Waliu Adeolu: The Fascinating World of an Engineering Geologist 

Chief Executive Officer of Geophase Resources Limited, Dr. Waliu Olukayode Adeolu is a licensed geoscientist by the Council of Mining Engineers and Geoscientists, COMEG. He is an Alumni of the Prestigious Lagos Business School, LBS, with a Bachelor of Science, B.Sc., degree in Geology from Olabisi Onabanjo University and two master’s degrees in Applied Environmental Geophysics and Engineering Geology. Adeolu has a knack for continuous learning which has inspired him to acquire professional certification in Geocharacterisation for Foundation Design and Earthquake Hazards using the Seismic Piezocone Test at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA. Currently, the National President of the Nigerian Association for the Engineering Geology and the Environment, NAEGE, Adeolu  in this interview with MARY NNAH gave an insightful discourse as he delved into the fascinating world of geology and its intersection with the Earth while insisting that  collapse can be averted by contacting the right professionals

What prompted the concept of GEOPHASE?

You would understand that “geo” pertains to the entire world. However, there’s a misconception that GEOPHASE solely revolves around geology. In reality, GEOPHASE extends its operations beyond geology, encompassing construction, energy, and oil-related businesses. The overarching idea behind GEOPHASE is to capture the world comprehensively, reflecting our commitment to global upliftment and development.

The term “GEOPHASE” represents a phased development. This signifies our strategic approach to capturing the global sphere. “Geo” embodies our connection to the world, while “phase” represents the stages where we provide services globally. Our philosophy revolves around taking things one step at a time, and this approach has been a key factor in our continued success.

GEOPHASE’s journey involves venturing into diverse sectors, acknowledging that our impact extends beyond the geological space. From construction to energy and oil, our focus remains on contributing to global development. By embracing a phased approach, we navigate the complexities of various industries, ensuring our services resonate globally. This commitment to step-by-step progress has been instrumental in our ongoing success.

How would you describe Geophase’s journey in the last 15 years and what are the challenges facing exploitation activities in Nigeria?

As much as I would love to delve into business discussions, it’s crucial to consider the operating environment. Sometimes you mean so much good for the nation but you are determined by the government policies that come into play. And the inconsistency in government policies over the past 15 to 20 years has hindered progress. Nigeria boasts over 46 solid minerals with economic value not only for the country but for the entire African continent.

The libation of Nigeria’s economic strength, as regards solid minerals, would have been a liberation to the whole of Africa.  And when policies are not consistent, with this kind of development, then we always have issues.

The inconsistency in government policies has impeded the potential growth of the geosciences and mining sector. Nigeria, rich in resources like lithium, faces issues with undocumented mining processes, potentially eroding our economic strength. Reflecting on the geoscience world’s progress in the last two decades, it’s evident that despite immense potential, growth has not been as rapid as desired.

To address this, policy consistency is paramount. A stable policy framework would encourage investors to contribute to mining economic quantities under the strategic control of relevant government agencies. The prevalence of illegal mining operations, often termed artisanal miners, could be transformed through a systematic and controlled approach, benefiting the country more effectively.

While the journey in the geoscience and mining sector hasn’t been without challenges, as a businessman, it’s clear that solutions are imperative.

Over the last 15 years, GEOPHASE has consistently worked towards positively impacting the sector. We strive to offer solutions that, when considered by the government, can contribute to a better country. In every problem, there lies an opportunity for a solution-driven approach, and that is the ethos GEOPHASE upholds in its business endeavours.

What are your services at GEOPHASE?

One crucial aspect I consistently emphasize is the critical nature of our work to the very existence of humanity. In geoscience, specifically as an engineering geologist or geophysicist, the information we provide about the subsoil directly impacts infrastructure. Unlike a medical error during surgery that may affect one life, our accurate data protect numerous lives using these infrastructures, such as bridges and buildings.

When we offer precise information, we contribute to safeguarding people’s lives and preventing accidents and fatalities. Over the past 15 years, GEOPHASE has proudly been involved in projects without any casualties. This achievement positions us as industry leaders, not just due to our longevity but also because of our significant impact on society.

Our involvement spans various sectors, including construction and oil and gas. We are on the verge of presenting a 15-year gift to the nation – an innovative app called “Build on the Go.” This app integrates AI, different algorithms, and digital automation into the building process, enabling seamless construction from anywhere. This initiative aims to facilitate building projects, especially for those in the diaspora, ensuring transparency and preventing fraudulent practices.

Our focus on integrity has been the bedrock of GEOPHASE’s reputation over the last 15 years. With the introduction of the “Build on the Go” app, we intend to enhance and maintain this integrity. This forward-thinking approach reflects our commitment to providing valuable services to the nation and beyond, ensuring a positive impact on the construction industry and beyond. The app is readily available on iOS and Google Play Store, reflecting our dedication to transparency and accessibility.

