Govt should stop quacks from building – NAEG President, Adeolu

Govt should stop quacks from building – NAEG President, Adeolu

Govt should stop quacks from building – NAEG President, Adeolu

National President, Nigerian Association for Engineering Geology, Waliu , speaks with JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI about the field of Engineering Geology, the causes of floods in the country, and the need for sustainable construction to protect the environment

What is your job as a geotechnical engineer?

As engineering geologists and geotechnical engineers, what we basically do is to give information about the earth to people who would use the information to design a sustainable structure. By sustainable structure I mean sustainable roads, bridges, buildings, dam construction, and drainage construction, among many others cannot be built without an adequate understanding or an adequate knowledge of the sub-surface. This information about the sub-surface is only provided by those in my profession as an engineering geologist and a geotechnical engineer. Also, we look at the impact of any activity done on the environment. We call it an environmental impact assessment of almost all of the construction, geological, and mining activities that are done in the environment. We must ensure that these are done in a sustainable way and that the earth is protected. In addition, when mining activities are done, we provide information on how mining trenches are cut such that people do not die inside the trench. We have heard of so many collapses on mining sites. However, engineering geologists could help to avert such collapse. Also, what we do is humanitarian in nature because what we are doing entails the protection of lives.

What is your view on the impact of flooding on the country?

Flooding has contributed to a major menace in this country because to curb flooding, we need to be proactive and not reactive. The government and the people have not been very proactive as we do not plan ahead. The problem is the fact that flood plains where water is supposed to pass through are already filled with sand. So, instead of this volume of water going through a deep portion of the flood part, they are now going to the surface. Hence, the propensity of the water to digress into the community is higher. If our floodplains are consistently dredged, there would be minimal invasion. Also, deforestation is at its peak in some areas which encourages flooding. My association is coming up with a recommendation to the government in partnership with the Nigerian Building Research Institute, in this regard, so that we can do the right thing and hold the government and the people accountable.

What are the primary goals of Geotechnical Engineering?

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The primary goal is the safety of structures, and building economically. When you have enough facts about the sub-surface then you can design an economical structure.  The goal is not just safety but also to give value for money.

In what ways does your work complement other aspects of environmental sciences?

Looking at pollution of the Niger Delta area by hydrocarbons, in my job as a geoscientist, I have been able to highlight the level of contamination, remediation strategies, position, and processes by which they can clean up the contamination in the Niger Delta. We would see that it is just environmental. Most of the places in the Niger Delta, and Ogboni land, among others, are heavily polluted, that even plants cannot grow, and fish are dying as well. So, what we do as geoscientists and geotechnical engineers is try to investigate that place, isolate the area that has issues, and let the people know what can be done to restore the natural state of that area so that plants can grow on the soil, fish can live as well.

The other place we look at is when a massive construction is to be done, bridges or roads in some areas, we have some equipment that can image the sub-subsurface, more like that can video of the sub-surface to let one know whether there are buried utilities like pipelines underneath those places so that you can them during your construction processes without causing danger to yourself and the people at large.

What are the potential dangers in embarking on construction projects without engaging the services of a geotechnical expert?

The dangers are too much to say. For example, if you want to build a house, it is only when you are constructing that you can evaluate the number of people in the building. However, you cannot ascertain the number of people in the building when the building collapses. It means the danger of many lives that could be lost to those failures and collapse can be averted by contacting the right professionals like geotechnical engineers. and the engineering geologists in that space to give you a comprehensive and detailed sub-surface report, where the builder can be guided as to what he or she can build, or what not to build in that area. It should be noted that there is nowhere you cannot build in the world, even on the ocean, but you would need to have a proper understanding of the sub-surface. Hence, this is where a geotechnical engineer comes in. So, the danger of collapse leading to the loss of lives is imminent when the right professionals are not consulted before construction is done. We call them construction investigations. Also, we tend to lose so much money by not contacting the right professionals, that money can instead be used in other sectors to develop the country. Building collapse is immense. The traumatic part in relation to people when so many collapses happen, people are scared to even do construction activities because they no longer feel safe. We cannot even evaluate the magnitude of how that plays into the mental health of people.

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What are the factors you consider when evaluating whether sites are appropriate for a particular construction?

There is always the need for town planning because there is something called an environmental impact. For example, if you are doing reclamation, there would be lots of dredging activities with people pumping sand into a place, forgetting that doing that you have no idea that you are depleting in another place by creating havoc. So, for every action that must be taken, there has to be an assessment of the impact of that havoc on the environment. The most important thing I consider in evaluation is the type of soil that constitutes that area because the soil is not homogeneous or the same everywhere. It is rather heterogeneous, and in places that are sedimentary terrains, the soil varies at the closest proximity. The fact that something was done two streets away does not mean the same would be done in another. What is most critical is the nature of the subsoil.

What is the most important piece of equipment you use as a geotechnical engineer?

Those decisions are not singular. You need to juggle with available information in that area. Hence, looking at the reality and peculiarity of that construction site that has an issue is essential, looking at all of the facts, data, and basically information about a site before you know whether it could be remediated or brought down totally. Sometimes it may be more economical to bring a building down when it is failing than to proffer solutions. Upon considering all of that information, you can then proffer solutions.

What would you do if you discovered that the soil beneath a construction site was unstable?

The most important part of a geotechnical engineer is paying attention to details because the sub-surface is made up of several factors that we are not aware of, nor do we know how they interfere and interplay with each other, which means that it is only when you pay attention to the sub-surface, listening to all the necessary data before you can interpret and give a right solution. So, attention to detail is one of the most important in a job that must be done with 110 per cent concentration.

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At the 7th NAEGE International Conference, you noted that the National Building Code and its domestication in are being reviewed. Any update on this?

Yes, we have completed the review of the NBC, and we have domesticated some parts to Lagos, and we did that in conjunction with the Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning, Lagos State. We have submitted it. What is now left is how the code would be implemented. It is one thing for us to review this code; it is another thing for the government to implement it.

You also warned that low-lying coastal cities were at risk of extinction. How can this be addressed?

We are not being deliberate as a people and as a government in this country. We leave everything to chance and pray away everything without doing the proper thing. The risk of extinction is because there is an encroachment into the land from the sea, and dry areas that are at the same level as the sea are susceptible to being submerged if we do not stop this sea transgression into the land by placing strong barriers. This is to break the speed at which land is being encroached. However, there is the aspect of flood management in the country where a standard drainage system is needed because it subsidises the water level.

How do you think the government can tackle housing and environmental challenges in the country??

In the built industry, I would advise that the government should be deliberate about stopping quackery. They can do this in collaboration with professionals in the industry. Quackery is not just about uneducated people, but people who leave their own jurisdiction to that of another profession to work, which is not supposed to be. Also, the government and the people must speak to licensed professionals only, not the . Most importantly, interdisciplinary collaboration is better than a singular discipline trying to establish supremacy, which is one of the major problems in the construction space. Interdisciplinary collaboration would help the country to thrive in a healthy way.

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