During the commissioning of some landmark space projects two days ago in Abuja, Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu revealed the ongoing collaboration between the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
Dr Onu, while corroborating the investments Nigeria make for space programs, said “the investment we are making in space research is one that will give us great returns, we will make more from our investments than what we put in. Nigerian engineers designed one of our satellites and we must give them the opportunity to design not just ours but for other nations, so we will have the capacity to launch our own satellites ourselves and other countries”, the Nation Online NG reports.
Dr Onu further explains how NASRDA and Nigeria’s communications satellite operator NIGCOMSAT Ltd train military men on the use of satellite data. He said, “one of the classrooms we opened was filled with military men undergoing training on both NIGCOMSAT, NASRDA in all the arms of the armed forces, we have specialized units generating a lot of information which is valuable for use, so Nigeria needs this space agency”.
Dr Onu’s comment comes in handy in the light of growing critics’ opinion on why developing nations invest millions of limited resources in space programs while battling challenges to lift citizens out of poverty. Some critics regard Nigeria’s space program as a misplaced priority considering that about 86.9 Nigerians live in extreme poverty, worst poverty concentration in a country according to a World Bank report.
Nigeria’s principal space agency NASRDA was established in May 1999 with a clear mandate to “vigorously pursue the attainment of space capabilities as an essential tool for the socio-economic development and the enhancement of the quality of life of Nigerians”.
To achieve the above mandate, NASRDA provides satellite data, space technologies and expert advice to other government agencies in Nigeria, including the Nigeria military.
In a presentation at the United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology “Small Satellite Missions for Scientific and Technological Advancement” in South Africa in 2017, Dr Francis Chizea of NASRDA highlights synergies between the Agency and the Nigerian Military in internal security and external military operations.
NASRDA provided data and satellite images of South West Mali during the civil war between Southern and Northern Mali in 2012. The topographic map provided the West African peacebuilding soldiers with geographical knowledge of the crisis zone. Needless to say, the satellite images contributed to military intervention in Mali.
NASRDA also conducted image mapping and terrain analysis of Dargol Area, Niger Republic – the scene of Nigerian Airforce Jet crash in 2013, according to Dr Chizea’s presentation.
More slides from Dr Chizea’s presentation further highlights NASRDA’s role in providing critical satellite data and imagery of the Boko Hakaram-afflicted Nothern Eastern Nigeria.
In 2013, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) called on NASRDA to play a frontline role in the Constituency Delineation project for mapping of Nigeria’s internal boundaries for electoral purposes. INEC relied on NASRDA to produce hard and soft copies of high-resolution images of the entire country.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Editor at Space in Africa. He writes about Africa’s NewSpace companies and emerging national space programs.