What we are introducing is a revolutionary approach that allows you to monitor every step of your construction process, offering transparency and control. To build trust, we provide escrow accounts, ensuring your funds are securely held until specific project milestones are reached. Recognising the financial preferences of diasporans, we’ve partnered with mortgage companies, offering facilities for building in Nigeria.

Our app addresses common issues in construction projects, preventing unnecessary expenses and ensuring you receive the exact quantity of materials you paid for. For instance, we eliminate the risk of receiving less material than intended, saving you both money and the headache of dealing with extra trips for materials. We pride ourselves on bringing together accomplished professionals, our service partners, and reliable suppliers, our product partners, ensuring a seamless and confident building process.

By digitising the entire process, we empower you to comfortably monitor your project’s progress through a user-friendly dashboard. You can visit our website at www.buildonthego.com to witness animated demonstrations of the streamlined processes. Our commitment to accountability is unwavering – we promise not just to take your money but to provide exceptional value, exceeding your expectations.

We differentiate ourselves from others in the industry by not just claiming to do real estate but by thoroughly studying the market over the past 20 years. Viewing this endeavour not merely as a business but as a gift, we’ve identified, isolated, and provided solutions to the industry’s challenges in our digital space. As we forge ahead, we are confident that our approach will reshape the construction landscape in Nigeria, ensuring transparency, accountability, and unparalleled value for every invested Naira.

How can geoscientists help in providing solutions to building collapse in Nigeria?

What holds utmost importance is what we term a pre-construction investigation. This entails conducting thorough investigations before commencing construction activities to understand the specific conditions of the intended construction site. Geologically, it involves assessing the subsoil and materials at the location where the construction is planned. It’s crucial to recognize that each location requires a unique approach, and the foundation design for a 10-story building in Abuja might differ from that in Lagos.

Pre-construction investigation serves as a foundational point of information for structural engineers and architects, aligning their designs with the subsurface characteristics. This information guides decisions on the type of foundation suitable for a particular area. For example, some areas in Lagos, like Maryland and Anthony towards Onworonshoki, are characterised by deposition that produces unstable, swampy materials requiring special treatment before building. Engineering geology and geotechnical techniques can provide valuable information even for constructions near water bodies.

Beyond technical considerations, good construction practices, including the proper use of materials such as high-quality iron, granite, and cement, play a significant role in preventing building collapses. However, the responsibility doesn’t solely lie with the technical aspects. Government involvement is crucial, and it requires a deliberate effort to prevent building collapses in the country. Unfortunately, there is a concern that agencies responsible for approving buildings have become more focused on revenue generation than ensuring safety standards. The approach of setting revenue targets for these agencies might compromise their integrity, potentially leading to unsafe approvals.

Government programmes aimed at curbing building collapses need to be more deliberate and focused on safety rather than revenue. There’s a need for transparency in the approval process, ensuring that the integrity of construction projects takes precedence over financial gains. While suggestions have been made at various forums to address the issue, the hope is that the government will prioritize safety, listen to recommendations, and implement the necessary measures to prevent building collapses in the future.

As president of NIEGE, how has your association impacted the nation?

I am hopeful and pray that we never witness another building collapse. However, as emphasised in Lagos Business School, hope alone is not a strategy. While positive thinking is essential, a pragmatic and deliberate approach to solving the problem is crucial.

At the association level, we have actively engaged with the government, paying courtesy visits and providing training to senior cadres in agencies like the Lagos State Building Control Agency.

Nevertheless, the challenge extends beyond government agencies. The construction space faces significant issues with quackery, where individuals without proper licenses engage in unchecked practices. Nigerians must be intentional in their choices. When seeking construction services, it’s crucial to hire professionals with the right certifications. For engineers, certification by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) is essential. Geoscientists should be certified by the Council of Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG), the regulatory body for the construction space.

If citizens refrain from patronising unqualified practitioners and opt for certified professionals, we can significantly reduce the occurrence of building collapses in the industry. The responsibility lies not only with the government but also with individuals making informed choices in selecting competent and certified professionals for construction projects.

Tell us how to detect areas prone to earthquakes in Nigeria.

In the realm of geology and the environment, stating that nothing is impossible would be misleading. The Earth is a dynamic entity, constantly in motion. Earthquakes, for instance, signify reactions within the continent to particular movements. Fortunately, Africa, including parts of Nigeria, is not situated on active plate boundaries prone to high earthquakes, although there have been recorded mild tremors in certain areas, such as Kaduna in the northern parts.

While earthquakes may not be an impossibility, it is crucial to be deliberate in protecting our only space – Earth. Even with ventures like Elon Musk’s efforts to take people off Earth, the majority of us cannot relocate to those distant places. Therefore, safeguarding our environment becomes paramount. Every human activity should be approached with consciousness about its potential negative impact on the environment. Professional institutions and governments play pivotal roles in highlighting and addressing these concerns.

