Since Sir Herbert Heelas Macaulay (1893) paved the way for engineering profession by becoming the first Nigerian engineer (and of course the first to found a Political party in Nigeria and regarded as the father of modern Nigerian politics), Nigeria has produced many great engineers home and abroad who have contributed immensely to the society and through their professional specialization over the years. Generation after generation of engineers have been produced. But one thing that is only just gaining ground is the recognition and honouring of Nigerian engineering heroes.
On 24th August, 2015, Nigeria lost one of its brightest Power System Engineers, Engr Foluseke Abidemi Somolu, a past President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. Engr Somolu in his life was endowed with enormous Knowledge of Power Engineering and and Power Sector. Having achieved accomplished engineering career in power sector from the then newly established Niger Dam Authority (NDA) handled by Ontario Hydro-power Commssion of Canada which recruited him along with 6 graduates of from Universities and 4 from polytechnics to as pupilage engineers.
The young engineers went on to become integral part of Nigeria power sector history as they later transferred to National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, after the merger of NDA and the ECN (Electricity Corporation of Nigeria).
“Three years down the lane (after his death),” observed Prof. Frank Okafor and Prof Segun Aderibigbe, “the vacuum his exit created has remained largely unfilled.” This had led to the resolve by friends and family members to establish a registered organization called the Foluseke Abidemi Somolu Foundation to advance his ideals.
The Foundation, to be called “Foluseke Abidemi Somolu Foundation” according to them, will work to promote the field of Electrical Engineering in Nigeria, with a focus on developing current and future talent in Power Engineering. This Foundation will be launched on the 13th of December, 2018 at the Afe Babalola Auditorium in the University of Lagos, Akoka campus.
The event is scheduled as released by the honorary secretary of the Foundation’s BoT, Engr Emmanuel Akinwole, FNSE is as follows:
Date : Thursday, 13th December, 2018.
Time : 11am prompt.
Venue : Afe Babalola Main Auditorium , University of Lagos.
Guest Speaker : Prof James Momoh, FNSE, FAEng. ,Executive Chairman /CEO, The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Abuja.
Topic : “The Nigerian Power Supply Question : Solution and Challenges ”
Chairman of the Inauguration : Engr Funso Kupolokun, FNSE ,FAEng, former GMD , NNPC.
Individuals and corporations intending to support to the foundation, can contribute through the account details obtainable by email or SMS to firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com or 09098985557.
There shall be Special Welcome addresses by the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Engr Dr Mrs Olatokunbo Somolu FNSE, FAEng and Lead Conveners , Prof Frank Okafor, FNSE FAEng and Prof Segun Aderibigbe, FNSE, FAEng.
“Let’s join hands to sustain the legacy of treasured ideas and ideals of our late power systems revered legend, Engr Foluseke Abidemi Somolu, FNSE ,FNIEEE, FAEng in finding sustainable solutions to the sector where he gave his best shots during his earthly sojourn.” Said, Engr Akinwole.
About Late Engr Foluseke Abidemi Somolu
Engr. Foluseke Abidemi Somolu was an electrical engineer with a distinguished career, which spanned over four decades, and included experience in all aspects of power generation, transmission and distribution and projects engineering. The centerpiece of his working life was a 27-year tenure at the National Electric Power Authority, where he rose to the position of General Manager of the Transmission division before retiring. Afterwards, he would serve as President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (2002-2003), before returning to public service as a Senior Special Assistant to Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Power Sector Reform (2005-2008).
Born on the 14th of July, 1946, Foluseke Abidemi Somolu was the fifth and youngest child of the Honorable Justice Olujide Somolu, a former Chief Judge of the old Western Region, and his wife, Chief (Mrs) Comfort Obafunmilayo Somolu, a trader and homemaker.
Following primary school in Ebute-Metta, and a brief stint at Methodist Boys’ High School in Lagos, Engr. Somolu completed his secondary education at Ibadan Grammar School where he flourished academically and first developed an ambition to study engineering. He graduated from Ibadan Grammar School in 1966, having attained the West African School Certificate (Grade 1) in 1964 and the Cambridge Higher School Certificate in 1966.
He proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and graduated with a B.Sc (Hon) in Electrical Engineering in 1970. In 1987, he returned to UNILAG for an M.Sc in Electrical Engineering with a thesis on ‘Transformer Failures in Nigeria.’ He also obtained a Certificate in Power System Engineering from the General Electric (GE) School of Electric Utilities System Engineering in Schenectady, New York, USA in 1979; and in 1985, was sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to attend an Inter-regional Power System Expansion Planning program, also in the United States.
