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Monday 20 August 2018
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Meet Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai: Nigeria’s Nuclear Czar

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Meet Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai: Nigeria’s Nuclear Czar

 

As the clock ticks each day in this 2018, it takes us closer to 2019, a year of very pivotal elections in Bayelsa State.

In our previous installments we have profiled three fine gentlemen, namely Dr Patterson Ogon, Keniebi Okoko, Barr. Esueme Kikile and Arc Reuben Okoya. In all the series has been teaching us the unforgettable lesson that a good name is still worth more than an estate filled with filthy lucre. Today we shall be beaming our spotlight on yet another personality. Although he is known as a Fisherman, Author, Activist, Senator, Scientist, Engineer, Academic, Administrator, Innovator and Scientific Diplomat, we present here as The Nuclear Man!

Caveat: This is a relatively long read, but it is deliberate. You shall enjoy every bit.

Franklin Erepamo Osaisai was delivered into freedom and liberty on October 1, 1958, a date prognostic of Nigeria’s liberty and independence, as the fourth child of Chief Levi Apere Osaisai-Sanimighen, JP and his wife Violet, at Koluama, a traditional coastal fishing community in the present Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

He started his early primary education at the St. John’s School, Koluama 2, which was interrupted by the Nigerian civil war for two years. He completed his primary education in 1972 with a Distinction at the First School Leaving Certificate and proceeded to the newly-established Government Secondary School at Akassa in the pioneer set of pupils in January 1973.

Faced by the handicap of lack of science laboratories in the new rural school, young Erepamo, in the fourth form in September 1975, instinctively, had to leave his beloved GSS Akassa, and moved to Bonny National Grammar School (BNGS), Bonny. However, his stay in BNGS was very short, as he was disillusioned and repulsed by the spate of rioting and unrest that engulfed the school within weeks of his arrival at Bonny. His insistence on leaving Bonny incurred the wrath of his father, who grudgingly allowed him to transfer to, yet another new rural school in his native area, Government Secondary School, Ukubie, in February 1976, where he completed his post-primary education in June 1977.

Erepamo manifested very early traits of a precocious and gifted child both in academic excellence and quintessential leadership. Even though he was younger and rather diminutive in size, relative to the majority of his classmates, he topped the class throughout his period of attendance at GSS, Akassa and was also appointed, first, Refectory Prefect in September 1974 and second, Deputy Senior Prefect, in September 1975, respectively.

At GSS, Ukubie, Erepamo also topped the class and set a record. Before he wrote the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in May 1977, he had already passed all six subjects he entered for in the GCE O’Level in his fourth form in 1976. He passed the WASC with a Division One Distinction, with alphas in eight of the nine subjects he entered for, and being an eking village fisherboy, he had the ‘consolation’ grade of C4 in English Language, the ninth subject.

Earlier in the same year, he wrote the entrance examination for admission into the newly established University of Port Harcourt from the centre located at the premises of GSS, Ukubie, and was lucky to be the only candidate admitted from that centre, as one of the pioneer students of the foundation class of the University, in 1977. Erepamo registered at Uniport with his GCE result for a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, before his WASC result could be released.
Erepamo had his undergraduate training in the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt and graduated at the top of his class and as the best graduating student from the School with an Honours degree in Chemistry in June 1981. Buoyed by a merit graduate scholarship awarded by the founding Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, the late Prof. Donald E. U. Ekong for the best students in the pioneer graduating class, Erepamo, immediately after his national service, registered for graduate studies in Nuclear Engineering at the prestigious and internationally acclaimed University of California, Berkeley, California in the United States of America, where he took his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Nuclear Engineering, in 1984 and 1987, respectively; bagging the PhD at the relatively young age of 28! Even at Berkeley, Erepamo received some academic awards and honours, notably the Chancellor’s Patent Fund Award and the Newhouse Foundation Fellowship.

