• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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We don’t compel pilots, airlines to follow our weather advisory – NiMet DG

We don’t compel pilots, airlines to follow our weather advisory – NiMet DG

Mansur Bako Matazu is the director general of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet). In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he stressed the need for airlines, countries, communities and hinterlands to get early warnings and act early on weather forecasts saying the effect of ignoring or not having access to the predictions can be devastating.

Could you tell us the level of airlines’ compliance with NiMet’s advisory?

When it comes to Pilot-in-Command (PIC), even the control tower and Air Traffic Controller (ATC) can’t dictate to them. They give them information and they say at your discretion. So part of that information is our Met information. Every 30 minutes and in real-time, there is a screen at the control tower where they give them updates if there is any sudden change in weather and I am sure ATC must have warned that pilot about a mild wet runway because the moment you take off, even before take-off, we have pilot briefing room where you get our forecast and that is why we are beginning to publish those airlines that collect our forecast and we have email platform. So the issue is compliance and pilots often have the final say and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau, (NSIB) has already written to us to give them the weather situation in Lagos.

On the recent accident where an aircraft skidded off the runway, they cannot say we didn’t report rain and we have rain. We reported rain with intensity and I am sure the ATC must have said to watch out for a wet runway and there are procedures for a wet runway landing.

Lagos Airport is one of our flashpoints and so you get the best of our staff and the best of our equipment. As you know, almost more than 70 percent of our flights happen in Lagos and so you don’t expect anything below standard in terms of our services in Lagos.

Tell us about the Low Level of Windshear (LLW).

The LLWAS (Low-Level Wind Shear Alert System) project started after the Sosoliso crash and it is a phenomenon that is very dicey and dynamic, something that happened within seconds and then it goes. Ab initio, we were not as an agency of government and also within the industry, able to track this, but after that incident, it became open to us; we came up with a proposal for this LLWAS and today we have done it in 18 airports.

Here comes the challenge, at times before you finish a project, you are already experiencing vandalisation.

In Port Harcourt, they cut the whole mast from the base. In Lagos, even within the airport perimeter, we recorded vandalisation, but we were able to weather through the storm. One, we are working on alternative technology even though it is very expensive. We call that Terminal Doppler Radar. We are also devising what we call a north-central approach which helps us to study cloud physics over any area in the country. With cloud physics knowledge, you would know whether a cloud could result in a microburst and it is from a microburst from an entire set of clouds that we could have wind shear. So we are using multiple approaches to the wind shear just as they are doing in the US. They still have LLWAS even though they don’t experience vandalisation, but they combine it with a ladder and then terminal Doppler radar and also the North-Central Approach. So, we engaged a UK partner from the University of Leeds to acquire the knowledge and skill and we have the platform now. So we have done the initial test-running of the process and we want to go into large scale to complement the LLWAS. So, it is one of our critical projects and every time and period you see us running around, trying to get it.

On the issue of vandalism, we engage in community policing and we have seen significant improvement with regard to security also the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other paramilitary authorities have been involved and they are helping us a lot.

Read also: Nigeria’s 70% score in aviation safety audit is a fail – NCAT rector

How are you coping with technical personnel inadequacy?

For us in NiMet, we don’t mostly suffer, only that some of our staff are young and vibrant and they acquire higher degrees and with that, their marketability increases. At times we get some of them poached, not internally, but by international organisations. But you know something, we don’t see it as a major challenge because we have thousands of qualified Nigerians that can replace them because we imbibe the issue of mentoring.

One thing that we suffer is because some of our recruitment happens in the syndicate. If 30 to 40 people come at the same time, that means they would go at the same time. So under natural circumstances, during retirement, you would see about 36 people retiring, but one thing that is helping us in NiMet is some of the things that could be done by 10 people ab initio could be done using technology by two persons. So, it is not much a major problem. And if a NiMet staff got poached, we feel happy for him as a person and we feel also happy as a country because we should also consider people sending forex home as an input to our economy.

Kindly shed some light on Aerospace University and the courses offered.

Admission is ongoing for students and I have one admission on my phone that I can show you and lectures would start in December. Some of the courses and degrees include B.SC Aviation, B.Sc Meteorology, B.sc Business and seven Masters Degree. This is the first approval gotten by NUC to start both undergraduate and master’s at the same time. We are starting a Masters in Air Transport Management by February 2024 and others. There is also four Masters Degree in Meteorology.

