By Usman Mustapha
Aiyelabowo-Moro Bridge in Asa local government of Kwara State serves as a link to the northern part of Oyo State and the Benin Republic. But the area, central to huge economic activities for startups and established businesses with a potential to boost Internally Generated Revenue for the state, has remained a death trap and an obstacle to trade.
The construction of the highway bridge dates back to the colonial era and given its persistent collapse after several rehabilitation efforts that have gulped millions of naira, it is believed that the 100 years’ lifespan of ancient steel bridges may have been exceeded.
The first collapse of the bridge occurred in the early 1980s and since then, the capacity of the bridge has been overtaxed by an increased level of commerce over the years.
Deputy Chairman of Lorry Workers of Kwara state popularly called Baba Dansaz, told The ICIR that the bridge which had become an international route was initially designed to carry 10 tons in weight, but now takes up to 50 trucks. An average truck weighs between 19-30 tons.
“The steel-made bridge as repaired by the Army corps was to carry a volume weight of 10 tons, then you hardly see more than one truck passing in a day and the weight of the truck was surely below the recommended 10 tons but now, the community changed, even the country at large demands agricultural produce from Kayama and Baruteen. More than 50 trucks can now pass on the Moro girder bridge of 10 tons,” Dansaz said.
Aiyelabowo-Moro Bridge now dubbed the ‘death-trap bridge’ has claimed many lives over the years, as confirmed by multiple sources interviewed by our reporter.
In spite of the risks posed by the dilapidated structure, traders continue to traverse the two states day and night in pursuit of their daily bread, as the only alternative to the bridge is through the river.
In October 2016, the bridge suffered a partial collapse which grounded commercial activities, forcing the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Ilorin branch to initiate repairs for its members.
Five years down the line, residents of the surrounding communities continue to express their frustration, calling on the government to come to their aid and provide a more lasting solution to the problem.
“It (the bridge) gets faults almost every time, the steel collapses, and when it does, people coming from town won’t be able to cross the bridge and the villagers also won’t be able to attend to their businesses in town, sometimes, there would be an increment in transport fee,” said a tricycle rider.
The Kwara State Commissioner for Works and Transport Aro Yahaya had admitted during the repair of the bridge in 2016 that only a reconstruction of the bridge could offer a lasting solution to the constant collapse.
Yahaya also noted that the reconstruction of the bridge will further boost agricultural activities in the area and the state in general, and ease transportation of farm produce to commercial destinations.
The Moro girder bridge is a Federal Government project under the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
In 2016, a budget provision for the rehabilitation of both Moro and Ohan bridges stood at N200 million and in March 2017, the contract was awarded to Messrs Bilijoe + Berger Nigeria Limited, one month before another N865 million was budgeted for the same purpose.
The rehabilitation project has been work-in-progress since 2017 without the end. A resident Salihu Ahmad, said like many others, he was full of expectations when the repair work started as he envisaged the ease it would bring to movement and business. His hope has been dashed as the bridge remains a nightmare.
Another member of the community Adeyemi Soliu, who drives a commercial truck told The ICIR how the poor condition of the bridge had impacted his business. He said often times his truck tyres would get damaged by the steel on the bridge, costing him a whole week’s profit to repair or replace them.
In view of the enormous economic importance of the Aiyelabowo-Moro Bridge, not only to Kwara and Oyo states but to the nation at large, residents whose livelihoods directly depend on accessing this route have urged the government to speed up the ongoing rehabilitation work and consider creating an alternative route for motorists.