Franklin’s inveterate patriotism and compulsive love for his people and fatherland are comparable only to that instinctive force which naturally returns a salmon to the same stream where it was spawned, at a time the “Andrew Syndrome” was already endemic in Nigeria. Thus, after some post-doctoral work to acquire some pertinent professional experience, Dr. Erepamo Osaisai returned home to Nigeria in 1991 as faculty member at his alma mater.

Dr. Osaisai established his professional and academic career at the University of California at Berkeley, California and the University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Nigeria where he had taught and researched, with interests in the fields of Nuclear Reactor Engineering, Energy Systems Integration, Numerical Modeling, Nuclear Instrumentation and Computational Transport Phenomena. After a brief stint in political and public service, he reverted to his primary professional interest in scientific research and innovation, and was appointed as the Director of the Nuclear Technology Centre at the Sheda Science and Technology Complex, Abuja, in which capacity he served for the period 2001 to 2006.

In April 2006, he was appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the pioneer Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, and was tasked with the responsibility of laying the foundation for the effective deployment of nuclear energy for national socioeconomic development. Under his leadership, a multi-faceted national nuclear power roadmap was developed and approved for implementation by the Federal Government. On the reconstitution of NAEC to operate as a full-fledged Commission in March 2011, as provided for in the enabling Act, Dr. Osaisai was elevated and appointed as Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer of NAEC. This upgrade further strengthened NAEC to discharge its primary responsibility to lead the national effort in planning and development of the requisite nuclear power infrastructure for the implementation of the national nuclear electricity programme.

As Chairman/CEO of NAEC, he was responsible for the budgeting, staffing, coordination and supervision of the management and operations of seven national nuclear energy research centres, and coordinated international cooperation and educational outreach for manpower training and capacity building programmes in support of the national nuclear technology programmes. He catalyzed the establishment of four additional Nuclear Energy research Centres (NERCs) during his tenure, bringing the national total to seven. These included the Centre for Nuclear Energy Studies (CNES), University of Port Harcourt and the FGN/IAEA Marine Contamination Coastal Field Monitoring Centre (MCCFMC) at Koluama, Bayelsa State, with the attendant establishment of a Naval Outpost (NOP) at Koluama by the Nigerian Navy, for the requisite security cover.

The success of Dr. Osaisai’s professional career is deeply manifested in the progress so far achieved in the formulation, design and implementation of Nigeria’s nuclear power programme under his pioneering role and able leadership.

He is an avid reader, with an insatiable appetite for learning and a knack for new discoveries. For instance, while in post-graduate school studying nuclear engineering, even though he needed only 33 units of graded coursework to satisfy his doctoral degree coursework requirements, Franklin could not resist the attraction of knowledge, and took a total of 86 units of graded coursework, far in excess of what was required. It would seem that he has always been guided by providence to voraciously acquire knowledge and wisdom which would position him to properly and successfully discharge onerous responsibilities that may be entrusted to him, later in life. No doubt, his former lecturer and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Port Harcourt, once described Osaisai as “a natural genius discovered from the fertile creeks of Ukubie in the Niger Delta of Nigeria in 1977.

As a social engineer and public officer, Dr. Osaisai has also had some prior public service record. These include his service by appointment, as the Deputy Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the Old Rivers State from 1994 to 1996, and being elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in April 1998 representing the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, as well as a brief service as the Commissioner in charge of Works and Physical Infrastructure Development in his home State of Bayelsa between 1999 and 2000. These were opportunities which significantly shaped and enriched his public service record and experiences in policy formulation, project planning and management.

Throughout the respective periods of holding political office, Dr. Osaisai has continuously exuded an admirable combination of integrity, honesty, transparency and uncommon courage in leadership. He continues to be a strong exponent of the maxim that public office must be used to serve humanity and uplift society, more so in view of the fact that we serve by the gra ce of God.

