Re: 24 years after, Nigeria’s space programme loses traction despite yearly allocations

Re: 24 years after, Nigeria’s space programme loses traction despite yearly allocations

Nigeria’s space programme, which began many years ago as a response to the citizens’ quest for a new frontier on human development, enhanced technological advancement, effective exploration of natural resources and environmental protection, cannot be said to be losing traction. On the contrary, many successes have been recorded over the years even though there are a lot of factors militating against its set target as far as space related development is concerned.

The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), which is made up of 16 sub-agencies to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s cyber security and a vibrant digital economy which is at the forefront of progress and development across the country, has recorded a lot of successes despite its constraints.

On assuming duty, the Director-General, Dr Halilu Ahmed Shaba, hit the ground running following the marching order by former President Muhammadu Buhari to change the narrative at the agency. Shaba introduced a lot of reforms, leading to the global acknowledgement of Nigeria as one of the fastest growing space developing countries.

The Shaba management team has succeeded in revising a 25-year road map for the implementation of the national space policy which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). This is armed to leapfrog Nigeria to the league of space faring countries of the world as attested to by a recent research by the International Space Agency (ISA). This is contrary to the false and misleading report published in the Guardian newspaper recently, that Nigeria is losing traction despite increased yearly allocations to its space sector.

One cannot deny the colossal financial muscle required to venture into any meaningful exploration of space, which to a great extent accounts for why most developing nations like Nigeria are still lagging behind in this aspect. The space race has really and truly stimulated great interest in developing countries like Nigeria, which has over the last 20 years made several note worthy exploits in its quest for space advancement.

For example, trailing behind the world powers is India, which has the fourth largest space budget in the world, injecting over $4.267 billion behind only the United States, China and Russia, as the report stated. But comparing it with Nigeria’s N101.744 billion in three years and supporting 14 mini-agencies, gulping N15 billion same year is like comparing a mouse with a lion.

Since the coming of the management of NASDRA led by Dr. Halilu Shaba there has been a drop in total allocations to the agency and interestingly over 90% of it budgets are for paying salaries (personnel), gulping over N19.9 billion, a paltry N1.8 billion for capital while N1.16 billion goes to overhead. Although, the drop in budgetary provisions to the space sector was attributed to many factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and dwindling oil revenue, it is wrong to attribute Nigeria’s slow progress to the present management or mismanagement of the budgetary provisions to the agency.

As research has shown and this must be noted by all recent advancement in space exploration for the most part can be credited to only a small number of countries even among the industrialised countries. United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, and 11 other countries under the European Space Agency (ESA) remain the most dominant contributors to the International Space Stations (ISS) since its debut in 1999. This is because they have the financial muscle required to do it as compared to other African countries like Nigeria which are facing a lot of competing developmental needs.

That Nigeria’s dream to launch into space by 2030 does not look any closer to reality is not due to the mismanagement of budgetary provisions to NASDRA by its present leadership but because of the rising cost of space exploration when comparing the naira to the dollar and the payment of staff which were not put into consideration by the authors of the Guardian story which was written in bad faith because Nigeria is facing the same problem with most developing countries which has not been able to launch satellite from its internal site.

Factors such as policy somersaults in the past have also hindered our journey to space greatness but the committed effort of the new management led by Dr. Shaba armed with a customs blueprint is gradually leading Nigeria’s space exploration growth and technological drive and this is there for all to see.

Today, investment in satellite and space technology is beginning to have a significant impact and the socioeconomic development of Nigeria and the political, social, technical challenges that had slowed Nigeria’s efforts to reach the promised land of space advancement and make it a thriving spacefaring country are being overcome by the present management of NASDRA.

Today, as far as implementation is concerned, Nigeria is making progress and this success is progressively being noticed with the private sector now taking its pride of place as far as investment in space related activities are concerned, thanks to the innovations by the management of NASDRA. It is a fact that if we continue on this path we shall prevail.

Wada writes from Abuja