22nd May, 2013
By Olawale Salau
Since Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation returned to civilian rule in 1999, Nigerians are desperate for a government that responds to their most basic needs: personal security and hope for improvement in their lives.
Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan said that Nigeria was currently facing its worst security challenges in recent times. This crisis is in various forms; communal, religious, political and socio-economic with varying degree of casualty, mostly innocent citizens of this country. From the Niger Delta to Boko Haram crisis, the nation has known no peace and that shows we need to talk about space science as technology as a special tool to enable Nigeria solve its problems.
On 14 May the Nigerian leader declared a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and ordered the immediate deployment of more troops to those volatile states in response to a surge of violence the president says poses a “very serious threat” to Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
The use of satellite technology by Nigeria could help us solve our common problems such as desertification, flooding, erosion and food insecurity. It is imperative for the Nigerian government and multinational firms operating in Nigeria to embrace and invest in the use of satellite technology for disaster management.
Space based technology such as earth observation satellite, communication satellite, meteorological satellite and global navigation satellite system play great roles in early warning, disaster monitoring, assessment and management.
No doubt, the use of satellite has become the most effective method of monitoring and managing disasters across the globe.
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.
We need to remind ourselves that desertification is a common problem all over Africa. We need to remind ourselves that coastal erosion is a common problem; flooding is loose, staring at us.
With the climate changes all over the world, Nigeria went through enormous flooding problem in 2012 that had never been so. We have never recorded this in the last 50 years.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and cyclones often occur unexpectedly. However, the 2012 flooding in Nigeria, which wrecked considerable havoc across the country, was predicted by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). According to a NEMA report, 7,705,398 persons were affected by the floods, while 2,157,419 persons were displaced from their homes.
Waves of attack by the Boko Haram sect have been reported in northern parts of Nigeria. Boko Haram made its name with drive-by shooting and suicide bombings in northern Nigerian cities, and the capital Abuja. Targets were security installations, markets, churches and even the UN headquarters in Abuja in August 2011.
Recent, high-profile raids against military and police in the far northeastern border towns of Baga and Bama, however, highlight what experts say are key shifts in the group’s tactics and capabilities.
Insecurity is a risk factor which investors the world over dread and makes them to move elsewhere. Several international investors have indicated their interest to come to Nigeria, but for insecurity.
Our dear country Nigeria is under siege, as kidnapping is fast spreading to every state in the federation. In the last four months, there has been an explosion in the incidence of kidnapping in several parts of the country.
Space technology can help Nigerian authorities control the situation in the country including movement of members of Boko Haram in the north and pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
Space technology can be used to get the data about consequences of natural disaster and can help to work out right strategy to locate a disaster. Space technology is key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa as a whole.
There is the need for Nigeria to leverage on the spin-offs of the advances in space technology for sustainable management of its resources and wealth creation.
Seidu Mohammed, the director-general, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), said that Nigerian satellites had proved its efficiency.
Seidu also stressed the need for the establishment and maintenance of a space-based integrated natural and artificial resource information system (IMSD) for rapid and sustainable resource mapping, planning, monitoring and management.
NigeriaSat-2 which was carried into orbit by Russian rocket Dnepr was tasked for image acquisition covering the affected states during the 2012 flood incidence.
If Nigeria increases the number of satellites it can collect data about natural disaster, predict it and make efforts to minimise its negative effect.
Already boasting scores of satellite launches, a handful of crewed orbital missions and two lunar probes, Red China now stands poised to assume a leading role in the Big Black.
Nigeria has good experience of cooperation in this sphere with Russia and China which launched NigeriaSat-2, NigeriaSat-X and NigComSat-1R.
If Nigeria continues to cooperate with these countries it can help Nigeria to increase the number of satellites during a short period of time.
Nigeria signed an agreement with Russia and China about cooperation in mutual space development. This agreement can help Nigeria to train its experts, to design, to launch, to operate and to utilise satellites together with Russia.
Nigeria, therefore, needs to embrace and incorporate the use of satellite technology-based solutions. However, in order to incorporate the use of satellite for disaster management, there is a need to increase awareness, build national capacity and develop satellite applications.
Nigerian authorities should activate cooperation with international partners in space technology that will help to develop the economy of the country and to attract new investments in the country.
•Salau, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos. •Email: [email protected]