Dr. Osaisai has been an active person from his youth. For instance, during his days at the University of Port Harcourt, inspite of being a serious student in academics, Franklin also found time to be fully involved in the campus social life and was an opinion leader of no mean repute. He was, at various times, a Member of the Students Representatives Council, Deputy Speaker of the Students’ Union, Secretary of the Society of Pure and Applied Chemistry Students and President of the Izon Ibe Student’s Union, among others. While in the United States, he also served as the Secretary-General of the Nigerians Association in California.

In the quest for the self-actualization of the people of the Niger Delta, Erepamo has also been very actively involved. For instance, he served as the Secretary of the Youth Wing of the Niger Delta State Creation Movement in 1980. He also played an active role in the Bayelsa State Creation Movement, eventually serving as the editorial coordinator of the Bayelsa State Creation Demand Memo in 1996. No doubt, Dr. Osaisai was elected as the first Senator for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District in 1998, however, the eventual truncation of the political transition programme aborted his mandate.

In recognition of his active, committed and productive professional and academic career, as well as his sustained contributions over the years as a nuclear engineer, energy scientist, technocrat and consummate administrator, Dr. Osaisai holds the fellowship of many professional organizations and institutions. He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Institute of Physics, Chemical Society of Nigeria and the Science Association of Nigeria, respectively, as well as membership of many other bodies, including the American Nuclear Society and the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, amongst others. He is also a double recipient of the University of Port Harcourt “Distinguished Alumnus Award”, and currently serves as a Member of the Council of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, as well as a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Chemical Society of Nigeria and the University of Port Harcourt Foundation, respectively.

Dr. Osaisai has also had considerable diplomatic exposure in his professional career, and as Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission. He had thus previously served as Nigeria’s Governor on the Board of Governors of the Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for three terms (2006-2008, 20122014, & 2014-2016). He had also represented Nigeria in various International Ministerial Conferences on nuclear power and nuclear technology development. He served as the National Liaison Officer of Nigeria to the IAEA from 2006 to 2017. He had also served as the National Coordinator, as well as the Chairperson of the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA). He also coordinated the activities of the Vienna based Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Nigeria from 2006 to 2017, and even served as the Vice Chairperson for Africa of the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO for the period 2009-2010.

He also served as a pioneer member of the AFRA High Level Steering Committee on Human Resource Development and Nuclear Knowledge Management. He was also appointed and served as a Member and later Chair of the IAEA Technical Working Group (TWG) on Nuclear Power Infrastructure (2010–2016), and currently serves as a Member of the IAEA Technical Working Group (TWG) on Nuclear Knowledge Management (2014-2018).

He has also had the privilege of chairing several international conferences and meetings on nuclear technology development and applications.

Dr. Osaisai has also made scholarly contributions to knowledge in engineering, energy policy and technology management, as well as in science education through publications in the fields of Nuclear Science and Engineering. He is the author of two books and co-author of three others in specialized areas of the Physical Sciences and Engineering. He also has, to his credit, dozens of publications in journal articles, conference papers and monographs, with significant international exposure.

Dr. Erepamo Osaisai is an accomplished nuclear engineer, energy scientist and academic, as well as a thorough-bred professional, administrator and public servant who has dedicated his life to the service of his country and people with an informed broad world view. Expectedly and quite profoundly important is that, he is a man whose value system is centered on developing he human being and society, by the optimal application of science and technology, with the family as the epicenter. He finds relaxation in reading, music, ping-pong and political discourse

As is commonly known, beside every successful man, there is a woman. Beside Erepamo is his amiable wife, Emontonghan, who in her right, is a successful professional, educationist, administrator and Director with the Federal Civil Service. Not surprisingly, therefore, and in keeping with its rather busy schedule, the family is blessed with five lovely children, who are now all adults.

Against the backdrop of the foregoing and given the developmental challenges of our dearly beloved state, if we are to use this human resource, in what capacity do you think he would best serve Southern Ijaw Local Government, Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency, Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa State in general?

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SAYELBA TIMES is an independent news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing all Niger Delta States including other parts of the world. Our contents are positive, creative, truthful and relevant.


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