The Director-General, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Dr Anthony Anuforom, recently delivered a convocation lecture at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
Anuforom, in this interview with Kingsley Alu, speaks on the efforts of the agency to mitigate the effects of global warming, the Wind Shear Alert System it is currently installing at the nation's airports and other burning issues in the industry.
NIMET predicted this year's flood disaster in Nigeria; what did we, I mean government and individuals, do or not do, what will be your reaction for the future?
First of all, NIMET is an agency of government set up for the purpose of advising the federal government and the Nigerian public on all issues of weather and climate. Now, that prediction we gave was in furtherance of the mandate the federal government has given us to do and that is what the government should do.
I keep saying that the flood has come and gone, and we cannot keep belabouring the fact that we warned people. I think we have to move away from there, to what we should do to ensure that it does not occur in future. And even if it does occur again, that we are well prepared to adapt, to reduce the impact, to reduce our vulnerability. That is what we should be talking about.
There is a forecast that Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries will experience hot weather next year; what is your reaction to this?
Well, it is a global trend. I would advise that you read the lecture booklet very carefully - we raised all these issues. About next year, we are still doing our prediction for next year, that is, the one specific to Nigeria, and we are looking at rolling it out to the Nigerian public by early February.
What is wind shear?
Wind shear and other atmospheric phenomena contribute up to 30 per cent , if not 35 per cent, to aviation accidents and deaths worldwide This is global statistics, and that is why the Nigerian government has been equipping NIMET to sharpen its capacity to observe weather. Now you talk about wind shear in particular and I think it is good news for me to let you know that, so far, we have Wind Shear Alert System in all the four international airports, namely Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Port Harcourt.
Now, this year, we are also installing them. As we are talking, we are installing in Yola and Benin; in fact, we concluded the factory acceptance test for Yola just few days ago, and as we speak work is ongoing to get it in Owerri, Enugu, and Sokoto airports. In 2013, federal government has made a budget proposal that is now undergoing the normal process in the National Assembly for us to be able to do more wind shear alert systems in more airports.
So, this is an assurance that our airspace is safe, that the Nigerian government is doing what it should do, that the government is alive to its responsibilities. But take it or leave it, these are natural phenomena; we cannot play God. Anytime we announce these predictions, the first thing I tell people is that we cannot pretend to be God. It is only God that is all-knowing.
We can go as far as available human knowledge can take us, and you know human knowledge is limited, but to a very good extent, government is doing what it canto make our airspace safe. Of course, safety in the airspace has two dimensions; it has the dimension of CNS, (communication, navigation and surveillance) which is what a sister agency called National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) does. The other dimension is the weather dimension.
What of capacity building at the agency?
From our records, from January last year to June this year, we have sponsored people on over 400, if not 500, training opportunities: workshops, seminars, formal trainings, including the LLWAS we are talking about. Last year, I sent 12 officers to Australia for training, six of them were engineers and the other six or so were meteorologists and forecasters. Training, for me , is a continuous process.
What is your advice to Nigerians on how to mitigate global warming?
The first step is to pay attention to weather information that is given. That is the very first step; do not take it lightly. Do not say 'Ah, I have lived here since I was born 30 years ago, what you are saying has never happened, so this year it will not happen'. That is a very dangerous thing to do. In other words, you must pay attention to these pieces of information. Finally, I must say that the university has honoured me greatly by inviting me to give this lecture.
They (its officials) have followed it up by giving me a memento, which is forever in my memory. I believe if we keep it, my children and children's children will see that memento, I will keep it, I will cherish it. In fact, I want to dedicate it to those who made it possible. I am sure if my position as DG did not highlight me, I probably would not have been invited, and I, therefore, have to thank those who made it possible. One is my minister, Princess Stella Oduah, who has confidence in me and Mr. President who graciously said I should be the director-general.