Articulating a new National Space Policy for Nigeria

Space policy is the political decision-making process for, and application of, the public policy of a state (or association of states) regarding spaceflight and uses of outer space, both for civilian (scientific and commercial) and military purposes. It sets out a nation’s commitment to leading in the responsible and constructive use of space, promoting a robust commercial space industry, leading in exploration, and defending the state’s interests in space. A national space policy recognizes that a robust, innovative, and competitive commercial space sector is foundational to economic development, continued progress, and sustained leadership in space. It commits to facilitating the growth of a commercial space sector that supports the nation’s interests, is globally competitive, and advances leadership in the generation of new markets and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

Nigeria was one of the first African nations to articulateand develop a space policy. Nigeria declared its space ambition during anintergovernmental meeting of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECOWAS) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) member countries in 1976. This interest didnot materialize into any substantial action until 1987 when the NationalCouncil of Ministers approved the establishment of a National Centre for RemoteSensing. The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology constituted a NationalCommittee on Space Applications.By 1993, Nigeria established the Directorate ofScience by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). The mandate of the directorate included space science and technology.NASENI later constituted a nine-person committee of experts that produced adraft national space science and technology policy. The National Space Policy (NSP) was developed and approved in 2000, and a 25-year roadmap for its implementation was endorsed in 2005. The main goals were for the Nigerian program to: manufacture a Nigerian satellite; have a Nigerian astronaut; and create a Nigerian launch vehicle to launch Nigerian-made satellites from aspaceport located in Nigeria

The Space policy wasoperated on three wheels bordering on public-private partnership; this involves the short, medium, and long-term plans. Within the short-term plan, the government is responsible for all investments in space technology development. In the medium-term, the government implements the partial commercialisation of NASRDA’s products and services developed during the short-term economic development plan. In the long-term plan, the government partners with the private sector to implement the public-private partnership framework for the space program. Consequently, within the short-term economic development plan, six research centres and two companies were established. The research centres are the Centre for Remote Sensing, Jos; Centre for Satellite Technology Development, Abuja; Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics, Toro; Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion, Epe; Centre for Basic Space Science and Astronomy, Nsukka; and Centre for Space Science and Technology Education, Ile-Ife. The two companies are the Nigeria Communication Satellite(NigComSat) Limited and the GeoApps Plus Limited (previously called Nigeriasat Imageries and Consultancy Services Limited). NigComSat Limited was set up in April 2006 to market products from the Nigerian communication satellites. Similarly, GeoApps Plus Limited was established in September 2007 to market products from the Nigerian earth observation satellites.

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In a bid to entertain more participation in Space activities, the National Space Research and Development Agency Act 2010 (NASRDA ACT) was enacted. The Act established the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA and served as a regulation for space activities within Nigeria by both citizens and non‐citizens. The National Space Council (NSC) became Nigeria’s space regulator. NSC was responsible for issuing licenses to private innovators to participate heavily in the sector. This was towards enforcing the medium-term plan of the national space policy. The results were impressive as several companies joined the space sector and contributed to its continued growth. This growth did not leave out NASRDA, as several kinds of research were conducted in satellite technology such as; Earth observation (EO) satellites, Communication satellites, Meteorological satellites, and Navigational satellites.

However, the current focus of the space programinvolves the development of Earth observation and communication satellites. Nigeria has since launched six satellites namely: NigeriaSat-1 (2003), NigComSat-1 (2007), NigeriaSat-2 (2011), Nigeriasat-X (2011), NigComSat-1R (2011) andNigeriaEduSat-1 (2017). The success of these programs should signify that the Nigeria Space Policy has been successful; however, as the country moves closer to its 2025 policy deadline, there is more left undone.One of the cardinal objectives of the space policywas to establish a full-capacity rocket launch facility in Nigeria. What Nigeria has, despite having barely 3 years left of its policy’s lifestyle, is a rocket testing facility. While this is not just a Nigerian problem but an African endemic, Nigeria has as much potential as other top African space-faring nations and may miss out on the opportunity. Hinged on this is also the promise of launching Nigeria’s first astronaut by 2015. In 2016, Nigeria made a new commitment to sending an astronaut to space by 2030. Despite the promise of being a prime satellite manufacturer in Africa, most of Nigeria’s satellites have been manufactured by non-Nigerian entities, with only a fraction of input from the Federal University of Technology, Akure. This was one of the big promises and benchmarks for the space policy, and Nigeria is defaulting. The policy also promised to help reduce financialcrimes and terrorism in Nigeria but is far behind in its promises. By now, Nigeriashould have started working on the final stages of its economic plan, wherein Government now focuses extensively on regulatory and supervisory roles, allowing fora more vibrant space economy. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The webinar is designed to begin the process of articulating a new national space policy for Nigeria as the current national space policy will elapse in 2025. It will: present an overview of space policy and its place in the space sector; highlight existing gaps in Nigeria’s space policy and emerging opportunities; structure and harmonise all measures required for the development of outer space activities in Nigeria (emphasising the place of public-private partnership); explain how the country can take advantage of the characteristics of the country for outer space activities, if applicable – e.g. its geostrategic position); define and allocate responsibilities; increase awareness on the importance of outer space activities and call all relevant stakeholders to participate in the space effort of the country; and position the country on the international stage as a country that recognises the importance of outer space.