Penn State student hopes to improve Nigeria's emergency management systems

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Nigerian man wants to use what he’s learned from his Penn State degree to prevent injuries and deaths stemming from emergencies and disasters in his home country.

Penn State student Abiodun Awoyemi, 32, of Lagos, Nigeria, is hoping to improve his country’s emergency management systems. That’s why he is studying public health preparedness, which is an option in the master’s degree program in homeland security that’s offered online through Penn State World Campus. That program teaches students how to respond to natural and manmade disasters.

“By the time I completed my first two courses, I had gained enough information to see the gaps back home more vividly and then how much opportunity there was for me to contribute,” Awoyemi said. “I’ve really benefited from the homeland security program, and I’ve been able to learn preparedness for emergencies, which is entirely what I’m going to replicate back home.”

This week, Awoyemi visited Penn State’s University Park and Hershey campuses as part of a month-long visit to the United States to take several training courses and attend emergency management conferences. He plans to use his training to offer what he said are much-needed services in his Nigeria.

Awoyemi has spent his career working as a geophysicist in the oil and gas industry, but a plane crash in June 2012 triggered his interest in emergency management. A plane flying from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, crashed just a few minutes from its destination at a Lagos airport, and all 153 onboard died.

The death toll pained Awoyemi. Worse, he learned that people survived the crash but died from their injuries after they couldn’t escape the wreckage. He said he was particularly moved by one of the victims of the crash whose dream was to be the first female president of Nigeria.

“If someone like that could go, it means the country would lose potential,” Awoyemi said.

Awoyemi started an emergency management business in Nigeria, which he hopes will help bridge the gaps once he starts running it full time. Some challenges he’s researched include a lack of state-level and local-level emergency management agencies.

Additionally, he said ambulances are scarce. He said the Lagos metropolitan area, with 20 million people, has fewer than 30 ambulances, and they don’t always work.

Awoyemi plans to quit his job in January so he can devote himself to the final research project for his degree. He plans to visit all 36 Nigerian states to assess their emergency management systems.

He enrolled in 2016 and hopes to graduate in May 2018. He said he wanted to finish his studies as fast as he could.

“The more I wait to complete it, the more lives are lost back home,” he said. “I want to start saving lives as soon as possible.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about the homeland security program.

Media Contacts: 

Mike Dawson

Work Phone: 
814-865-5818

408 The 329 Building, University Park, PA 16802

Last Updated November 09, 2017