As Nigeria increasingly becomes vulnerable to emergencies and disasters such as floods, erosion, draught in recent times, all have not been well to millions of people who depend on government help.
The flood disaster of 2012 has brought to the limelight the vulnerability of communities especially those at the river banks and coastal areas. This has shown the need to search for effective, efficient and quick ways to avert recurrence. With this in mind the Nigeria Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the agency in charge of space mission in the country organised a one-day Space Dialogue and Media Conference in Abuja in collaboration with World Bank in order to highlight the role of space technology in disaster management and the need for more collaborative efforts by disaster-control agencies to utilise the abundant satellite images and technologies to ease their work and get quicker results.
The National Space Dialogue and Media Conference held on Thursday, 28th March, 2013, Abuja, Nigeria with the theme "Space Technology and Disaster Management: Setting an Agenda on Partnership for National Development" had in attendance the National Security Adviser, head of security agencies, officials of Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Minister of Science and Technology, President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and academics as well as the technical partners of the NASRDA from the United Kingdom. When disaster strikes, many agencies in their efforts to provide solution, deploy several techniques. It is a general belief that use of satellite technology and science has changed the ways things have been done from outdated and time consuming to more efficient and effective thereby broadening the scope of research and development that brings quick results.
While speaking at the dialogue, the National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki emphasised the imperative for Nigeria to embrace the use of satellite technology for disaster management.
Dasuki in his paper said the use of satellite has become the most effective method of monitoring and managing disasters across the globe.
He said the tsunami disaster of 2004 and the one that happened in Japan recently, as well as wide range of floods in 2012 were indications that satellite technology was relevant for disaster management.
"Space based technology such as earth observation satellite, communication satellite, meteorological satellite and global navigation satellite system play high roles in early warning, disaster monitoring, assessment and management.
"Nigeria, therefore, needs to embrace and incorporate the use of satellite technology based solutions," he said.
Minister of science and technology, Professor Ita Okon Bassey said space technology reflects the comprehensive power of a nation and is the driving force behind the economies and security of countries like USA, Russia, China, Britain and India. "These developments could present the yard stick for Nigeria to embrace space science and technology as a tool for defence and security, and socio-economic development," he expressed.
According to the minister, Nigeria, through NASRDA has been vigorously pursuing the attainment of space capabilities as essential tool for Nigeria's sustainable development.
"Since the establishment of NASRDA in 1999, efforts towards the attainment of space capabilities by Nigeria have focused on research and rigorous space education, engineering development, design and manufacture of satellite instrumentation and software development rocketry and small satellites, satellite data acquisition and digital image processing, remote sensing and geo-information and communication technology, and analysis and management of related software and space applications, etc."
The minister commended management of NASRDA for sustaining its relationship with media in projecting the activities of the science and technology sector.
According to Professor Bassey, the influence of space activities on human civilization and social progress is increasing. Space technology is particularly meaningful to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, where satellite solutions and products can be proven effective and efficient.
Due to growing awareness about space technology by many African countries, there are emerging joint efforts in space and other fields of human endeavour, one of which is the African Resources and Management Constellation (ARMC). The NigeriaSat-2 is part of the satellite platforms for the ARMC. Due to its high geometrical resolution, multi-spectrality, high radiometric sensitivity, revisit capabilities, wide area imaged by a single frame and the accurate geometrical processing that can be achieved, NigeriaSat-2 data is a key source of information for a wide range of applications related to urban areas, the minister added.
From the host of the event, the Director General of the NASRDA, Dr Seidu Mohammed was the analysis and highlights of what the agency achieved in the past and what it intends to do in the near future if given the necessary muscle by the federal government and other well meaning Nigerians.
Some of the NASRDA achievements, according to Mohammed were that after the Friday 26th of August, 2011 torrential rain that resulted in severe flooding in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, NASRDA supported NEMA with the mapping of the areas affected by the flood.
"The map showing precisely the areas affected by flood enabled other national agencies and the Oyo State Government to rehabilitate those affected by the flood," he revealed.
During the 2012 floods, NASRDA visited the flood areas and produced a flood plain and vulnerability map for the affected areas.
Apart from floods, the DG said there is acute problem of geoinformation in Nigeria because most maps available today were produced in the 1960s and 1970s. "It is obvious that unless we have the key fundamental map layers for current natural and artificial resources distribution in Nigeria, there may not be a virile foundation to guide the vision 20: 2020," he observed.
He said some of the areas are lagging behind with limited standard up-to-dated maps of: Land Use and Land Cover, Water Resources and Drainages, Soil, Topography and Geomorphology, Forestry/Ecology, Geology and Mineral, Settlement and Urban Sprawl, and Land Resources/Agriculture.
In order to meet the need of multi-thematic decision making for sustainable country-wide resource inventory, planning and development, there is need for the establishment and maintenance of a space-based integrated natural and artificial resource information system known as IMSD for the rapid and sustainable resource mapping, planning, monitoring and management, Mohammed added.
He called on government and private sector to invest more in the Nigeria space programme because according to him this is the way to go.
"Similarly the choice of NASRDA as the repository of all Geospatial data for the country establishes it as a one stop shopping centre for acquiring additional data needed for processing and analysing large scale Disaster Management Models."
According to him NASRDA has been active in establishing and maintaining these databases and there is need for agencies to utilise them properly.
The 2013 Space Dialogue ended with a communiqué which recommended that NASRDA should focus on acquisition of facilities and provision of services to enhance its capabilities; NASRDA should collaborate with Nigerian universities to integrate critical space technology contents in the university syllabi and standards by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and in view of the difficulties in accessing data in the right quality for disaster management in Nigeria; the National Geospatial Database Infrastructure (NGDI), as a data clearing house domiciled at NASRDA should be made functional by relevant national legislation and support among others.