Globally, the issue of weather is a big business and very critical to the success and failure of many industries. Managing a body responsible for carrying out this function, no doubt, requires a serious-minded and an astute professional. Professor Mansur Bako Matazu, Director-General/CEO of Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) is a typical example of the maxim “a round peg in a round hole.”
In Just 4 months in office, he has turned around the fortune of NiMet and made it one of the most competitive agencies, not just in Nigeria, but in the global arena.
Although, Prof Matazu is not new to the system, the Professor of Applied Meteorology/Climatology has been in the agency for seven years and have been in different Technical Directorates, putting him in a vantage position to achieve all the numerous achievements recorded in a very short period of time.
Due to the fact that there is climate change and global warming, weather services have become very relevant and equally visible all over the world. This has put NiMet in the spotlight.
As at today, NiMet under the watch of Prof Matazu, is transforming from manning visibility to getting into relevance by offering services to neighbouring countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Mozambique and Gambia.
Initially, it was under the voluntary membership partnership of World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and now, the United Nations Development Programme UNDP is sponsoring the agency’s intervention with The Gambia which has lasted for about two years. With Nimet’s giant strides WMO and the African Development Bank (ADB) are also making Nigeria to be Africa’s original hub to assisting other countries bringing other projects.
Though, with the paltry fund the agency gets, it was obvious the sum could not enable NiMet to attain its desired dream before now, Prof Matazu however, wore his thinking cap and devised a new mean for NiMet to stay afloat, become relevant and competitive among other five agencies in the ministry and the aviation industry in general.
But Matazu is not discouraged with the issues of fund. To him, the little the agency gets from their percentage of air ticket, en-route charges is fairly comfortable in terms of acquisition of infrastructure, especially hi-tech infrastructure for weather monitoring, weather forecasting and dissemination to users.
To increase their fund base, the agency is already diversifying their services, since aviation is just one of the sectors that they provide our services to. The game plan, however, is that, apart from aviation, NiMet is penetrating deeply into Marinmet, Agromet, Hydromet, Research, Weather Forecasting Services (WFS) etc.
“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 Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) funds. We are really comfortable and we are in the process of acquiring new equipment and also upgrading”, Prof Matazu said.
Speaking on some of the achievements in the very short period, he assumed office, Prof Matazu said that under his leadership, NiMet came up with policy thrust based on the full enabling critical elements that are the enablers that could help the agency function.
Other areas, he has taken to the next level is in the areas of observation and infrastructure upgrade, dissemination outreach limitation and communication with the users.
Based on this, Matazu said the agency had set up a policy thrust of about eight point agenda including improving government and institutional settings.
The DG said “so, with this, we are overhauling the whole administrative, structural setting of the organisation to be business-like, just like the private sector driven agency that will be result-based, efficient with institutional framework, infrastructure upgrades, especially as it relates to weather monitoring and observation infrastructure”.
On Doppler weather, Matazu stated that NiMet is doing both the automatic radio station and the manual radio station, in addition to upper air and air quality component.
Explaining further on Doppler, Matazu said “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 Kilometres 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; Of course, we have the components that our engineers are being trained on, especially, in order, to man it and also our forecasters that are utilising 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.
Assuring that the agency is improving on their climate services, Matazu said they have moved from just making forecast on whether there is going to be rain or not, to impact based forecast to make sure that the weather information they give have useful impacts and also improve dissemination for their forecast for effective user communication.
With NiMet forecast products translated into major local languages, Prof Matazu informed that NiMet has also downscaled their forecast especially to the local government and state level.
Even at the height of COVID-19 last year, NiMet covered 28 states and this year also, the agency has covered more than 20 states.
Matazu however, believes that he was able to achieve that much through improvement of the staff welfare by way of bringing welfare packages into a convenient, comfortable working environment.
Emphasising on training, the DG who is also the designated Permanent Representative (PR) of Nigeria with the World Meteorological Organisation said “I can tell you that, since I resume 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”.
Created 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, Nimet is a Federal Government agency charged with the responsibility to advise the Federal Government on all aspects of meteorology; project, prepare and interpret government policy in the field of meteorology; and to issue weather (and climate) forecasts for the safe operations of aircrafts, ocean going vessels and oil rigs.
The Act also makes it the responsibility of the Agency to observe, collate, collect, process and disseminate all meteorological data and information within and outside; co-ordinate research activities among staff, and publish scientific papers in the various branches of meteorology in support of sustainable socio-economic activities in Nigeria.