“Flood is a natural event and with the increase in climate change activities there will be more floods. This is because climate change is due to increasing temperatures. With increased temperature, the atmosphere will be more pregnant with more water vapour.” – Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu, Director-General, NiMet
On Tuesday, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, in fulfilment of its statutory responsibility to advise the government and people of Nigeria on all aspects of weather and climate, presented its flagship product to the world: Annual Seasonal Climate Prediction (for 2023). Yesterday, Nigerians woke up to see some fear-provoking headlines like, “Expect more floods, says NiMet”, and “Nigeria to experience worse flooding in 2023 – NEMA DG.”The National Emergency Management Agency boss was at the NiMet event at Abuja.
In my view, the panicky reporting of the NiMet SCP presentation is ingenuous at best and unpatriotic at worst. Then at a professional level, it is in total disagreement with the spirit of the developmental process. This reality now underlines the need for the Nigerian media to take environmental reporting more seriously, the same way other news beats like legal, financial, and educational reporting are ascribed their own registers and trained newsmen. Because of the emerging and evolving impact of climate change, the environment has now dovetailed into national security, food security, and core science and technology.
On face value such screaming headline like floods coming to Nigeria next year may look harmless, but the damage it could do to some critical sectors like insurance, forex, stocks and investments are far-reaching. This is not to talk about the psychological impact on the man in the street, who may just see only the headlines without even reading the details of the report. Moreover, the response of the NiMet boss, part of which I quoted at the beginning of this article, shows that the news report was probably taken out of context due to lack of grasp of the scientific language couched in the SCP document.
Indubitably, what NiMet has been doing for almost a decade now with its annual seasonal climate prediction is to set an ecological calendar path for the country in order to guarantee our resilience to climate change and other environmental vulnerabilities. As a testimony to this, this year’s SCP presentation event was graced by delegations from two of the many African countries that enjoy the services and mentorship of NiMet – Niger Republic and The Gambia.
The event also saw the presentation of the nation’s “Climate Book”, titled Impact, Vulnerability, Mitigation and Adaptation in Nigeria, which is a book written by Nigerian scientists to commemorate the collaborative relationships between NiMet and Nigerian universities, where the agency has scoped and sponsored climate-based research projects and initiatives. Indeed, since its inauguration in 2003, the agency has remained on a trajectory of innovative evolution that has responded to the environmental exigencies of the day.
No doubt, the science is clear and scary. Last year, the World Meteorological Organization affirmed that 2021 was one of the warmest years in history. Then this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States averred that the planet continued its warming trend in 2022, with last year ranking as the sixth-warmest year on record since 1880. Yet, the world is determined to stay on the course of climate resilience. This is why NiMet matters. It is the agency empowered and equipped to serve Nigeria and Nigerians (and indeed Africans) at the core of impact: Weather and climate.
This year’s SCP, presented in Abuja by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirka, in the company of the Minister of State for Niger Delta, Sharon Ikeazor, and Minister of Interior Rauf Aragbesola, has as theme, “Strengthening climate risk early warning services for improved food security and disaster risk reduction in Nigeria.” The SCP falls under the category of NiMet’s long-term forecasts in contrast to its weather forecasts that range from now casting to short and medium forecasts. It contains information on the onset and cessation dates of the cropping season; length of the growing period; rainfall amount; temperature forecasts for the hot season (January to April); dry spell and little dry season; malaria and meningitis vigilance, and socio-economic implications of the predictions.
The rainfall onset date is predicted to be earlier than the long-term average in most parts of the country. It is expected to start from the coastal states of Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom in early March and around June/July in the northern states such as Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.
On rainfall cessation, the SCP projected an early end of season over parts of the South comprising Osun, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and the eastern parts of Ogun and Lagos states. It also said parts of Yobe, Adamawa, Niger, Nasarawa, and Kogi states are also to have early end of season when compared to long term average conditions. The cessation is anticipated earliest in September over parts of Sokoto and Katsina states, while it would occur much later in December over most parts of the coastal region. However, an extended rainfall season is predicted over parts of Gombe, Kaduna, Kwara, Enugu, Anambra, western Ogun and Lagos states.
According to the document, the length of growing season in most places shall be near long-term average, except for some parts of northern states like Katsina, Jigawa and Kano where shorter than long-term average length of growing season is anticipated. In general, rainfall amount over the country in 2023 is predicted to be average to above average in most parts of Nigeria. Nonetheless, parts of Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kaduna states and the Federal Capital Territory are likely to observe below average annual rainfall amount.
Quantitatively, Nasarawa, Taraba, Kogi, Benue, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo states and the FCT are expected to have 1190 mm to 1590mm of rainfall, while Bayelsa, Akwa- Ibom, Delta and Cross River would record annual rainfall amounts of 2700mm and above. With regard to temperature, the SCP anticipates temperature to be generally above the long-term average across the country. It envisages both daytime and night time temperatures to be warmer than the long-term average over most parts of the country in January, March and May; although there will be cooler than long-term average day and night times in February.
On dry spell, mild to moderate (8-16 days) dry spell is predicted to occur in April 2023 in the South after the onset is established. Then, following the establishment of onset in the North, a severe dry spell that is likely to last between 15 and 21 days or longer is predicted in June to early July in parts of the Northern (Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Borno, Kano) and central states. A moderate dry spell is predicted over Niger, Nasarawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Benue, Kogi and the FCT; while a mild dry spell is predicted over Ekiti, Edo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Ogun and Imo states in July.
It is instructive to note that the event saw another value addition from NiMet’s downscaling efforts among the rural farmers, with the publication of the SCP document in three indigenous Nigerian languages—Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. This was equally demonstrated at the Abuja event with the multi-ethnic presentation of the delegation representing the 100,000 lead farmers trained by NiMet in the use of weather and climate information for agrarian activities. The testimonies came from Ideato South Local Government Area, Imo State (Igbo) woman farmer; Musawa LGA, Katsina State (Hausa) farmer; and Iseyin LGA, Oyo State (Yoruba) farmer, who narrated in their native tongues how they were immensely benefiting from applying the knowledge they gained from the initiative, while calling on the agency to expand the training to other farmers who had yet to benefit.