DIRECTOR General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Professor Sani Abubakar Mashi recently took a tour of the agency’s formations and facilities across the country as part of his familiarization exercise. The former Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja spoke to journalists in Lagos on his mission to position the weather forecast agency among the leading ones in the world.
Prof, you have gone round NiMet formations and facilities around Nigeria, what is the impression of what you’ve seen so far?
I must tell you that an impression was already been created in my mind that NiMet has been transformed into a world-class agency, despite the dwindling resources. That was the impression that was given to me. So honestly when I came, I had very high expectations. I have gone round airports already and this is the third major airport I am visiting, so I have gone round and seen the amount of development and infrastructural facilities that has been provided there, honestly, l am really impressed because when you compare the amount of resources available to the agency and the level of the provision of infrastructure in that place, definitely you can’t do otherwise but to commend the effort of my predecessor.
The workforce will sorely determine the success of your mission in the new dispensation, what have you observed?
There is no success without the commitment of staff of any organization, especially a sensitive one that requires accurate information on weather for flights and other purposes which we provide. From my close observation, l see that they are well committed, I could really see in them concerning the discharge of their duties. They are not perfect but at least the level of commitment towards the discharge of their duties is very high, the level of professionalism is also very high. Honestly to be compared with other meteorological agencies around the world, am really impressed.
Your predecessor is putting you through on so many things concerning the agency, how has that impacted on your knowledge of things you wish to do?
You see, in Nigeria we have this impression, that whenever one is going out or somebody is coming in, the target of the incoming one is just to come and dismantle anything, no matter how good so as to create his own, but honestly as a human being, I believe in learning, am a professor, but am always learning, even from my students, so because of that, when I was appointed, I was extremely happy the honorable minister did emphasize, given the amount of effort invested by my predecessor towards improving the condition of the agency, given the wealth of experience he has gathered, the amount of enormous goodwill both nationally and internationally he has drawn to the agency, I as the incoming DG I stand to benefit from him and he hold the opinion that he should not just go like that without transferring some of the things he had acquired, so that at the end of the day, I would at least perform to his level, if not exceed the level he has attained. So, when I came, I have been with him all this while, in fact I must confess that this arrangement is really perfect and it is proving Nigerians wrong because Nigerians have the feeling that whoever is going, there is nothing we can learn from him, let him go so that you can come after and start afresh, it is not true. The best way an incoming officer can learn is to understudy the person he is taking over from so that at least he will hear firsthand from him the challenges that are there, the road blocks that needs to be eliminated, the milestones that are supposed to be achieved and things that need to be done in order to achieve those milestones. So honestly am really impressed and I think I would want to advice anybody that will take over an agency like mine in the future, he or she should avail himself of the opportunity which I have availed myself of now of which, I am very proud of.
From your tour so far, what is the state of the equipment at the various sites?
The equipment like you know we use are high-tech and you know the manufacturers are into the competitive world, so they keep on upgrading and modifying their equipment from time to time, so which means even though so much effort has been made by my predecessor to provide equipment, the issues of upgrading and modifications are there, and maintenance and improvement, so I will make sure that all those that needs to be maintained are effectively maintained, those that need upgrading are upgraded and those that need new fleets in order to increase the services we are delivering, I will do my best to get them increased within the limits of the resources available to us.
With the dwindling state of revenue, how are you looking at boosting the revenue base of the agency?
That is one area that is dear to my heart as l embarks on the mission to build on the world-class standard already set. From what we did today, we signed an MOU with British American Tobacco Foundation to provide agro-med services, which is a signpost to our desire to explore and develop commercial opportunities aim at making NiMet commercially viable. We have to create ways of generating more sources of revenue, that and others are areas we will work on. My predecessor has already kicked started laudable ventures in the maritime sector, l will build on that and make such and others that will come subsequently blossoms. With arrangement already completed to sign MOUs with NIMASA and NPA, one can only imagine the huge potentials we will generate from such ventures when they finally become operational.
How do you intend to convince the FG to allow some windows for training abroad in view of the importance of such undertaking that cannot be done locally?
The issue of training and retraining form an integral part of the successes of NiMet, and I would want to make sure that these things are introduced very well. Even though there is embargo by the federal government on international training because of the situation of the country, nonetheless that cannot stop us, in exceptional circumstances, we will try and make case to the government so that they will give us a little window because of the essential services we are rendering, if it means bringing in people from outside to come and train them, I will make sure they are well-trained so that they can compete with other meteorologist from anywhere in the world.
What is your message to staff of NiMet concerning their welfare?
As far as welfare is concern there are three major issues; one, what eventually goes to staff on monthly basis, especially regarding the dwindling economic condition, what they take home certainly you eventually discover it makes much meaning when you compare it with the economic realities, I will do whatever is possible within the limits of the law to get something added or introduced to whatever they take home, and then the entitlement that go to them, from time to time that they need to have to encourage them to work, for instance, shift, duty and hazard allowances because like you know, we work on equipment, we work on very difficult times of the day. So definitely there are some levels of allowances that are there and needs to be introduced. These are areas that I would need to bring.