Since the beginning of 2017 when the new helmsman of NiMet, Prof Sani Mashi arrived and promised to make the agency provide excellent meteorological services to the nation and the rest of the world, he has been striving hard to fulfill his promise. He was particularly concerned with the airliners as they enter Nigeria’s territorial airspace, they must get the best type of information that any meteorological agency can give anywhere in the world. He craved to provide best service worthy of emulation by other countries “especially those in the developing world – whether African, American or Asian – wants to develop their own meteorological agency, they will look at NiMet as their role model.” As he assiduously stride on the glorious path of history, the agency has continued to tread excellently providing meteorological services comparable to similar agencies all over the world.
NiMet is today attracting global accolades from within and without. In discharging these services, the agency is purely guided by her vision, which states “To Make World Standard Weather Predictions and Services for Sustainable National Socio-Economic Development and Safety of Life and Property”. The agency’s mission stating “To observe Nigerian Weather and Climate and provide Meteorological, Hydrological and Oceanographic Services in support of National Needs and International Obligations” reinforces her lofty vision.
NiMet services are applied in diverse issues on several human endeavors such as environmental sustainability, safety in air operation, land and marine transportation and increase in agricultural productivity tourism, health, defense, education, sports and construction. Other areas are Monitoring, management and mitigation of natural disasters. It is based on this premise that the 2019 NiMet predictions attracted wide range of stakeholders who will use the information to efficiently plan their various operations. What are the NiMet 2019 predictions? How reliable are these predictions? What are the socio-economic implications of these predictions?
The major services of NiMet are weather (temperature, rainfall events etc) forecasts and their periodic predictions. These services become more critical as the world is utterly facing global warming as a result of continuous greenhouse gas emission. The most devastating effect of global warming is evidenced on agricultural productivity as agriculture is directly and closely correlated with weather and climate conditions. Extreme weather conditions have direct effects on livelihood, water security, health, land use and related issues to food security, environmental degradation and ecosystem collapse. These invariably affect the overall economic prosperity of the nation.
In fact, extreme weather event is seen as a single and most dominant challenge to the survival of humanity. The weather and climate information being produced by NiMet is therefore critical for combating climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies. Thus, reliable and timely generation of weather information is an important tool use for the development of early warning system. The information enables good planning of agricultural activities with high reliability and guarantee for success. This was the reason that attracted high attendants to the NiMet public presentation of 2019 seasonal rainfall prediction (SRP) at NAF conference centre, Abuja on 24th January 2019.
The caliber of participants in the 2019 SRP was drawn from different sectors of the economy: agriculture, education, transportation, military, tourism, and health from both public and private quarters. They included chief executive officers and top management staff of the various agencies in the aforementioned sectors as well as farmers and secondary schools students, christened “the young meteorologists”. The Minister of State (Aviation), Senator Hadi Sirika chaired the occasion and unveiled the 2019 SRP as well as released the 2018 climate review. It was a mammoth gathering with high expectation from the NiMet valuable services. In addition to the high value allotted to the Services, there was also transparent confidence in NiMet prediction that made the gargantuan crowd to witness the annual event. In this regard, some representatives of states like Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa and Oyo confessed of using the 2018 SRP to increase their agricultural productivity in the 2018 rainy season by more than 30%.
Senator Hadi Sirika emphasized the importance of the prediction for the development of early warning system and ostensibly quoted one of the World Bank’s reports, “every US Dollar invested in the development of early warning system saves an average of seven US Dollars in the disaster management”. This means that the cost of the colossal damages caused by disaster as a result of inability to develop and utilize early warning system will be seven times higher than cost of disaster management. The minister added, “If the NiMet services are appropriately and timely used, the services of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) will be greatly reduced and save unquantifiable lives and properties”. What made stakeholders have confidence in NiMet predictions?
Reviewing the 2018 NiMet predictions clearly indicated reasons for the stakeholders’ confidence in NiMet services. In the 2018 seasonal rainfall prediction, NiMet focused on the rainfall onset, length of rainy season, end of growing season and annual rainfall. The country was predicted to experience normal to earlier than normal onset of rainfall with examples of towns like Sokoto, Bauchi, Kaduna, Lafia, Makurdi, Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Calabar, Eket to experience early onset. In contrast, towns like Yelwa, Bida, Abuja, Abeokuta, Lagos and Umuahia were predicted to experience late onset. Several other towns across the nation were predicted to either receive early, normal or late onsets of rainfall in 2018. NiMet excellently achieved an average of 91% precision in its prediction of 2018 rainfall onset of rainfall across the country.
On the rainfall cessation dates for the 2018 rainy season, most towns in the northwest like Katsina, Sokoto and areas surrounding the towns were predicted to experience early cessation of rainfall around 28th September 2018. Southern coastal cities were predicted to receive their last rain of the year in December 2018. However, cessation of the growing season for majority of the towns in Nigeria was predicted to be normal with exception of Jos, Ubi, Uyo and Lagos that experienced early cessation. NiMet achieved 91% and 89% precision in the predictions of rainfall and growing season’s cessation, respectively. On the annual rainfall amount for all the towns that received predictions, NiMet achieved an average of 65% precision making the overall achievement of 2018 SRP to be 84%. Similar evaluation for the same year 2018, day and night temperature was also reviewed. However, the performance of NiMet in temperature forecasts was rather low compared to the rainfall forecasts. The average predictions for the day and night temperature from January to April was merely 48% precision. The under prediction of temperatures in most towns was attributed to global climate change. Despite this low performance of NiMet in temperature predictions, several stakeholders scored NiMet performance outstandingly high and thus, reinforced their confidence. NiMet has to work hard to improve her predictions to achieve 100% precision.
The 2019 NiMet predictions covered rainfall onset, cession, amount and length of growing season. The predictions also covered temperature, dry spell, incidences of malaria, and cerebrospinal meningitis in the selected towns across the nation. On rainfall onset, the country is predicted to experience late onset in most parts of the country. The earliest onset is predicted to be around 7th March in the coastal and south-south towns. This onset will progressively change northwards to cover the nation with towns at extreme north like Maiduguri, Katsina, Potiskum and Nguru expected to have their rainfall onset on 16th June. On the cession of rainfall, northwestern towns will experience rainfall cession around 29th September with several towns in the north having their cessions in October. Central and southern states are expected to receive their last rain of the year between late October and Mid November. In 2019, the length of growing season in selected towns covering the nation ranges from 109 to 291 days. Consequently, shorter growing season is predicted for most parts of the country such as Sokoto, Gusau, Zaria, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Bauchi, Lokoja, Enugu and Ikom. Normal growing season is predicted for Shaki, Ado-Ekiti, Ibadan, Ondo, Akure, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri, Uyo, Umuahia and areas surrounding such places. What are the implications for this prediction? What is the mitigation strategy for the farmers in the affected areas?