By Abdulrahman Ayuba |
Dr Halilu Ahmad Shaba, the Niger state born renowned scientist of international stature has been screened and awaiting Senate confirmation as the next Director General of the National Space Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA. On the criteria of educational qualification and pedigree in public and work experience, he is almost certainly going to get approval of the Upper Legislative Chamber.
The National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA, is one such public agency where, under no circumstances, should competence, education and experience be shoved aside for mediocrity. It is at once an agency whose efficiency is vital to the nation’s drive towards social and economic advancement in consonance with modernity. It is also a platform for enhancing interaction and cooperation between Nigeria and several other nations of the world involved in the development of space technology.
Evolving from the nation’s space policy formulated in the seventies, NSRDA was formally established in 1998 and effectively began operation in 2001 with the broad statutory mandate of implementing Nigeria’s space program. In cooperation with other countries: Britain, Russia, China and Ukraine among others, the agency is responsible for fashioning and steering the development of space science and technology for the enhancement of the country’s space capabilities.
Specific and detailed functions of the NSRDA include, focus on Research; rigorous Education; Engineering development; Design and manufacturing especially in the areas of instrumentation, rocketry, small satellites, satellite data acquisition, processing, analyses and management of related softwares. The agency is further saddled with the establishment of a National Earth Observation Centre for remote sensing and satellite meteorological data acquisition.
Nigeria has been committing relatively huge sums into the activities of NSRDA over the years due to the anticipated accruing benefits. Some of these benefits include, boosting the nation’s ability to adopt, create and modify techniques for the monitoring, evaluating and management of national resources inventories; provision of efficient and reliable telecommunication services for enhanced growth in the industrial, commercial and administrative sectors of the economy. To reap benefits of space technology in national defence and security, the Nigerian government through the NSRDA, has since established a Defence Space Command in the Ministry of Defence.
Since inception, NSRDA has succeeded in appreciable measures in the realisation of its given assignment. For instance, in collaboration with Russia, the NSRDA successfully launched into orbit its Nigeria Sat I in the year 2003. The $30 Million Dollar low orbit earth observations microsatellite, was intended to enhance early warning signals on disease outbreaks such as meningitis, local and international border demarcations, data and signals on weather and education. That was followed in 2011 with the launch of SAT2 and SATX at a combined cost of $350 Million dollars.
Africa’s very first communication satellite, NigCom Sat1 had been launched by NSRDA in 2007. However, the China built satellite which was designed to cover most of African countries and parts of Italy had to be switched off in 2008 to avert its collision with other satellites already in orbit. It was replaced in 2011 by the Nig ComSat-1R.
Professor Robert Ajayi Borifice, pioneer NARDA Director General had projected that by 2018, Nigeria would have been “able to build indigenous satellites without foreign assistance”. According to the world renowned scholar who held sway at the NSRDA office for a decade, the country should further be able to launch into the near-equatorial orbit by locally developed space launcher, “a national spaceport between 2025 and 2028″. While at it, the NSRDA is also expected to actualize Nigeria’s ambitious program of launching a satellite into the Moon by year 2030!
Dr Halilu Ahmad Shaba who is presently the Acting Director General of NSRDA, is, by education, work experience and track records very suitable for the highest office in the agency. He is a Dr in Remote Sensing and an Academician who has taught and mentored Post graduate and Doctoral students from universities across the country.
Dr Shaba is also coming on the job against the backdrop of a towering cognate experience in public service and consultancy services to national and international agencies and bodies. At the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, he was Deputy Director in charge of Planning and Research and, the Chief Cartographer while he was at the National Population Commission.
Dr Shaba was at various times, engaged as a Consultant in programmes aimed at finding solutions to the menace of deforestation in Cross River state and, soil erosion in the southeast and south south regions. He was also the consultant to the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency on creation of a GIS database for Solid waste Management just as, the Kebbi State Airport has his imprints as the consultant who conducted the critical Surface Analysis using the GIS.
A case scenario of putting a square peg in a square hole, Dr Halilu Ahmad Shaba is in a nutshell, eminently qualified and deserving to be the substantive Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency. He will be coming on the job with a wealth of experience in the field of Space Technology, Research and Development; administration and the critical requirement of a robust knowledge of the intricacies of the politics and diplomacy around the interplay and management of world space technology.
It is a sad commentary on its scorecard that three years away from 2018, the NASRDA could not achieve its goal of ” building an indigenous satellite without foreign assistance”. Between now and 2025 or 2028, can the NASRDA achieve its other ambition of an indigenously built space launcher from a “National Spaceport”? From the pace of progress at the NSRDA, is Nigeria well on the march towards realising the vision of a “probe to the Moon by 2030”?
Ayuba , wrote in from Niger State