Charles Anosike, Director-General/CEO, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) in this interview with John Osadolor, managing editor and Cynthia Egboboh, correspondent, BusinessDay, spoke on the plans by the new NiMet management to reposition the agency for effective service delivery, and NiMet’s contribution to national economic development.
What’s the mandate of NiMet?
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) is a federal government of Nigeria agency under the ministry of aviation. NiMet observes, collates and disseminates weather and climate information to all sectors of the economy- oil and gas, marine, agriculture, etc. We observe, coordinate, collect, process, and disseminate climate information in support of socio-economic activities.
How does the work of NiMet impact on different sectors of the economy?
Let me give you a little breakdown, every year we unveil seasonal climate prediction (SCP), giving people a picture of what is coming in the year in terms of weather and climate conditions. After that, we are tasked to disseminate and downscale the information to end users, including farmers and other stakeholders. We work so hard to provide early warning to farmers and also guide them to understand what to do. We do impact based-forecasting, meaning that rather than just providing the forecast, we also provide and make people understand what the weather will do using the forecast as a basis. We ensure that farmers receive this information, and downscale it to the level that they understand how to improve their decision- making so that they can plan with regard to the seedlings and labour. They are also able to improve on their decision making, with regards to whether they have to borrow money, manage the farming cycle and also improve their preparedness and ability to respond to climate extremities that we have predicted.
The same goes for the marine sector. You know the coastal line, meteorological data is critical to the safety and navigation in the operations in the marine sector. We work with Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and the new federal ministry of marine and blue economy. We contribute to the safety of the waterways and the coastline.
For obvious reasons, meteorological data is fundamental to the safety of aviation. The atmospheric condition determines the lift up and landing, and it also gives you the detailed analysis if you want to establish an airport.
The aviation industry is highly regulated. We follow the regulations set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and I can tell you that NiMet was critical in the last audit of Nigeria by the ICAO. Same goes for the building and construction industry. We also provide meteorological data because the building and construction industry is also exposed to flooding, so we provide information with regard to that. Basically, we touch on all sectors of the economy, and it is very important to note that sometimes, even when inflation affects us, we forget that climate change is also a source of inflation. If you remember, in 2022, we had flooded, and the whole country was almost flooded. Farm lands were destroyed. People were blaming the government, not knowing that this was the effect of climate change and other related weather issues.
As the new DG/CEO of Nimet, what’s your vision for the agency? What new initiatives are you bringing on board?
I’m very proud of the agency. It is unique. The quality of talent that we have in the agency is commendable. My mission is to improve the welfare of staff, meteorologists, and other support staff. I am focused on efficient and effective mainstreaming and commercialization of metrological data.
This sector has been active in Nigeria for over 100 years. Since 1887 and up till now, it still has not been able to receive the level of recognition and respect that it deserves. My mission is to promote the work NiMet does and ensure creation of value and translation of our weather climate information into generative insights. We need to translate the data into value so that the Nigerian people will understand the value of meteorological data. By so doing, we will be able to commercialise the data and be able to improve on internally generated revenue (IGR) of the agency.
What would you say are the issues that need to be addressed at NiMet?
I like to focus on opportunities, not challenges. I think that one of the lowest hanging fruit for me is to reach out to the private sector for their support and for their participation in what we do so that they can begin to see the value in what NiMet does. I will like to get them and other critical stakeholders to understand and appreciate the impact of climate change on the economy and what critical steps we all have to take collectively. It is my desire to bring private sector players to sponsor NiMet’s events and also support us in the daily forecasts that we do. I am looking forward to reaching out to the private sector and bringing them on board to work with NiMet on a range of initiatives that will be mutually beneficial. We normally have flooding in this country almost on a yearly basis.
How can NiMet work differently in 2024 to limit the damages that flooding brings with it?