Foluseke Somolu began his professional career in 1970 as a pupil engineer with the Niger Dams Authority (NDA), during which he was stationed at the Kainji Dam. When the NDA merged with the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria in 1973 to form the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), the young Engineer Somolu returned to Lagos, where he worked as part of the team in charge of expanding the Nigerian electric power generation and transmission system. Later on, he rose to become the Acting Director, the effective leader, of the Electrical Engineering department, before being appointed the head of the Transmission division in 1990. He retired from NEPA in 1997 and spent the rest of his career in private practice as a consultant power engineer, heading his own firm, Optimal Power & Control Engineering Ltd.
An active member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers since 1968 when he joined as a student member, he became the national President of the organization in 2002. During his yearlong tenure, he was a vigorous and enthusiastic advocate on behalf of the Nigerian engineer, traveling the length and breadth of the country to promote the visibility and viability of engineering practice in this country.
In 2000, Engr. Somolu was invited by then President Olusegun Obasanjo to serve on a Technical Board tasked with resuscitating the deteriorating electric power system. As Chairman of the Technical Board’s Generation Sub-Committee, Engr. Somolu supervised the rehabilitation of NEPA’s generation stations, helping to raise NEPA’s generating capacity from 1,600MW to 4000MW in 18 months.
Sequel to his successful tenure on the Technical Board, Engr. Somolu was later appointed as Senior Special Assistant on Power Sector Reform by President Obasanjo, and served both Presidents Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’ Adua. In this same period (2005-2008), he also served as the Coordinator of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).
Outside of his work, Engr. Somolu found the time for diverse educational, philanthropic, and extra-curricular pursuits. He was a Guest Lecturer and Resource Person at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru (2002-2003); a Distinguished Fellow (Professional Cadre) in Electrical Engineering at the University of Lagos, teaching power system operation and protection, and supervising research and project work (2009-2011). With Professor James Momoh, the former Head of Electrical Engineering Department at Howard University, Washington D.C., USA, he coordinated the selection of academically accomplished Nigerian Secondary School Students for the Howard University Electrical Engineering Summer School Programme that has resulted in many students from Nigeria enjoying Howard University Scholarship awards in Power Engineering since 1993.
He also authored several books, including his autobiography ‘My Story,’ and a history of the electrical power industry in Nigeria, “THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NIGERIAN ELECTRIC POWER SYSTEM, 1973-1990,” co-authored with Engr. Lawrence Amu.
Engr. Somolu was a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (formerly Institution of Electrical Engineers) (FIET/FIFEE), UK; Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management (FNIM); fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (FAEng), and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA (SMIEEE). Amongst his many awards are the Nigerian Society of Engineers Golden Jubilee Distinguished Merit Award, 2008; the International Conference on Power System Operation and Planning, Award of Excellence (1995, 2002). Engr. Somolu presented over 30 papers at international conferences on power engineering.
Engr. Foluseke Somolu died on the 24th of August 2015. He was married to Dr. (Mrs) Olatokunbo Somolu, an accomplished engineer in her own right, and was father to three children and several grandchildren. Engr. Somolu aptly summed up his career himself, writing that his adult life was “committed to the development and sustenance of the country’s electricity and supply infrastructure.”
Late Engr F. A. Somolu in hos own Words
“.. there are those of our friends who (you know who) did not attend engineering school but would call themselves Social Engineers. Well unfortunately for them, the law in Nigeria only recognize those whom COREN recognizes as engineers.. and there is no classification of “Social” engineers in the COREN register.” – Engr F. A. Somolu
“Nigerians are so ever wasteful in their usage of electricity even in the face of acute inadequacy of supply capacity. They leave appliances ON when not in use. Lights are left ON during eh day, air-conditioners are left ON in unoccupied rooms, televisions are left ON in offices with nobody watching etc. By my estimates, such practices account for not less than 400MW of demand throughout the country at any given time. ” -Engr F. A. Somolu
The Nigerian Power supply indistry in the past provided fertile training ground for thousands of Nigerian engineers, technologists, technicians and craftsmen. These men repaid the country by progressively exceeling themselves, virtually wringing out electricity for Nigerians from dead machines and overstretch network. ” -Engr F. A. Somolu
“I joined the electricity industry in Nigeria when the generating capacity is under 400MW. I was an active participants when, after the civil war, we were re-building parts of the grid in the erstwhile war zone, Biafra, as well as building up the capacity nationwide to meet the needs of an industrialized Nigeria. And when by 1988 we had built up the system to nearly 5000MW generating and transmissions capacity, I was redeployed to go and operate it”
– Engr F. A. Somolu
“Working in NEPA and in the Nigerian electricity industry has afforded me and my colleagues real opportunities to travel round and know Nigeria. Where no other federal government agency or parastatal exists, you are likely to find only the Police and a NEPA office. I therefore have come to appreciate the difference cultures, tourism potentials, and the good people of the country.” -Engr. F. A. Somolu
Compiled by Isqil Najim with support from Oreoluwa Somolu Lesi