The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) on Monday, January 27, 2020 received an award from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) for its role in ensuring that unapproved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not allowed into the country and for the strategic partnership between both agencies.
Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, who received the award on behalf of the agency, thanked the Nigeria Customs Service for the honour and pledged that the NBMA would continue to partner with the NCS in ensuring that only safe and approved GMOs are deployed for the benefit of Nigerians and the environment.
He said: “The NBMA is an agency of the Federal Government and the NCS has been a wonderful partner as the joint partnership resulted in the repatriation of nine thousand metric tons of unapproved GM maize that was imported into the country in 2017.”
“We will continue to partner with the Nigeria Customs Service to build a safe environment for Nigerians by ensuring that unapproved GMOs are not allowed to enter the Nigerian market through our borders.”
The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim (Rtd), while giving the award, commended NBMA for its dedication to ensuring safety of humans and the environment.
The CG said the certificate of merit was given to the agency by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) on the international Customs day for rendering exceptional service to the international customs community.
He said the award was based on the theme for the World Customs Day 2020 tagged “Customs, fostering sustainable future for people, prosperity and planet”, and the NBMA has shown commitment and distinguished itself in the area relating to the theme, hence the honour with the prestigious WCO merit award.
In a related development, Dr Ebegba has enjoined the general public to be alert over the outbreak of lassa fever virus in some states of the country.
He stated that the agency is working with line ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure that every harmful biological agent is contained and eliminated.
“The agency is working assiduously with sister Agencies to ensure that the spread of lassa fever and any other disease caused by biological agent is contained and not allowed to cause any more harm to humans and the environment,” he said.
He, however, asked the general public to be vigilant and to take necessary protective measures such as avoiding contact with rats, block all rat hideouts, store foodstuffs in rodent proof containers, cook all foods thoroughly, always wash hands thoroughly after contact with a sick person, noting that some of the symptoms of lassa fever include: fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and severe cases of bleeding from the mouth and other body openings.
He urged Nigerians not to panic as the government is doing all within its power to ensure that the deadly corona virus is not allowed into the country.
“This virus is a type of coronavirus; it can affect the lungs and symptoms include common colds and flu and can spread person to person by coughing and sneezing. Its symptoms include difficulty in breathing, fever and coughing and can lead to organ failure, pneumonia and death. The best way to combat it is to avoid close contact with people who might be sick or carrying it”. He said
“The federal government is making very swift moves to ensure that the lassa fever virus is properly contained while ensuring that the corona virus does not come into our borders,” he said
He advised citizens to avoid countries already confirmed to have cases of corona virus.
Dr Ebegba said that, with the creation of the new Biosecurity Department, the NBMA would collaborate with line agencies and stakeholders to ensure that harmful biological agents are contained and eliminated.
He said the just concluded consultative meeting with stakeholders has given the agency a good leeway in ensuring a very robust Biosecurity emergency response strategy and policy.
“We are happy with the level of willingness by sister Agencies to collaborate with the NBMA in ensuring that harmful biological agents are adequately contained to avoid harm to humans and the environment, we are working on and will come out with a comprehensive National Biosecurity Emergency Response Strategy and Policy that will check biological agents and ensure that they are adequately contained,” he said
He assured Nigerians that the NBMA would not rest on its oars in the bid to ensure that humans and the environment are safe.