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‘Call it Adigbe-Opako culvert, not bridge’

In this report, Daily Trust Saturday captures the plight of residents, commuters and traders following the ‘collapse’ of the Adigbe-Opako bridge in Obafemi/Owode Local Government…

In this report, Daily Trust Saturday captures the plight of residents, commuters and traders following the ‘collapse’ of the Adigbe-Opako bridge in Obafemi/Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, barely a year after it was reconstructed by the state government.

In Ogun State, the wet season comes with anxiety for many residents following the flash floods that had dealt huge blow on them in the past, destroying properties and sometimes, loss of lives.

The flood disaster claimed about eight lives in Abeokuta, the state capital, in 2018, while properties worth millions of naira went down the drain.

This year, the story is not different. On July 4, a heavy downpour hit Abeokuta, and rendered some roads impassable while a bridge at Ijeja Stadium was cut off.  Mostly affected areas include Kuto, Isale-Igbein, Lanfewa, Amolaso, Ijeun-Titun, Ago-Ijesa, Abiola Way, Isale Abetu, Sokori, Igbore, Oke Mosan and Isale Make area, all in Abeokuta South and North local government areas.

And penultimate Friday, the flood disaster shifted to Adigbe-Opako bridge, rendering the bridge impassable less than a year after it was reconstructed by the state government.

The bridge, built on the alternative road, which links Abeokuta metropolis to the Lagos-Sango-Abeokuta Expressway-Lagos highway via Obada, had collapsed a few weeks after Governor Dapo Abiodun assumed office in 2019.

Concerned by the outcry of the residents and road users, Abiodun alongside government officials visited the bridge on July 13, 2019. During the inspection, the governor ordered immediate closure of the road to allow the reconstruction of the bridge.

“We will have to close this road and commence work immediately because we don’t want any unfortunate thing to happen. You have to be patient while the reconstruction lasts, so don’t be annoyed about the stress you will all pass through when the road is closed,” he had said.

Again, he visited the site on September 9, 2019 and assured the people of his government’s commitment to quality and thorough job. “I want to assure our people that we will do a thorough job and the flooding problem will be a thing of the past,” Abiodun said, after which the road was reopened at the end of September last year.

Last week Friday, the reconstructed bridge was rendered impassable after heavy rainfall.

Daily Trust Saturday reports the flash flood in the area overwhelmed the bridge by washing away the asphalt and eating up the soil surrounding the bridge. In the end, motorists, civil servants and other residents were unable to cross to the other side of the road.

It was gathered that a number of residents on their way back home had to return to the city centre and passed the night with relations. Vehicles were unable to ply the road, but motorcyclists and trekkers found a means of crossing from one side of the road to the other.

A portion of the road washed away by the flash floods in Obafemi-Owode LG, Ogun State
A portion of the road washed away by the flash floods in Obafemi-Owode LG, Ogun State

The bridge, which is few metres away from the Ogun River, usually experiences convergence of water from the neighbouring communities. Residents told Daily Trust Saturday that the volume of water passing through the bridge to the Ogun River makes it susceptible to collapse.

When our correspondent visited the area, some residents described the development as “sad and recurring.” The bridge had been fixed temporarily when our correspondent visited on Thursday.

A community leader who has lived in Opako community for 25 years, M.A Sodunke told Daily Trust Saturday that his wife and children took shelter at his ancestral home in the city centre when the partial collapse of the bridge denied them access to the house.

“What happened on Friday would have been disastrous if it happened before the closure of schools. This is because thousands of students pass through the bridge to school on daily basis.

“There was a heavy downpour and, in the process, the flood took over the bridge. The flood washed away the asphalt and soil round the bridge and created a huge gully.

“No vehicle could pass, not even a bike. People managed to crossover the road with the support of people like me who have been on ground and understand the terrain.

“My children had to go back to the city centre and passed the night in my family house. Not many people were able to cross that night. It was that bad. I was lucky because I came down home shortly after the rain started,” he said.

