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Agency to collaborate with stakeholders on safe application of modern biotechnology

Director-General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Agnes Asagbra, has promised continued collaboration with stakeholders in modern biotechnology to ensure its safe application for the benefit of Nigerians.

Executive Director of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Canisius Kanangire (left), presenting a strategy book to the Director-General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Agnes Asagbra, in Abuja on Monday

This is contained in a statement issued by NBMA’s Information and Communication Officer, Mrs Gloria Ogbaki, on Monday, May 15, 2023, in Abuja.

According to Ogbaki, the director-general said this when a team of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) paid a courtesy visit to the agency.

“I am told that AATF understands the importance of biosafety to the success of their activities and have advocated for a strong biosafety system in Nigeria.

“This is through their support for training of lawyers on biosafety issues, study tours, adherence to biosafety tenets and public awareness/communication programmes.

“We wish to ask that we continue to enjoy such supports and to further discuss areas within your policy that will enhance our national biosafety system,” she said.

Asabgra, who noted that the task of safeguarding Nigerians was not a person’s job, urged the AATF team to stand the agency and lend its voice to the campaign for biosafety and biosecurity in Nigeria.

“The agency has and will continue to ensure safety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to humans, animals and the environment for economic benefit and ensure bio-security in Nigeria,” she said.

The director-general stressed the need for enhancing public confidence in the country’s biosafety system.

She noted that while Nigeria was being celebrated at the global biosafety space, there were still some at home who were bent on misleading the public with unscientific facts.

“Under my watch as director-general, and with the power vested on the agency, every action contravening the NBMA Act, 2015 (as amended in 2019) will be resisted.

“Let it be known that it is only the GMOs confirmed safe by NBMA after carrying out risk assessment and risk management that will be permitted in the Nigeria.

“The government’s goal of establishing this agency must be achieved, and all hands must be on deck to achieve is,” she said.

Asabgra commended one of her predecessors, Dr Rufus Ebegba, for laying a solid foundation in the regulation of modern biotechnology in the country and Africa in general.

She said that Ebegba also ensured adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs resulting from modern biotechnology.

“We will strive to consolidate on all that had been put in place and strengthen the areas of weakness,” the director-general said.

Leader of the AATF team and Executive Director of the foundation, Dr Canisius Kanangire, congratulated Asagbra on her appointment as director-general of NBMA.

Kanangire noted that Nigeria was the first African country to commercialise BT cowpea and Tela maize.

“Cowpea has revolutionised the industry due to its immense benefits to farmers and Nigerians.

“This is why other African countries are following after the footsteps of Nigeria, as many are now accepting the commercial release of the BT cowpea and Tela maize,” he said.

The AATF team presented Asabgra with the newly-developed strategy, which will be in use for the next five years.

By Abigael Joshua

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