Amaechi pledges support for underground space technology 

Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, (middle) flanked to the left by Arch. Bamidele Falako and Engr Imo Ekpo (right) during TAN's courtesy visit to the Minister in Abuja on Thursday. 

By Remi Adebayo

The Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has promised to support the Tunnelling Association of Nigeria, TAN, in its bid to promote underground technology and the smart city system.

Although the Minister observed that major Nigerian cities are not expanding as expected, he said the country could embrace the tunnel technology in preparing for future growth and expansion.

Hon. Amaechi, while receiving members of the association in his office, accepted the invitation to attend the first Nigerian International Tunnelling Conference coming up later this month in Lagos.

Leader of the delegation, Engr. Imo Ekpo, a member of TAN Board of Trustees, noted that global surface congestion has made the development of the underground space inevitable.

He notified the Minister that Nigeria is the fifth country in Africa to be enlisted by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, ITA, whose president will attend the conference holding between 29 and 30 March in Lagos.

“We’ve gained the confidence of the International Tunnelling Association and they’re working with us. The president of the world body will be at this conference. We believe the involvement of the government will cement the international partnership. We see this ministry as one of the key stakeholders. in this important sector,” he told the minister.

Ekpo said the visit was part of the association’s plans to enlist relevant stakeholders; “particularly government Ministries and Agencies involved in roads, railway, power, water and even environment, on the enormous prospects of the underground space.”

He said the initial objective of the association is to sensitise the government and the private players in these sectors to leverage on the option of underground space for national development. He disclosed that TAN would assist in building capacity, now that the international body has indicated readiness for its training programme which is targeted at encouraging tertiary institutions and students to embrace tunnel technology.

“Our plan is to demystify tunnelling in our first ten years; that’s what we have set for ourselves and we have to start somewhere.

Tunnelling is an inevitable end which we cannot run away from, so we have to take the first step.

“The Diaspora Nigerians are already meeting on this but we need the support of government to show that we’re interested as a nation to embrace this new engineering trend,” he explained.

Earlier, Director, Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration in the Ministry, Dr. Anthonia Ekpa, said  TAN came to seek working relationship with the Ministry of Transportation in the areas of road, railway and inland waterways and to create awareness for the emerging industry.

“They association is already working with the Nigerian Society of Engineers which has set up a Study Group on the promotion of the use of underground space while seeking the buy-in of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners and the Nigerian Institute of Architects,” Akpa disclosed.

She stressed that Tunnelling Association of Nigeria was looking for collaboration with the Transport Ministry to stimulate local content in the new industry and introduce ways of bypassing traffic in Nigeria’s rapidly urbanizing cities.