For the B.Sc Meteorology, some of the practicals will happen at NiMet and certificates will have elements of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). For the Air Transport Management and Aviation Business Studies, they will also have a partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). It is one roadmap that has been achieved 100 per cent. Thanks to the previous and present administration for this.

Health as related to NiMet weather prediction?

Health is very critical because it determines productivity and in the tropical region, most of the diseases are climate-induced. For instance, malaria is due to the humidity, temperature and availability of vector breeding sites being provided by either waterlog operation or vegetation. So, we do have an analysis that we do, NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index/weather climate and we can predict during our seasonal climate prediction, we can predict the malaria incident including even the ability of the mosquito to bite because that ability depends on the weather for the mosquito to breathe and even to bite. So with that, we have a permanent relationship with the Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of Health (Public Health Department).

Under our Applied Met Department, we have a Climate and Health Desk. Every month we provide them with information including how effective the performance of the drugs is because the drug’s performance, and efficacy, are also influenced by weather. Meningitis, Cholera and Measles are all climate-induced and with this, the agency was invited last time by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to participate in a regional project to develop a framework on climate and health. We have built this confidence and we can also provide from now on, alert people who have Asthma, that this weather condition can trigger an Asthmatic Attack based on our threshold analysis.

How many schools does NoMet have and how do they function?

We have two schools – the WMO Regional Training Centre in Lagos and the Mohammadu Buhari Meteorological Institute of Science and Technology in Katsina. The one in Lagos is offering WMO classes certificates of class one, class two and class three equivalent of Diploma, HND and Postgraduate Diploma and the one in Katsina is accredited by the NBTE, offering Diploma in Meteorology and Diploma in Climate Change and we are working with NBTE to get accreditation for HND since we have graduated the first set. So all the English-speaking West African countries and all NiMet staff that you have seen across the country are products of the Regional Training Centre in Lagos, all the Directors of Met Services in English Speaking West African countries are our students and they are performing wonderfully well and that is why every year, WMO sponsors people. Even these Gambians, Cameroonians and the ones from Niger that would come to the centre in the next few days, would come under WMO fellowship and we are getting revenue in dollars from that participation. So we are bringing forex into the country and we are bringing credibility and relevance also into the country, including even our Diploma graduates in Katsina, most of them had gotten direct entry admission for their degrees and with this issue of climate change, we have a lot of government agencies that can absorb them.

Read also: Explainer: Why Passengers must arrive 5 hours early at Lagos airport

What are the major challenges confronting Nimet?

Challenges are natural, that is why human beings have brains and that brain is being housed inside a skull that is 60 times harder than all the bones in our body for you to see how you overcome these challenges. So, mostly in governance, because of budget issues, there is the challenge of funding and also how acceptable is your service. So, you are helping us get this acceptability and with the visibility we have, we are getting a lot of demands now, which is creating a lot of positive challenges for us. There is a lot of interest now in what we do and that is good for us. So, it sharpens our work and then lets us do more on this and with that revenue, client satisfaction would be achieved and then sustainable development would also be achieved. I just don’t believe and say because of dwindling revenue, you cannot perform. What we do is just to block leakages and then implement a performance management system whereby you work not because you are being supervised, but because it is your work and you are happy doing it.

I can tell you most of them close very late. Just make them happy with regards to welfare, training, working environment, internet and all these and you can get the best from them. Even though our website was created by our staff, we didn’t pay a kobo. We only sent them for training and we are getting the best.

Our people are working diligently. Most of our software was created by our staff; in fact, some of them don’t have degrees and they are doing the job well. We just send them on training, stay there for a week and we spend less than N2 million training them. Some of these kits are being done by organisations with millions of naira, but we develop them all in-house.

How do you source for funding?

Even, when I close my eyes and look at how we do it, I can tell you we don’t owe any contractor. The moment your job is finished, we run a financial transparent system, we do a cash plan, we capture you and we implement that cash plan, two times in a month and we get you paid. You are also helping the economy by doing that. Any contractor must have hired labour, skilled and unskilled and if you pay him, the money and the resources will go down and part of the money would revolve around the government to come under the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

I think one thing that has helped us is sincerity of purpose. If you just have a clear-cut purpose of getting results and you have the right team, I am sure we can achieve a lot. In aviation, we have almost the least in terms of revenue, but we are also the happiest. Despite the small salaries and allowances that we get, we are happy. One thing that adds to our happiness is some of our services are being received and utilised by common man and you see that simple information is changing someone’s life. So naturally, we would be happy to do that. But we would do more with the help of the management.