It is befuddling to think of any aspect, area of life, and property that is not affected by atmospheric and environmental conditions. With changes in the climate said to affect about two billion people in the world and permeates all facets of life, it is pertinent for the body saddled with the task to monitor, plan and predict climate change to be alive to such critical responsibilities.
From the aviation sector to agriculture, to energy, the correct analysis, and prediction of the weather situation at any point in time, apart from saving lives, will ensure sustainable living for all.
This is the task that the Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), Prof. Mansur Matazu, appointed in March this year intends to pursue when he was saddled with the responsibility to reposition the agency and make it alive to its tasks.
Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) is a Federal Government agency charged with the responsibility to advise the government on all aspects of meteorology; project, prepare and interpret government policy in the field of meteorology; and issue weather (and climate) forecasts for the safe operations of aircraft, ocean-going vessels, and oil rigs.
It came into existence by an Act of the National Assembly – NIMET (Establishment) ACT 2003, enacted on 21st May 2003 and became effective on 19th June 2003 following presidential assent.
It should be recalled that the agency came into being due to a lot of avoidable disasters, most especially in the aviation sector where there were numerous cases of plane crashes due to the absence of credible, accurate weather forecast information.
For Matazu, aside from the procurements of relevant equipment and infrastructure upgrades, the effectiveness of the agency will stem from the capacity development of the staff and the ability for them to learn, relearn and unlearn.
Though just four months on the saddle, he has been in the agency for seven years and in different technical directorates, which was why he believed that the only way to make the members of staff more comfortable, improve their productivity and service delivery as well as rejig and reposition the agency to meet modern demands caused by the global attention on climate change, is the constant improvement in staff welfare packages and capacity.
In a recent interview, he said: ‘’Since I came in the last three months, we have had a percentage of our spending that we dedicated to the training of members of staff at all times. At any time, every week, there is a staff in one part of the country or the other undergoing training. Even, on a real-time basis, there are those in Lagos, Katsina, and many other places and outside the country that are undergoing training and this involves staff from all the cadres from the lower level, drivers’ level to the managerial level’’.
A part of the plan to reposition the agency for efficiency, according to the DG, is to improve government and institutional settings, which will be done with the overhauling of the whole administrative, structural setting of the organisation, especially for it to be business-like akin to the private sector driven agency that will be result-based, efficient and with an institutionalised framework.
Looking beyond the training and shift in mindset, the agency still have to focus on infrastructure upgrade for it to perform its main core task.
This has led it to upgrade its infrastructure especially weather monitoring and observation infrastructure, and also partner with like-minds for support. It has started with the installation of Doppler Weather Radar equipment- to monitor fast-moving weather systems across some states in the country.
It is also doing the automatic radio station, the manual radio station, the upper air, and air quality component, and all that comes with it.
The plan is to have six, and with it, they can see beyond all Nigeria, especially when the weather has no boundaries, and with this, it can monitor, chart, and of course, it has the components that its engineers are getting trained on to a man it and also its forecasters that are utilising the radar.
There is also the humanization of NiMET forecast to impact the lives of the citizenry. It wants to move from making a forecast on whether there is going to be rain or weather type, to the impact the amount of rain or this amount of heatwave will have on the health of the citizens. This will be cascaded to the populace in their various states and local governments in their different languages for effective communication.
Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it covered 28 states, and this year, it has covered more states.
Not doing it alone, the agency just recently partnered with Earth Networks, a global provider of weather intelligence on a five-year collaboration to build the Nigeria Total Lightning and Mesoscale AWS Network (NTLMAN) for early warning of severe weather.
According to a statement under the agreement, ‘’Earth Networks and NiMET will deploy and operate a comprehensive early warning lightning detection network in Nigeria and jointly co-market new sources of weather and lightning data to public and private industries in Nigeria.
“Precision weather stations and lightning sensors will be hosted at NiMET locations and maintained by NiMET staff. In addition to the network equipment, Earth Networks will also provide training and development for NiMET staff regarding the use of comprehensive weather data, including real-time and historical lightning data, weather observations, sensor forecasts, and live storm tracking and alerting.’’
In expanding its services, especially to the non-aviation sector, it procures N1bn equipment for the marine forecast. This extension to the marine sector, according to the DG is because Nigeria has more than 800km of coastline, with a lot of busy seas and shipping activities.
He said: “We need to do a lot of installations, especially on highly sensitive instruments, to monitor the weather conditions around the coasts. This is a very capital-intensive programme that involves the purchase and installation of tidal gauges and other marine equipment. This is just the first phase and we are going to expand by next year. Also, I must state here that this is based on the huge support we are getting from the Federal Ministry of Aviation.”
Its expertise is being felt outside the country as in transforming from NIMET manning visibility to NIMET getting into relevance, it is offering its services to countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Mozambique, and The Gambia. Though the services were freely done under the voluntary membership partnership of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), it gave the weather agency huge visibility and relevance.
Presently the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is sponsoring its intervention with The Gambia and its facilitators are in Banjul, the country’s capital and have been there for more than two years and is being funded for it. This is aside from the WMO and the African Development Bank (AfDB), making Nigeria be Africa’s original hub to assist other countries.