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Biosafety agency has delivered on its targets, says minister

Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, has said that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has delivered on its targets in line with its mandate of ensuring that modern biotechnology practices and its products are well used and deployed safely in Nigeria.

National Biosafety Management Agency
Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma (left), with Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the NBMA, Rufus Ebegba, during the Meeting of Experts of Biosafety for the Validation of the Preliminary Draft Regulations on Biosafety in West Africa

The minister said this at the Opening Meeting of Experts of Biosafety for the Validation of the Preliminary Draft Regulations on Biosafety in West Africa, which commenced on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at the ECOWAS Office, Abuja.

The minister said foremost amongst these delivered targets include laying of an effective administrative and institutional background for modern biotechnology regulation in Nigeria; enhanced capacity building of staff and relevant stakeholders; communication and sensitisation of Nigerians and stakeholders on the modern biotechnology regulatory activities; establishment of various national and international partnerships for effective regulation; and establishment of a top class regional GM Detection and Analysis Laboratory.

Others are accreditation of institutes to practice modern biotechnology, granting of biosafety permits, proper positioning and mainstreaming of biosafety into the National Administrative Structures; development of operational instruments for effective implementation of biosafety; and the ease of doing business within related sectors, among others.

Zarma said safe modern biotechnology has proved to be that solution which will ensure that farmers, entrepreneurs, and the economy succeed within the region. He expressed joy that Nigeria is the first in the world to develop a genetically modified cowpea which has been granted approval for commercial release.

He said: “I think we as a sub-region have every right to feel proud of these achievements which have moved us to the realisation of proving to the world that Africa has all it takes to ensure safety in the deployment of modern biotechnology and its derivatives. I will therefore state that Nigeria’s commitment to not just the regional biosafety system but that of Africa knows no bounds. Nigeria also commends the great biosafety strides being made in other African countries including ECOWAS member states.”

According to him, Nigeria recognises the need for a regional biosafety system and appreciates the meeting which is aimed at ensuring that cross-border trade on living modified organisms and their products thereof within the sub-region are harmonised, improved and most importantly safe to human health and the environment. He called on participants to give the expert review assignment all the seriousness it deserves.

Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, who chaired the technical session, said West Africa is setting the pace on matters of biosafety as the regulation document is a new initiative that other African countries will in time copy from.

He said: “Africa has the capacity but needs to strengthen this capacity to meet emerging trends in this sector.”

The DG said with expertise of the delegates, they can come up with a document that will be internationally acceptable. He urged the participants to work hard and come up with a regulation that can be endorsed by the ministers.

Representative of West Africa Monetary Union, Mrs Zurafa Lumpo, said the regulation, when implemented, would mean a crucial step to ensuring that Africa becomes more viable to the economic benefits of modern biotechnology.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources of ECOWAS Commission, Sekou Sangare, and Director-General, Sahel Institute, Dr Mohammed Abdullahi, were among the 45 dignitaries that are participating in the four-day review meeting.

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