands to providing shuttling
services and to allowing alternative work schedule or working from
home.

10. (SBU) Comment: The untimely, if not surprise, announcement of
the TMB's closure, the lack of an advanced comprehensive plan for
alternative transportation modes, and the absence of a study on the
social and economic impacts of the closure are, unfortunately, not a
surprise. Despite Ekunsumi's resolve to complete the project on
time, the job appears to be too big a task for one man. All USG
visitors to Lagos should consider that traveling to and through
Lagos for meetings, which is never easy under the best of
circumstance, will be significantly more difficult over the next
several months. End Comment.

Blair

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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