The Third Mainland bridge is Nigeria’s longest bridge and is one of the three bridges linking Lagos mainland and Lagos island. The bridge was originally called the Ibrahim Babangida Bridge, after the former head of state of Nigeria. It was under his rule that the bridge was completed in conjunction with the military government of Lagos State. The bridge spans 11.8km and was constructed in 1990 in response to the need to connect the Lagos island to its mainland.
The Julius Berger Engineering Company was contracted to construct the said bridge with reportedly less than NGN1,000,000,000 (one billion naira) expended on its construction. The renovation of the bridge in 2012 however allegedly cost over NGN1,000,000,000. Of course, the difference in exchange rates of 1990 and 2012 must be considered since as at 1990, a dollar was exchanged at NGN7.39 while as at 2012, a dollar to a naira stood at between NGN155 and NGN161.
Today, despite its eight lanes, the bridge is still notorious for heavy traffic at different hours of the day and recent calls by commuters as to vibrations from the bridge, led the government to close the bridge for a few days in August 2018 for examination of the complaints. The report of the examination is yet to be released but it is hoped that this brings about further renovations of the bridge seeing as it serves an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 vehicles on weekdays and between 3,000 and 5,000 vehicles on weekends. The budget for such a renovation will be humongous but it would be worth the effort considering how indispensable the bridge has become to hundreds of thousands of Lagos residents who ply the route daily.
It is noteworthy that the Third Mainland bridge used to be the longest bridge in Africa till 1996 when Cairo’s 6th October bridge was commissioned. It is however still the longest bridge in Nigeria and has with passage of time come to be associated with different things; from a tourist attraction to a suicide haven for people who gave up on life, hence easily becoming a regular word on the lips of Nigerians.
On a lighter mood, there is an interesting fable behind the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge. Julius Berger, the engineer who oversaw the construction of the bridge with his company, was said to have had an encounter with a mermaid when the construction of the bridge was about to commence. It is said that he was warned by the mermaid not to proceed with the construction, but he stubbornly declined, and this eventually led to his death. Julius Berger was said to be diabolical too that he caught the mermaid in a bottle so that it will not constitute an obstacle to the construction of the bridge. This story has not been verified till date but remains a folklore among some Lagos residents.
The Third Mainland Bridge remains one of Nigeria’s enduring legacies and lasting national monuments. As it approaches its 30th year of existence, it is worth acknowledging the fact that the Third Mainland Bridge has become one of the defining features of the Lagos landscape and its importance to the residents of Lagos can in no way be ignored. We believe every reasonable cost incurred to ensure this important structure continues to serve its purpose is truly worth it and is taxpayer money well spent.