One notable example is the ongoing discourse about using concrete roads instead of asphalt. Concrete roads, despite being more expensive up front, have a significantly lower carbon footprint than asphalt roads. This decision aligns with environmental protection efforts. Despite the immediate cost difference, the long-term benefits of well-constructed concrete roads become evident. Concrete roads boast an average lifespan of around 40 years, compared to the 10 to 15 years of asphalt roads. Furthermore, the maintenance required for concrete roads is minimal, making it not only a wise economic decision but also a sound technical one, especially when considering inflation and the overall life cycle costs.

How do you advise the government on issues related to geology?

As the President of the NAEGE, we recently held a conference in Minna, Niger State, with representatives from both federal and state governments in attendance. Continuously providing communiqués, I must commend Minister Dele Alake for actively listening and taking necessary actions. His commitment to ensuring that our minerals remain in the country not only preserves these resources but also generates employment opportunities for Nigerian graduates and attracts foreign direct investments.

I urge other ministers, including those for the environment and works, to heed the advice of relevant professionals. Our professional bodies offer knowledge-based solutions, free from emotional or political biases. By listening and implementing sound suggestions, ministers can contribute to solving critical issues. Minister Alake’s achievements in the mining sector are promising, and if these implementations continue successfully, concerns about foreign exchange will diminish.

With over 47 solid minerals in Nigeria, proper management can lead to significant forex inflow. Deliberate efforts to prevent illegal exports will secure these resources for domestic development. For instance, promoting rubber plantations nationwide could attract substantial direct investments, reduce import reliance for automobile companies, and address unemployment issues. As an association, our ongoing engagement with the government aims to foster these conversations, and Minister Alake’s invitation to the Nigerian Engineering and Management Council signals a positive step towards collaborative solutions for a better Nigeria.

What are plans for the future and the next level of Geophase Limited?

My primary goal is to empower new leaders who align with global trends. Beyond being a business person, I aim to impact society by training leaders, undergoing master classes in global business and leadership from the London Graduate School, and planning to join Ivy League business schools to study leadership and innovation. The focus is on cultivating a new breed of leaders, not limited to political leadership, but extending to various sectors.

Tony Elumelu’s work in this realm is commendable, and we aim to empower young leaders, encouraging continuity and fostering their involvement not only in the construction sector but on a global scale. The Build on the Go application, a gift to the nation, is expected to attract diaspora interest, ultimately contributing to leadership in the country. The key is to harness this interest for a conscious and deliberate leadership plan for the next 20 years.

Sustainability is a crucial aspect, emphasizing the need to be deliberate in maintaining an environmentally friendly Earth. Every action must consider the Earth as a major consideration, even in infrastructure projects like roads. The consciousness of not depleting the environment should be instilled in the younger generation, ensuring that their actions do not negatively impact our only Earth.

While others may explore other planets, Nigerians need to protect our environment, considering the absence of any Nigerian on Elon Musk’s space trip. The advocacy for environmental protection should be a constant message in the next 20 years, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding our planet.

Tell a bit about yourself and your educational background.

I was born over 40 years ago, into the family of Alhaji T.A. Adeolu and the late Mrs. Adebisi Adeolu. My journey started with a humble beginning at Bethel Nursery and Primary School. Subsequently, I attended one of the best secondary schools, Lagos State Model College, Kankon, which was ranked fifth in the country at that time.

For higher education, I pursued studies at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, and later at Olabisi Onabanjo University. My academic achievements include two master’s degrees from the University of Lagos, one in Applied Environmental Geophysics and the other in Applied Engineering Geology. Complementing my formal education, I engaged in various professional courses both locally and internationally. Notably, I completed a master class in Global Business and Leadership from the London Graduate School and obtained an Executive MBA from the prestigious Lagos Business School.

I’ve also expanded my expertise through specialised courses, such as Geo Characterization at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, USA, and Recent Advances in Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany. These experiences have equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of the technical aspects of the industry and how to navigate its complexities. This journey spans over 20 years, with GEOPHASE celebrating its 15th anniversary on June 11th this year.

Throughout my 20-year tenure in the industry before founding GEOPHASE, I’ve continuously sought to enhance my skills and knowledge. Presently, I am happily married with three children- a beautiful daughter and two fantastic sons. My commitment to personal and professional development reflects my dedication to ensuring that GEOPHASE remains at the forefront of our field.

How do you relax?

I prioritise my health, recognising that my well-being is crucial not just for personal reasons but also for my ability to contribute positively to others and the environment. This understanding emphasises the importance of self-care to effectively care for others and the Earth itself.

As part of my daily routine, I allocate an hour each morning to attend the gym, engaging in regular exercise. While I do indulge in occasional drinks, I refrain from smoking. In the evenings, I am a member of the Lagos State Country Club, where I often play tennis and squash. This serves as a form of relaxation, providing an opportunity to unwind and connect with individuals of similar social standing. These interactions not only contribute to my overall well-being but also offer insights into the productive possibilities of the upcoming day.

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