I wish to emphasise that over the years NiMet has been providing information about flooding and other climatic conditions through our seasonal climate prediction (SCP). There is another agency called Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) that also provides flood outlook. So, we have been doing this. You know Nigeria is a huge country. We succeed in much of what we do through partnerships. The SCP information is usually unveiled here in Abuja, but a lot of people who need it are in rural areas. The task of going around Nigeria to disseminate the information is daunting. We do the downscaling through partnerships because the resources needed to traverse the entire Nigeria are enormous, and we don’t have that level of resources in our budget.
So, a huge challenge is resources, the ability to increase our IGR, abilities to attract private sector sponsorshi and the , ability to attract more partnerships. We do have a lot of partnerships, international partnerships like the United Nations FAO, and all the major multinational agencies. We work with them because they have their channels and they also need to ensure that that information gets to farmers. We work with them to disseminate this information.
That is why I said earlier that what we do today is impact- based forecasting. So, we are letting people know what the weather conditions will do. We provide advice on what people need to do. We also provide this data to the government. We provide advice to the government on how to manage the flooding every year. We are planning our 2024 SCP which will be unveiled early in 2024. Details will be communicated through media and other channels.
Hopefully, the media will give it wide coverage so that people will understand the level of importance of meteorological data. Sometimes, because it’s scientific, it is not so much attractive to people, that is why we do the dissemination. This is because it is not just enough for us to provide you early warning, we want people to understand what to do because in some of the stakeholders workshops that we do, we realize that people still don’t understand even when they listen to the seasonal climate prediction. This is why we also disseminate the information through the radio and television, and also we have it translated in Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, and other languages. We are working on Pidgin English. We are doing our best so we really need to strengthen our collaboration effort so that we can bring in some key stakeholders and the private sector to support us in what we do.
How do you hope to optimize the skills and talents of NIMET staff to achieve the mandate of the organization?
What I am trying to do with the scientists is to nurture them in such a way that they can begin to expand their thinking, understanding that everything is interconnected. Okay, it is not just about your objective facts, not just about input and output. I want our scientists to begin to understand that what you do provides information for business people to plan for their businesses. This is so that when our scientists are behind their systems, and making those input and trying to come up with weather forecast, they will put themselves in the position of end users. We want them to begin to think like a farmer. It’s not just enough to generate the forecast and say, I’ve done my work. You must know that there is a connection between you and the farmers, a connection between you and that Mariner. You will begin to understand when the flood affects him, it affects you. By so doing, you begin to understand human behaviour.
So, it’s beyond quantitative analysis, they will begin to understand the human behaviour, to understand the nature of resistance, how human behaviour affects the actual things they are trying to achieve.
It will help them to understand how the farmer thinks and also understand the urgency of survival for the rural farmers; they will understand what they’re lacking. That is why the impact – based forecasting and early warning for all is crucial.
Would you say that your previous experience and professional training prepared you for this job? Do you plan to have a commercial department that will take the knowledge of NiMet scientists to the market?
Yes, I mean, I’ve been out there. I have over 25 years’ experience with the private sector and academia. Yes, I’m a professor of leadership. I spent a lot of time to research on sustainability effort of an oil and gas company in the Niger Delta, which was actually my Ph.D. dissertation. The issue of environmental degradation formed the foundation of my experience in this area of climate change. Also, in addition to that, I have a professional background in ICT. Academically, I have a master’s degree in Information Technology and IT Project Management. During my time in the private sector in Abuja, I was privileged to have designed and resuscitated the Aso Rock Data Center.
I think that my background in the private sector and the academia prepared me for this role. You know, that theory informs practice and practice informs theory, so I’m well prepared. This is because I understand human behaviour, I understand how to change my leadership style when the need arises, depending on the competency and development level of colleagues. I think that is critical when you’re dealing with science. There are different levels of competence when dealing with science. I am well prepared for this role, but the challenge I have seen is that our society does not give enough credit to knowledge. So, sometimes, it demotivates scientists, and then they begin to be disconnected from the system.
