NiMet Act: Ben Kalu’s Amendment Bill Passes 2nd Reading At NASS
ABUJA — A Bill for an Act to amend the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet)’s Act No. 9 of 2003, has passed second reading at the National Assembly, Abuja, Starcoded TV reports.
The Bill is sponsored by Hon. Benjamin Kalu, All Progressives Congress’ member representing Bende Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives.
Starcoded TV reports that the Bill, which comprises of three (3) clauses, primarily seeks to provide the Nigerian Meteorological Agency with the powers to be the sole authority to grant approvals and licences for the establishment of meteorological stations in Nigeria.
A first timer, Ben Kalu set National record when he moved the first motion of the Femi Gbajabiamila led Ninth House of Representatives, a feat that has never been achieved by any first timer in the past.
Established in its current status in 2003, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency is a federal government agency charged with the responsibility to advise the government on all aspects of meteorology and to issue weather and climate forecasts for the safe operations of aircrafts, ocean, vessels and oil rigs.
The agency is also saddled with the responsibility to collate, collect, process and disseminate information within and outside (Nigeria), among others.
The ‘people’s lawmaker’, as he was christened by his colleagues due to his sagacity and eloquence at the Floor of the Lower Legislative Chamber, Ben Kalu received loud ovation during and after the debate, and the bill was immediately passed for second reading with overwhelming ‘Aye!’ Vote by virtually all members present.
The observation and collection of meteorological data started in 1892 as an agricultural station under the then Public Works Department. At about 1937 the Nigerian Meteorological Department started operation as the main agency responsible for all weather observations in the country. Several ministries have supervised the Agency’s activities including the Ministry of Communications in 1952, Ministry of Transport in 1953, Ministry of Aviation in 2004 and presently the Ministry of Transportation. The movement of the Agency from one Ministry to the other over the years underscores the multi-sectoral relevance data it generates.
A weather station is a facility, either on land or sea, with instruments and equipment for measuring atmospheric conditions to provide information for weather forecasts and to study the weather and climate. The measurements taken include temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and precipitation amounts. Manual observations are taken at least once daily, while automated measurements are taken at least once an hour.
Speaking on the relevance of the Bill, Hon. Ben Kalu, who was last week honoured with UNICAL Distinguished Alumnus Award, in recognition of his developmental strides, excellent achievements and contributions to Project Nigeria said: “the need to observe the weather and climate for purposes of research, prediction and forecast cannot be swept under the carpet especially in this era of climate change.”
“The reality of climate change is with us. It is now more compelling to constantly monitor, observe and collate meteorological data so as to be able to predict more accurately the dynamic climatic conditions. This, of course, is one important means of ensuring human survival.”
Ben Kalu added: “Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, you would recall that the primary purpose of government as enshrined in Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Altered) is the security and welfare of the people.
“In furtherance of this, the vital need to preserve the integrity of the Nigerian environment and thus secure its sustainability for present and future generations require clear and unambiguous provisions in the Nigerian Constitution and Legislations. As a people living very closely to and depending for livelihood on nature and environment we should do all within our powers to ensure that nature maintains its cycles and it is important to note that the starting point is the constant, wide range, far reaching study and observation of weather and climate. It is also important to note that predictions and forecasts need to be as much as possible accurate. Consequences of misleading information are better imagined that mentioned.”
Challenges of Meteorological Services in Nigeria
Nigeria is a massive country with a total land mass of about 940,000sqkm and going by the recommendation of the World Meteorological Organisation that between 100 to 300sq.km you must ensure that there is at least one observatory, then it means that technically we should have nothing less than 9,000 stations across the country. Interestingly, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency has only 54 observatory stations across the federation.
Reacting to this, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said, “Mr. Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, you will acknowledge the fact that 54 meteorological observation stations nationwide is a far cry from the required 9000 observation station. What then do we do to resolve this issue and timely also?
“Much as it is worrisome that we are far below the expectation and recommendation of the World Meteorological Organisation, we must realize how difficult it is for government to directly fund through the agency, the establishment of as much as 9000 meteorological stations.”
“Section 7(1)(q) of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency Act provides for the agency to be the sole authority that approves and establishes meteorological centres in Nigeria. This inadvertently makes it unlawful for any other person to establish a meteorological station anywhere in Nigeria irrespective of its purposes. This means that all the universities, polytechnics, colleges, secondary schools, even private sectors that own and run meteorological observation do so contrary to the laws of the land”, he added.
According to him, “The way to go, therefore is to open up the sector by identifying the existing stations that are not part of the network run by the agency, approve and licence them and as well enter into collaboration with them, upgrade them, provide them with the necessary support. At the moment there are about 40 universities, 36 polytechnics and 32 colleges of education and thousands of secondary schools that have meteorological stations. Licencing and regulating the existing meteorological stations as well as other intending stations will be a quick way of improving upon the density of meteorological stations across the federation.”
Speaking on the way forward, the Federal Lawmaker said to realize the key objective of opening up for participation of both private or public sector in collation and collection of meteorological data, the 9th House of Representatives need to amend the extant law.
On the financial implications, the Abia born politician said “the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, established in its current status in 2003, is an existing agency of the Government of the Federation and as such the implementation of this bill, if passed into law, will not bring about substantial change in the cost of running the agency, hence Government will not need to spend more tax payers’ money to run the agency outside what is being spent already.”
“This bill only seeks to widen the functions of the Agency by given it powers to approve and licence the establishment of meteorological stations in Nigeria”, he said.
Concluding, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said “although a vast amount of meteorological data covering a period of more than 100 years exist in Nigeria, there is considerable scope for improvement. There is urgent need to increase the density of meteorological observation stations across the federation to meet the standards set by the World Meteorological Organisation among other things. But more importantly, more increase in the number of meteorological observation stations will improve the quality of data collated across the federation and this would result into more accurate predictions and forecasts which will ultimately ensure human safety and increase in productivity in agriculture, agro based industrial productions, air and sea travel, commerce, tourism, etc.
“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Colleagues, whilst thanking you for listening, I appeal that you graciously support this bill, which is aimed at preserving the environment, especially in this era of global warming and climate change.”