An entry point into Opako Community in Obafemi-Owode LG, Ogun State
An entry point into Opako Community in Obafemi-Owode LG, Ogun State

“That’s a ring or at best a culvert. Nobody should call it a bridge,” an elderly man who does not want his name in print, said.

Some of the residents who slammed the state government for ‘quick fix attitude’, said they had protested what they described as culvert when the government began the reconstruction last year.

According to them, the government tends to underrate the volume of water converging at the bridge, saying a bigger bridge would suffice.

“This is a culvert. That’s why you see particles and refuse easily blocking it, thereby aiding the flood. We need an open bridge as a lasting solution,” Sodunke said, but applauded the temporary measures put in place by the government to make the bridge passable after two days.

Also speaking with our correspondent, a trader, Destiny Chibuke, lamented the suffering of road users during the rainy season, while calling on government to address the challenges “once and for all.”

The Baale of Opako, Chief Taiwo Daud, agreed that the bridge as reconstructed by the government could not bring a lasting solution.

“It (the bridge) is sloppy and not high enough. If it is constructed high enough above the level of water, all the particles will sail through easily without aiding the flood,” he said.

The traditional ruler added that “For any solution, it has to be a last long one. When the contractors came with ring and other equipment, our people were agitated. They told government officials that the approach won’t work out. But they didn’t listen, the result is what just happened.

“It is a very strategic bridge and hundreds of thousands of vehicles, motorcycles and even trekkers ply the bridge every day. The impact and suffering were much on the people for the few days the bridge was rendered impassable. It’s like shutting out people from going out and coming into the state capital.”

The state commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, on Monday, blamed the residents for dumping refuse on waterways, thereby blocking the free flow of water.

Akinsanya, who visited the bridge, said all houses in the area would have been sacked by flooding “but for the quality of work done on the road by the Dapo Abiodun-led administration.”

According to him, the flow of water was so high but the bridge remained unscathed, and the part of the bridge washed away was as a result of the drainages built near the area, which people had filled with plastics and other wastes.

“Channels of water had been blocked by houses, thus raising the level of the flood. Waterways were blocked but water will always find its level and, definitely, there is no asphalt that water cannot wash away if its volume is heavy.

 The collapsed Adigbe-Opako bridge before it was reconstructed by the present government in 2019
A portion of the reconstructed bridge washed away by the flood penultimate Friday

“People should therefore dispose their wastes carefully and not invite flood. Those who took advantage of the long bamboos by the canal and filled it with the bamboos should be careful,” he said.

Speaking with Daily Trust Saturday, the Special Adviser to the Government on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, insisted that the government is not constructing a new bridge, saying the current one is enough to serve the community.

He said the government had extended the ongoing road construction along Panseke-Adigbe Road to the bridge as part of moves to ensure lasting solution.

“That bridge is not substandard by all known engineering standard as at today. We discovered that the flow of water from surrounding communities tend to be so much that it washed the surrounding soil. The bridge itself is still intact, nothing has happened to it.

“ The first thing we are going to do to ensure permanent solution is the immediate palliative so that people can pass.

The second one is to ensure that the road construction that began from Panseke all the way to Adigbe will now extend to that particular bridge so that all of the design measures will firm up the surrounding soil to ensure that even if we have flood it will only gloss over the environment, not eating up the surrounding soil.

“The third is to begin to widen the drainage channels around the environment so that what comes to the bridge end will not be voluminous dimension that would begin to overwhelm the entire environment of that bridge. So, in combining these three, we will have the lasting solution that we are looking for.”

The governor’s aide, however, maintained that “anybody can call it any name. What the thing is going to carry will determine the design. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a bridge.

“A culvert is a small bridge. Anything that’s suspended from the ground is a bridge. So, those who call it culvert, they chose to call it that way maybe out of their understanding of how things are done, but the truth is that it is a bridge.”

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