The Senate on Thursday said the it would partner with stakeholders to adapt underground space technologies and tunneling as alternative means of transportation for national development.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport said this on Thursday at the Second Annual International Tunneling and Underground Space Conference organised by the Tunneling Association of Nigeria (TAN) in collaboration with the International Tunneling Association in Abuja.
Represented by Mr Temitope Atida, Senior Legislative Aid, Ashafa said that the rising population of Nigeria which had launched it as the seventh most populous country necessitated the need for an alternative means of transportation.
He said that tunneling, which would ease the burden on road, rail transportation, especially in major cities of the country was a welcomed idea which the law makers would consider incorporating into law.
“At the parliament, be rest assured that we will support this vision with requisite legislation.
“In the interim, last week we passed the National Transport Commission Bill in the Senate which contemplates the inclusion of tunneling as a regulated transport sector.
“As we evolve, we would look closer at the technical aspect of this and prepare the necessary legislative framework.
“We will seek to partner the executive arm of government, stakeholders in adaptation of tunnels and underground space technologies in meeting our national development and ease the burden of Nigerians,” he said.
The Senator, however, said that the rising population of the country required planning proactively to develop infrastructure and space use.
Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transport said the wellness of any nation depended on the level of importance it attached to science, engineering and technology as tools for sustainable infrastructural development.
Represented by Mrs Anthonia Ekpa, the Director, Road and Mass Transport, Amaechi said that tunneling, underground infrastructure “is an emerging technology aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Agenda of 2030 in cities and communities.’’
“Given its benefits, tunneling is one modes of transportation which Nigeria’s infrastructural development agenda will have to consider.
“For the purpose of easing clutter of vehicles on roads, in addition to providing mass transit and rail services, we need to make provisions for all weather road routes featuring tunnels to provide vehicles and pedestrians’ mobility.
“Transportation of goods including petroleum products by tunnels would be safer and easier compared to the current reliance on trucks which ply our roads with heavy maintenance cost on roads,” he said.
The minister said that the Federal Government was embracing the tunneling technology by encouraging the ministry’s Nigerian Institute for Transport Technology (NITT) to consider research in tunneling.
He said the institution could incorporate research on tunneling as an engineering option in its curriculum.
Amaechi stressed the need for government to review the current legislation and planning procedure to include underground space development in the country.
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Mr Abidemi Agwor, the President, TAN said that the country was long overdue in adopting tunneling and underground space infrastructure given its rising population.
According to Agwor, tunneling gives the country benefit of maximising space within the urban environment instead of rails and roads on the surface.
He said that tunnels were usually applied either on metro or utility scale.
Agwor said the benefits of the system could be used to develop hydro power plant, intra and inter rails, water, sewage, telecommunication distributions in urban cities and for conventional use.
He, however, decried that inadequate infrastructure to develop the country, especially the transport system was due to lack of proper planning and implementation of policies.
“If we had from the onset adopted integrated water reticulation system, we will not have water problems.
“If we had from the onset adopted tunneling into developing a few of our road networks, we will not have congestion problems.”
Prof. Tarcisio Celestino, the President International Tunneling and Underground Space Association and Mr Oliver Vion, President International Tunneling Association both said “infrastructures makes a city stand out’’.
They agreed that with the development of infrastructure, Nigeria would be among the leading economies of the world.
The theme of the conference is: “Exploring the Socioeconomic Benefits of Developing Tunneling and Underground Space Infrastructure in Nigeria” with international, local tunneling industry experts in attendance.