The Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, Monday told the Senate Committee on Works that fresh repairs on the Third Mainland Bridge will cost N5 billion.
The minister, who made the disclosure at the opening of an investigative public hearing on the state of the bridge, dismissed recent reports by experts that the bridge would collapse.
According to him, the ministry engaged the services of Nigerian Submarine Divers (NSD) Limited in 2010 to inspect both the Third Mainland Bridge and Eko Bridge in Lagos with a view to ascertaining the state of their underwater structural elements.
Onolememe also disclosed that the initial report of underwater inspection which was presented by NSD in July 2011 showed 'alarming' deterioration and serious damage on numerous piles of the Third Mainland Bridge.
"The final report submitted by NSD in November 2011 indicated 'extensive' deterioration of embedded steel reinforcement in piles, concrete degradation and loss of concrete material as well as discontinuities in some foundation piles which had apparently affected the load bearing capacity of the piles," he said.
He further revealed that final report of NSD Limited, showed that all the piles were not inspected for various reasons including obstruction caused by human activities as well as inaccessibility. However, he said the ministry insisted that all piles under the water and the land must be investigated in line with the contract.
"The findings of NSD were strictly based on visual inspection and under water photos. For this reason, at meetings between officials of the ministry, Messrs NSD, Julius Berger and Borini Prono, it was decided that advanced integrity assessment including high technology, chemical analysis of concrete samples from piles was inevitable, and in order to authenticate the findings of NSD as contained in their reports.
"Moreover, since NSD is not a civil engineering consultancy firm, their capacity and professional competence to carry out such works was doubtful," the minister added.
He also told the committee that he rejected a bill amounting to N33 billion which was submitted by a consultant to his office as the cost of immediate repairs of the bridge because of the perception that it was unrealistic.
He said: "Of course, that memo came to me and I refused to approve it and instead, I now wanted the entire pile by pile investigation to be carried out so that we know exactly what to do. After all, the most critical sessions of the bridge, the first two sessions where we need to carry out immediate repairs from information available to me by people who did the test, will not need more than N5billon to carry out these repairs."
Onolememen explained that the report of advanced integrity assessment contract which was awarded to Messrs Borini Prono and Co showed that the visual underwater inspection and campaign carried out on the Third Mainland Bridge confirmed the adequacy of pile concrete quality.
"Based on the report of the investigations, there is no evidence of immediate threat of failure of the pilings. No cases of total loss of piles, clearance between the pile and pile cap or other major anomalies were reported on the tested piles.
"Although serious steel casing corrosion was noticeable, it was pointed out that the steel casing has no structural function regarding pile bearing capacity, as they simply served as form works to the R.C Piles," he said.
Further, he said the ministry had engaged the services of a consultant M/s ICECON Nig. Limited with the mission to urgently carry out investigation on the entire bridge's substructure in order to determine the extent of maintenance work that will be required.
"The outcome of this investigation will then determine the extent of repairs to be carried out on the Third Mainland Bridge. The ministry has taken the necessary steps in line with its mandate to ensure that the Third Mainland Bridge, a very important infrastructure investment of the Federal Government, is protected and kept structurally sound," Onolemenmen added.