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Monday, July 22, 2024

Nigeria at 60: Biosafety agency urges concerted efforts in safe application of modern biotechnology

As the country marks its 60 years of independence, the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has called for concerted effort in the bid to ensuring safety in the application and use of modern biotechnology, as well as in ensuring biosecurity in Nigeria.

Dr Rufus Ebegba
Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA)

The DG, who said this in a good will message to Nigerians on the occasion of the country’s diamond jubilee celebration, stated that the safe deployment of modern biotechnology products would ensure food security in the country, increase revenue, create employment opportunities and help in the diversification of the economy.

Dr. Ebegba said that 60 years after independence, the country has done well in the areas of food production and the development of science and technology. However, more still needs to be done as the country is still lagging in the area of technological advancement and food production, which is expected to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said. 

“Nigeria is a blessed country with abundant natural resources, but we need to do more in harnessing these recourses sustainably for the development of the country. The establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency in 2015 whose mandate is to ensure adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity taking into account risks to human health, animals, plants and the environment has laid down the foundation for a boost in agriculture.

“We need to build on this foundation by not allowing detractors to hijack the process for their selfish gains and allowing Nigeria to become a dumping ground for unapproved GM products.

“There are so many global challenges which also affect Nigeria and addressing these challenges requires the adoption of out-of-the-box workable measures such as safe technologies which will foster green economy and eliminate the factors that contribute to climate change, ensure conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as well as provide food security for the enhancement of the well-being of the citizens which should be of national priority”.

Dr Ebegba said that, with the establishment of the NBMA and with the amendment of its Act in 2019 to cover biosecurity, gene drive, gene editing and synthetic biology, the country is on the right track in its bid to ensure that Nigerians are protected from harmful biological agents and uncertified GMOs.

“The NBMA is poised to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-reliant in the development and application of modern biotechnology based services, we also want to ensure that Nigerians have access to and benefit from safe, ethical and profitable uses of biotechnology based products and services, and to ensure that modern biotechnology is profitably and safely applied to government’s programmes and projections such as assurance of high quality health services, food security, environmental protection and safety.”

He said the NBMA is currently developing regulations and guidelines on gene editing and biosecurity, noting that these are all in the bid to ensure that the country practices safe technologies that will put it at par with our counterparts in the global world.

“We can only achieve this when Nigerians learn to trust the NBMA and indeed the federal government and to believe that whatsoever the Agency has declared safe is indeed safe for human health and the environment.”

He felicitated with the President and Nigerians on the marking of the diamond jubilee and called for patience and unity in building the nation for everyone and future generations.

His words: “We do not have any other country so let us join hands to together to build Nigeria. Yes, we may have our short comings as a people but we must not lose hope or lose confidence in the system as it is the confidence the masses bestow on the systems that spurs us to do more.

“I wish every Nigerian a happy independent day celebration and long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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