That is why I said that looking after the welfare of NiMet staff is the foundation of what I want to achieve here. It is the foundation, and how we’re going to do that is not just by going back to the federal government to increase our budget. We are going to find ways to improve and increase our IGR. We are going to do that. We have solid MoU with NIMASA and NIWA. This was one of my achievements during my time as director of applied meteorological services in this agency. I spent two years in this agency at executive director level, where we provided tailored-weather products and services to different sectors.
So to your second question, we already have a commercial department under the directorate of finance. We have solid commercial department. It is now upon me to build their capacity for them to also understand the challenges of marketing meteorological data and better synergy between the commercial team and the scientists. They have to learn to work together, you know there is no demarcation. There can not be silos in addressing weather and climate issues. Remember, I was saying everything is interconnected. Yes, if the commercial don’t do well, then the scientists will not benefit from the outcome. If the scientists do well and carry along the commercial, the commercial will be cognitively enriched, and have a better understanding of meteorological data. This is because marketing meteorological data is completely different from marketing regular products that we have across our economy.
We are in the festive season, what is your advice to airline operators and passengers? We have solid relationships with airline operators. At the airport, we have pilot briefing rooms so they are fully aware. I think, because it’s a regulated industry, they have to do the needful with regard to meteorological data to stay afloat. We are fully integrated with the aviation industry. With regard to regular citizens, I will advise them to at least heed to the forecast and the advisories. We have daily forecast on NTA, Channels TV and on our social media platforms. We also have an app. We have a website (www.nimet.gov.ng) where we put out three days and ten days tailored weather and climate forecast. All these are up on our app and website. But again, you know, even if Nigerians and all the citizens know where to get it, will they heed to the advisory? That’s where human behaviour comes in. I think for us to be able to deal with human behaviour, it is important to strengthen trust. You know, largely our citizens don’t have much trust for government. So, strengthening of that trust is very key for us to succeed and the best way to do that is for us to go to them- the user of our data. That is the one-to -one dissemination of information, which is actually more effective than telling them to go to the website or listen to television.
You know most of this population we are talking about do not have television, over 70 million farmers. We are also exploring other channels too, radio works fine too. People in the rural areas use radio. We are exploring all these areas to ensure we achieve our goals. That is why I said earlier that early warning for all is critical, even in achieving SDG Climate Action. This is very, very critical to what we do.
The harmattan haze is here already, what is your advice to the general public? I will go back to the advice that we provide which is scientific, and it depends on daily forecast. There is no general advice as to what to do, because tomorrow it might change. That’s why it’s important that you see this forecast as it comes. So, if you’re planning to travel, you know whether you should leave early, before the rain or the cloud or the haze like you mentioned.
We do that all the time, even on social media. We’re on Facebook, we are on X. We are fully online and trying our best to reach the users.
What would be the achievements you want to be remembered for at the end of your tenure?
Wow, I think I need to ensure that I create value in NiMet. Value comes in different forms, meteorological data, we need to have accuracy of our predictions. We can create value through that, and we need to have an efficient and effective way of dissemination of information. If it gets to you and you understand it, that you’re able to plan your farming and able to improve your yield and productivity, that is value.
Now for the agency, the use of meteorological data to improve our own livelihood, staff welfare is fundamental. That meteorologists will say this man brought in this idea and in that period we were vibrant and were better off. Those and more are what I want to be remembered for.
Your partnership with the private sector, is it to fund the forecasts or to ensure effective dissemination of data to the grassroots?
When you form partnerships, you develop terms of reference and activities that will guide our values. Data dissemination is one of them. Ensuring that our daily forecast gets to the grassroot, there has to be a promoter. For example, you can say weather forecast sponsored by Brand XYZ. Now, because we have to go out there to disseminate the forecasts, if the sponsor is an airline for example, it can give us 100 tickets every year to travel to do so.
These are the reasons why I am thinking about bringing in the private sector. The private sector, for example, the network providers will want to take things to the grassroot, we partner with them, and in return, they support us. That way we increase our visibility and we are able to go there with more confidence and doing a lot more with commitment and enthusiasm.