By Louis Ibah
Tough times are here for investors in Nigeria’s aviation sector, especially towards the end of 2017 and early 2018, as the Nigerian Meterological Agency (NIMET) is forecasting severe reduction in visibility in the Nigerian sky due to dust haze and fog that will come with the onset of the harmatan season about December 2017. NIMET, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Aviation in its 2017 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) warns of severe weather conditions in the country with heavy rainfall and a harsh harmatan haze that will have dire impact on the finances of airlines.
In the forecast for 2017, the NIMET said airlines would loss revenue from flight cancellations and delays associated with this year’s harmatan haze. As regrettable as such losses would be to businesses, NIMET however warned aviation and marine transporters operating in Nigeria to “exercise a lot of caution” in order to avoid weather related accident.
“The 2017 harmattan will cause reduction in horizontal visibility which will cause flight disruptions and loss of revenue due to delays and cancelations and this will not only affect the aviation sector as shipping and inland water transportation are also expected to be negatively affected in 2017,” said the NIMET forecast for 2017.
Director General/CEO of NIMET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, in an interview with Daily Sun said aside the massive investments in the purchase and installations of high-tech weather gathering and processing instruments, the agency under his leadership had also invested in the training and retraining of the requisite personnel at home and abroad in its bid to ensure that it achieved its target of an accurate weather forecast for Nigeria like it is also done in the developed country.
He said it was such effort that ensured that in the last 10 years, the Nigerian aviation sector had not recorded any weather-related air crashes from occurring in the country in the last 10 years.
Weather poses one of the greatest challenges to air transport navigation, says Anuforum. Pilots need accurate weather information to guide them in their flight path so that they don’t run into thunder storm lightening or bumpy clouds that could crash the aircraft.
“You fly all the time and you notice that what the pilot tells you whenever he comes on the public address system is about the weather,” he says. “He tells you that the en-route weather is good or bad. When he is approaching landing, he will tell you the weather is good for landing or he tells you there are a few clouds so you should expect some bumps,” he explained adding that “all that information today is coming from NIMET.” He listed the Sosoliso and the ADC Airline crashes of 2006 as crashes in the recent times that wind shear had been identified as having a finger print in them.
“When I came in as CEO in 2007, I said we have to end all weather-related air accidents in Nigeria and we could only do this if we get the right equipment and the right manpower that can supply the airlines and the pilots with the accurate weather forecast that they need. And we did. We purchased and installed 13 wind shear alert systems, sixweather radars, eight upper air stations, 20 thunder storm detectors, five air quality and ozone monitoring equipment. All these were not in existence in the country. And 10 years after we have not recorded any major weather related incident or accident in Nigeria. That is one of my greatest achievements in the last 10 years,’ said Anuforum whose tenure expires by the end of March 2017. “But the other good thing is that we now have the capability to serve other sectors outside the aviation industry,” he added.
Who needs weather information?
Anuforom said NIMET is the only Federal Government agency charged with the responsibility to observe, collate, collect process and disseminate all meteorological data and information within and outside the country.
He however decried the low utilisation of weather data by Nigerian investors as a culture that was very wrong in the contemporary age of high technology usage. He said Nigerian business owners who commit huge funds into such sectors as the operations of aircrafts, agricultural production, housing and urban planning, ocean going vessels and oil rigs operations without having to constantly make use of weather (and climate) forecasts are taking a huge risk given the changes in climatic conditions currently witnessed all over the world.
“You can no longer afford to plan without weather data for some critical business. And the good news is that we have worked hard to achieve over 80 per cent accuracy in our prediction which is significantly higher than the acceptable World Meteorological Organisation’s minimum acceptable threshold of 60 per cent,” said Anuforom.
“Rainfall and temperature are the basic weather variables that affect activities in most sectors of the economy, including, agriculture, tourism, trade, aviation, maritime, and disaster risk management. Therefore a prior knowledge of the likely pattern of these variables is vital for effective planning and policy formulation and programme execution, particularly in those sectors of the economy that are dependent on, or directly affected by rainfall and temperatures. “So we all need weather information and every business man needs it. In the developed world they hardly plan their businesses or set out on a daily activity without knowing what the day’s weather has in stock for them. Its time Nigerians started imbibing this culture,” he added.
2017 forecast for farmers
The NIMET boss said although the agency had initially set out to supply weather data to the aviation industry, it had however expanded its scope of predictions to cover investors in the power and agricultural sector.
“Our predictions now covers when it is safe for farmers to sow crops, how long the season will last, and the quality of the seasons in terms of dry spells during the cropping season,” he said.
“This type of forecast we are giving practically minimized guess work about when to plant and when not to plant and it reduces the chances of crop failure especially to large scale farmers. And we urge them to get these predictions in our offices.”
“Nigeria’s hydro power generation is expected to experience a lesser boost as a result of the normal to below normal rainfall amount predicted tor many parts of the country in 2017. Investors in this sector are advised to harness the excess water especially in places where normal to above rainfall is experienced for effective hydro power generation for improved electricity supply to the country in 2017,
“You will recall that sadly as early as February 2012, NIMET predicted that many parts of Nigeria would experience flooding during the raining season. And this prediction was followed by several warnings to the most vulnerable areas. And yet, when the rains and the floods came later in the year, most communities were unprepared and took no precaution. The destruction to lives and property were therefore monumental and the losses colossal. That should not have been if people had taken to the warnings.
“A lot of those who still went ahead to plant should not have done so. Those who stayed in those places despite the warnings could have also migrated to safety. About 363 people died and 3.8million others displaced. The post disaster assessment report in the 2012 floods showed that the estimated losses and damage to farmlands, houses, environment, stood at about N2.6trillion. This is equivalent to about 1.4 per cent of our national GDP.”