By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Director and Chief Executive of Centre for Satellite Technology Development, CSTD, Dr. Spencer Onuh says Nigeria loses about $2 billion to capital flight annually because of importation of foreign satellite by Nigerians.
Onuh, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview to Vanguard warned that such omen if not checked would impact negatively not only on the Nigerian space agency, but the economy at large.
He said it was regrettable that Nigerians prefer to import foreign satellites services even when they can source same from NASRDA with the Nigeria Sat 1.
He said that the Nigerian Sat 1 was used in mapping the whole country at no cost, a service the country spent $300 million to get for the first time in 1956.
He boasted that CSTD had got the capacity to offer most of the services that are being sourced from foreign satellites, stressing that the country will continue to lose more resources to capital flight if the trend is not addressed.
"Nigeria loses about $2 billion to capital flight annually because of importation of foreign satellite services to Nigeria. If we source the services in Nigeria, that sum will stay in Nigeria. After all, our Nigeria Sat 1 was used for land cover map for the whole country just with the communication satellite alone. This was what was done first in 1956 and it caused Nigeria $300 million. But the Nigerian Sat 1 did it free for the whole country. That alone has covered the cost of the satellite.
"If we get our acts right, the return on investment is going to be massive. Satellite technology is not just what we bring from the space, it affects employment.
"The CSTD henchman insisted that no amount of investment made by Nigeria in the space sector would be regretted, adding that every investment made on satellite technology has the potential of multiplying the return on investment in terms of revenue generation, problem solving and job creation.
"For every naira you spend on any satellite, it brings a lot of Naira in terms of employment. This is so because this agency employed over 2,000 staff and by the time the Assembly, Integration and Testing, AIT centre is ready and functional, we will be thinking about 150,000 staff including engineers and support staff in only the AIT.
To localise the technology, he said a lot is being done by his agency to seal collaborative tie with some higher institutions in the country for establishment of satellite incubation cetres, where young Nigerians would be groomed and nurtured for designing and fabrication of different types of satellite.
"When I came in 2010 that linkage with higher institutions was not in existence. Now, we are in collaboration with institutions of higher learning with the mandate we are giving. These institutions are centres of knowledge, so, we cannot do without them. What we set out to do is to reach out to them.
"This time, we will not invite anybody, we will go select those who are serious, tell them what we want them to do their research on. From there we will write an MoU to develop specific things on technology. So, those are the things we have been doing. We have gone to the University of Uyo and have understanding with them, gone to University of Ilorin, Unilorin.
"In fact, there is a research fund for Unilorin, Electrical/ Electronics Department, which has been approved, so that we will work and develop more satellites in the ground station in University of Ilorin. We are waiting for their letter for us to submit.
"We have helped Lagos State University to develop Aerospace engineering curriculum, so that they can start aerospace engineering. We are working with the Kogi State Polytechnic to develop their full curriculum for NBTE accreditation. Also, we have entered into agreement with the Benue State University of Agriculture, Markurdi and Tafawa Balewa University."