Nigeria Joins Global Astronomy Network
A statement, at the weekend, released during the IAU’s just-concluded 29th triennial General Assembly in the U.S. city of Honolulu, Hawaii, said the world governing body for Astronomy had designated the Centre for Basic Space Science (CBSS), Nsukka, as its Regional Office for Astronomy Development (ROAD).
According to the body, Nigeria is one of five new coordinating centres, which the South African- based Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) has established, with Armenia, Colombia, Jordan and Portugal hosting the other four centres.
In a telephone interview from Nsukka, Assistant Director, CBSS, Dr. Bonaventure Okere, explained that the Centre (a branch of NASRDA) had been the provisional node since November, 2014. “But the Honolulu Assembly,” he averred, “has now officially declared Nigeria the host country.”
Despite NASRDA’s hard-fought battle, no top-ranked executive from the Space Agency was on hand for the signing ceremony (possibly due to budgetary constraints — although no one was willing to say so).
In what OAD Head, Kevin Govender, termed a “media event,” IAU executives endorsed an agreement on the 13th, to which CBSS director, Professor F.E. Opara, had earlier appended his signature — and sent to Honolulu.
Thursday’s “virtual ceremony” was the end-result of a directive from Professor S.O. Mohammed, NASRDA’s director general, that CBSS should apply to be the West African node of the Office of Astronomy for Development, which the IAU opened at Cape Town in 2013.
“It’s something we have fought long and hard for,” Mohammed said in an earlier interview with The Guardian, adding, “Nigeria is one of Africa’s most advanced and active nations, in the areas of astronomy and space science. So I think we have earned the right to represent the IAU in West Africa”.
The establishment of the OAD is part of the IAU’s Strategic Plan, whose objectives, Mohammed noted, are “to disseminate astronomical knowledge as a means of facilitating education and capacity building and generally promoting sustainable development in countries like Nigeria”.
Bonaventure, who is ROAD helmsman, added that it was in pursuance of these objectives that the IAU provided for regional offices. The five newly designated nodes, he said, brought the number to eight globally, plus three “language expertise” centres.
As coordinator of ROAD, Bonaventure will head a multinational team, which is expected to work closely with the South African headquarters to execute education and enlightenment programmes, fundraising schemes, research projects and generally promote astronomy in West Africa.
“Our urgent task now,” he declared, “is to quickly identify the individuals from each of the other 15 or so West African countries, who will make up our team. We’ll then hold a meeting and chart the way forward—to make sure we don’t disappoint either Nigeria or the IAU”.