By Kingsley Adegboye
AGAINST the backdrop of ever-growing infrastructural deficit in the country due to lack of open spaces for development in our congested cities, stakeholders in tunneling and underground space engineering are now canvassing the concept of tunneling and underground space as a viable alternative to bridge this gap.
At the first Nigeria international tunneling and underground space conference last week in Lagos organised by Tunneling Association of Nigeria TAN, in conjunction with the Nigerian Society of Engineers NSE, the organisers said said the one-day conference with the theme “Developing the Tunneling and Underground Space Industry in Nigeria”, was to sensitise the stakeholders and Nigerian governments on the concept of tunneling and underground space as the way to go if we must meet up with infrastructural needs of the country with the open spaces already already congested. country.
In his keynote address, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi represented by the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Freeborn Okhiria, said with the theme, “Developing the Tunneling and Underground Space Industry in Nigeria,” one is more convinced about the readiness of Nigerians to seize opportunities that abound around the world to solve myriads of our development deficits.
He said the present government, in line with the concept of promised change, places so much hope in the young people, in the ingenuity of professional bodies and in every Nigerian all over the world, to deploy their God-endowed potentials towards the growth, development and prosperity of this nation.
“According to the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan draft of 2013, Nigeria needs about $2.9 trillion in 30 years to close its infrastructural gap; that was the period the country was spending $10 billion on its infrastructures at lower interest rate.
“Recent reports (2016) suggest that the country requires between US$12 to $15 billion annually for the next six years to meet the infrastructure requirements. At current market rates, this amount to over N7 trillion per year.
“Closing this gap therefore demands commitment from government, but surely not without the inclusion of all Nigerians and relevant stakeholders in the key sectors for the development of our infrastructure”, Amaechi said.
Speaking on integrated approach in the professional development of underground space potential in Nigeria, Engr. Otis Anyaeji, President, Nigerian Society of Engineers represented by Engr. Emma Akinwuola of Electrical/Electronic Institute, a division of NSE, said tunneling is one of those sectors developed countries are promoting and recording tremendous success, pointing out that Nigeria cannot afford to be behind.
“Obviously, skills and expertise have to be developed between NSE and other professional bodies like the Institute of surveyors and Town Planners, Geologists, Environmentalist, Architecture etc to strengthen tunnel infrastructure.
Developing tunnels or underground space especially in our fast developing mega cities will enable the country maximize the use of square foot of space, thereby adding more value to the structure and our lifestyle.
“To further strengthen this man power capacity, I have taken note of the 10-year plan by TAN to locally engage at least 50 percent of the delivery of major tunneling and underground activities.
This is a commendable and ambitious plan which has to be complimented by evolving the young talents in our Universities in relevant disciplines to sustain the sector. New entrants have to be developed and motivated with concern for the future”, NSE boss said.
In his remarks, the national chairman of Tunneling Association of Nigeria TAN and Nigerian representative at the International Tunneling Association ITA, Abidemi Agwor, said his Association has put together a 10-year plan that would enable us locally engage at least 50 percent of the delivery of major tunneling and underground activities, pointing out that his advocacy is for us to prepare for the mid-term to long-term future trends in the tunneling and underground industry, which has indicated that sub-Saharan Africa will inevitably experience its own fair share of the global tunneling and underground space market boom.
According to him, “Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with the best in the industry and so my network was built from there. I am a member of the British Tunneling Society BTS.
In September 2015 I approached the Chairman of the BTS to advise on how to go about setting up a similar organisation in Nigeria since they had just helped set up the Tunneling Association in Saudi Arabia, and that was where it all started from.
“We have also gotten in touch with the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association ITA, which has a consultative status with the United Nations. The body has now adopted Nigeria as a member nation through an exclusive endorsement of TAN. In essence Nigeria now has a seat at the World Tunneling Congress held yearly”, he noted.
Agwor explained that tunnels and underground structures can be privately developed and one area that can be given keen consideration is the development of underground parking for residential accommodation.