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Professor Mansur Bako Matazu is a Professor of Applied Meteorology/Climatology and Director-General/CEO of Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet). He is the designated Permanent Representative (PR) of Nigeria with the World Meteorological Organisation. In this interview with WOLE SHADARE in Lagos, Matazu who was four months ago appointed as DG of the agency speaks on the effort to transform the agency, the assistance from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and African Development Bank (AfDB) to make Nigeria Africa’s original hub to assisting other countries, provision of more Doppler weather radar and other equipment to cover the entirety of the country, translation of weather forecasts into major Nigerian languages among others.. Excerpts
Right now, meteorology is key for flight operations. What we want to know is how funded is our meteorological agency to be able to carry out its statutory functions?
Yesterday, we discussed our source of funding from the establishment Act that we get our percentage of air ticket, en-route charges. This makes us very fairly comfortable in terms of acquisition of infrastructure, especially hi-tech infrastructure for weather monitoring, weather forecasting and dissemination to users. Another window was diversification of our services, since aviation is just one of the sectors we provide our services to, expanding into marine observation and our services into agriculture. With this, we want to leverage on this to relay our services to the farmers and in collaboration with service providers and that is another window. Government funding has been very encouraging even during the COVID-19. We got 100 per cent of our government funding and the Ministry is also assisting us by providing some intervention, especially under the aviation security funding and also the BASA funds. We are really comfortable and we are in the process of acquiring new equipment and also upgrading.
Still speaking on revenue, there was a time it was reported that you are offering your services to other countries. How possible is that in increasing your revenue?
That is a very important question. You know what we intend to do is to now transform from NIMET manning visibility to NIMET getting into relevance. Offering our services to those countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Mozambique and Gambia; initially, ab nitio, it was under the voluntary membership partnership of WMO but we are offering the services for three initially but that gave us a huge visibility and relevance and now presently UNDP is sponsoring our intervention with The Gambia. Presently our facilitators are in Banjul. They have been there for more than two years and we are getting some funding from that. Also WMO and the African Development Bank are also making Nigeria to be Africa’s original hub to assisting other countries bringing other projects. It is really giving us a window, relevance and this will greatly improve our revenue.
There is the Doppler weather radar located in some parts of the country for weather monitoring. You started the project but some areas you earmarked to have the equipment were stalled by funds, when do you intend to provide the equipment in other locations?
Doppler weather globally is a huge capital intensive project but what affected the initial installation in Maiduguri and Yola was because of insecurity at that time and engineers handling them at that time are coming back. One thing with Doppler weather radar is that it monitors fast moving weather systems. In Lagos, we have done some upgrades and in Abuja at that time. Port-Harcourt is ok. Doppler radar enhances our charting of extreme events and especially around airports and one of such radars covers 400 klm spheres. By the time you have six, you will see beyond all Nigeria. You know weather has no boundaries and with this, you are able to monitor and chart and ofcourse, we have the components that our engineers are getting trained and especially in order to man it and also our forecasters that are utilizing the radar. It is a very important project and we are not implementing it in a hurry. You have to make sure you get it right.
You are about three months in office, what are your immediate things you want to do to reposition NIMET within a short period and what are your projections and challenges?
It is a very interesting question. Even though I am three months in office, I have been in the agency for seven years and have been in different technical directorates. Also I have interfaced with the directorates. You know that the weather service is getting more visible and more relevant because of climate change. We came up with policy thrust and based on the full enabling critical elements are the enablers that help you to function, also observation and infrastructure upgrade and ofcourse, dissemination outreach limitation and communication with the users. These are the critical elements. Based on this, we set up a policy thrust of about an eight point agenda and I will mention a few of them. One of them is improving government and institutional settings. So, with this, we are overhauling the whole administrative, structural setting of the organization especially and be business-like just like the private sector driven agency that will be result based, efficient and institutional framework and ofcourse also upgrading of our infrastructure especially weather monitoring and observation infrastructure. We just mentioned the Doppler weather. We are doing the automatic radio station; we are doing the manual radio station. We are also doing the upper air and air quality component and all that. Ofcourse also improving our climate services, how NIMET is making impact moving from just making forecast on whether there is going to be rain, weather but we are transforming import based forecast to make sure that both the weather we do will have impact with the amount of rain or this amount of heat wave will impact on health and also improving dissemination for our forecast for effective user communication. I have shared some documents with you that even our forecasting products translate into major languages. We also downscale our forecast especially to the local government and state level. Last year, to describe the COVID, we covered 28 states and this year also, we have covered more than 20 states. To just round off, in order to do this, you need to improve the welfare of staff by bringing welfare packages into a convenient, comfortable working environment. I can tell you that since I came in in the last three months, we have had a percentage of our spending that we dedicate to training of staff at all times. At any time, every week, there are staff in one part of the country or the other undergoing training. Even on a real time basis, there are staff 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. We feel this will make our staff more comfortable and improve their productivity and service delivery as much as possible.