The Lagos Third Mainland Bridge measuring about 11.8 km in length is by every standard one of the most useful infrastructure in sub- Saharan Africa. In this report GEORGE OKOJIE examines why the imposing eight lane bridge linking Lagos Island with mainland has continued to record cases of auto crashes, suicides and robbery attacks and what could be done to salvage the situation.
For much of last week there were reports of a middle aged man that took a death plunge into the Lagos lagoon from the Third Mainland bridge.
He was later identified as Sheriff Oladejo, a driver with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria,(FRCN). The man was said to have alighted from a commercial bus conveying him and some of his colleagues to work and dived into the lagoon immediately.
Ironically, to achieve his devious aim witnesses said he pretended that he wanted to ease himself and even when operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos state police command rushed to the scene immediately but could not rescue him. He took his own life.
This particular incident on the bridge that was commissioned by former self styled military President Ibrahim Babangida in 1990 came in quick succession with the tale of a member of a four-man gang which specialises in robbing unsuspecting passengers of their valuables in a commercial bus that leapt into the Lagos lagoon following a hot pursuit by armed police officers.
The ‘ one chance’ robbers were having a field day on the bridge when police officer attached to Rapid Response Squad (RRS) patrol van pulled up before the robbers on the Third Mainland Bridge and they abandoned their vehicle and were fleeing on foot when they were arrested.
But one of the robbers, who was later identified as Junior, 19, jumped into the lagoon with the gang’s loot.
Amid the frequent auto crashes on the long bridge one Allwell Oji, a medical doctor, ended his life on the same bridge last year by diving into the lagoon from the bridge. There have been different cases of suicide on the bridge which connects the mainland part of the state to the island.
There had been instances too in the past where the Police Command in Lagos State rescued people from trying to take death plunges into the lagoon from the bridge.
One of such cases was the one that involved Taiwo Momoh who attempted to jump into the Lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge.
Momoh was in a taxi heading toward Oworonshoki on Third Mainland Bridge when she told the taxi driver to stop on the bridge and was about to jump into the lagoon when a police patrol team on a routine patrol sighted her and held her before she could do so.
The police authority then said from their interaction with the woman, she had depression as a result of unpaid loans and insisted that she wanted to end her life, not minding that committing suicide was an offence under the law.
Within the same period one Abigail Ogunyinka (61) also tried to take her life by jumping from the bridge into the lagoon, saying she decided to end it all because she was frustrated with life.
According to her, life had been unfair to her, saying she had no child and that her husband and only friend was at the moment sick.
In order to get drugs for her husband who is down with stroke, she said she had so far collected loan of N150,000. But she said she decided to take her life through third mainland bridge following disturbance from those she owed.
To act as deterrence to others the Lagos State police command attached to D4 Section of the Police Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, CIID, Yaba, arraigned Momoh before Magistrate Elias.
She was slammed a one-count charge of attempted suicide by the police.
Emotions aside, Sergeant Kehinde Omisakin, told the court that Momoh had, on 24 of March, 2017 at about 10a.m., on the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the river. She said that the offence committed is punishable under Section 235 Cap C17, Volume 3 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
In all of these observers say the government has not really given the bridge the attention it deserves apart from the routine maintenance carried out by the federal government from time to time.
According to them, if there is heavy security presence on the long bridge many of the criminal acts being perpetrated on the bridge would reduce .
Before it got to the point of people trying to take their lives, a Christian cleric, Rev. John Adeyinka, said the problem could be solved by taking some proactive steps.
According to him, it is high time religious organisations created more platforms on which members with great emotional problems can seek counseling and prayers to prevent suicide.
Adeyinka, Presiding Pastor at Beloved Power Ministries in Lagos said, “Also, Nigerians should, more than ever, be their brother`s keepers. A situation where we stigmatise and deride those who share their problems with us is bad.
“Such people might be forced to see solution in suicide as they have been let down by the society. We should provide help as much as possible so that we can put a lid on the problem,“ he urged. He advised distressed Nigerians not to consider suicide but seek counseling and divine help no matter the challenges.
He expressed worry at the rate of suicides in recent times, saying that self-murder would never be a solution. “Self-murder or what people simply call suicide is on the rise in the country. Apart from the fact that God frowns at it, it is not the solution to life’s problems.
“God told us in the Bible that our body is His temple and that if we destroy that temple, we have sinned against Him. I know that some problems can be overwhelming, but there is no problem that has no solution with patience, divine intervention and help from people.
“Rather than people jumping into the Lagoon or hanging themselves, they should seek the face of God and share their problems with those around them. That could help to offer the solution,’’ he advised.
Adeyinka called on the church to counsel their members on the need to go closer to God for solutions. The cleric also called on the federal government to address the socio-economic problems of the country which, he said, contributed to suicides.
Lagos State Government said third mainland bridge was given priority attention in its “Operation Light up Lagos” project to curtail such occurrences.
According to the state’s commissioner for Tourism Mr. Steve Ayorinde , the Lagos State Government had since completed the illumination of the Third Mainland Bridge.
To ensure that the entire stretch is covered, Lagos state government under the initiative started the illumination process from the Ojodu Berger section of the bridge and covers the entire sections of the bridge.
Ayorinde said that the Third Mainland Bridge constitutes an important segment of the road network in the state, as such, the state Government cannot overlook its importance as it also serves as a connecting point to the high brow economic pot of the state.
He further explained that the effort is to fulfill the 24/7 economy promised by the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode during his electioneering campaign period.
“The economy of Lagos has gone beyond the day driven transactions, as such, the night economy component should be fully developed.
“Every businessman wants to invest in a safe and secured environment. Once an investor is assured that the operating environment is safe and secured; the assurance of more investment is guaranteed,” Ayorinde said.
Other reasons for this project, he said, is geared towards promoting further collaboration with the federal government, which is expected to go a long way to cement a good working relationship as well as boost the economy of the state and Nigeria.
Apart from the bridge some other areas that were lit up under this project include, Ikorodu to Lagos Island, Ikeja, Oshodi, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, Eko Bridge, among others.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police Mr. Edgal Imohimi said the command had since begun patrol of bridges across the state to forestall any likely suicide attempts.
The Lagos police boss who lamented the rate at which people commit suicide in the country, described it as worrisome.
Apart from Third Mainland Bridge, the police had also begun patrol of the metropolis to forestall other sundry crimes, saying henceforth, it would be an offence for individuals to walk on bridges in the state, and that no vehicle would be allowed to stop on any bridge to prevent suicide incidences.
The General Manager Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, (LASEMA) Mr. Tiamiyu Adesina, said officials of the agency are deployed to the axis on daily basis to constantly patrol the Third Mainland bridge notorious for all sorts of crimes.
He emphasised that they are mandated to ensure such incidences do not occur and if it occurs they are well equipped to respond and deal with such emergencies.