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Nigeria leads West African sub-region on biosafety

The Director General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba, has said that Nigeria has been mandated to lead the West African sub-region on biosafety.

Dr Rufus Ebegba
Dr Rufus Ebegba

Dr Ebegba, who made the submission while presenting the agency’s score card to the public in Abuja on Friday, December 21, 2018 said It is gratifying to note that, within the short period of the existence of the NBMA under President Muhammed Buhari’s leadership, the agency has recorded tremendous growth and progress to be given positions of responsibilities on the sub-continent.

“NBMA has provided for the first time a haven for the practice of modern biotechnology, its application and use in Nigeria. Nigeria can now raise its head among nations as a country ready to appropriately key into the use of safe modern technology, a critical factor for economic development.”

The DG said in the last three years the agency has been able to gevelop and review its operational instruments for effective implementation of the NBMA Act 2015 and the ease of doing business within related sectors.

“At present, the agency has trained officers through short Biosafety courses both nationally and internationally and sometimes to masters degree level. With the establishment of the agency, our universities and research institutes now have confidence to carry out biotechnology researches expected to increase agricultural productivity as well as contribute to food security in Nigeria.

“This is line with the Green Alternative Agenda of the Federal Government and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Our Food and Feed Industries are assured of availability and safe raw materials for their industries, our farmers’ earning ability greatly increases as they experience reduction in agricultural losses as a result of pest and diseases, increase productivity as well as reduction in health problems related to use of chemicals,” he said.

Dr Ebegba said that, in furtherance to the agency’s collaborative drive, it initiated and signed MoUs with National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), and National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC), Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON).

He said the agency is in the process of signing an MoU with Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Veterinary Pest Control Services Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The DG also noted that the agency has engaged in various sensitisation efforts via the media and other programmes in other to educate the public on its activities and mandate. He added that, courtesy of its state-of-the-art GM detection and analysis laboratory, the agency is able to test, analyse and carry out proper risk assessment on genetically modified organisms before they are approved for release into the market.

“Upon meeting the requirements set forth for the accreditation of Institutions, the NBMA accredited some institutions to carry out biotechnology activities. These are: Federal University of Technology, (FUTA), Akure; Institute for Agricultural Research, (IAR), Zaria; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan; National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Abuja; National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi; and the National Root Crops Research Institute, (NRCRI), Umudike.

He added that the agency has certified containment facilities for bio-fortified cassava enhanced with pro-vitamin A (concluded) at National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; bio-fortified cassava enhanced with Iron (concluded) at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; GM Cassava resistant to cassava mosaic virus and brown streak virus (on going) at National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; and GM Cassava (AMY3 RNAi Transgenic lines) for post-harvest starch reduction, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

He said the agency has also granted Permit for Commercial Release and Importation of GM Crops for Feed and Food Processing such as Bt. Cotton to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd. (Commercial Release), Biosafety Permit to WACOT Nig. Ltd Biosafety Permit for commercial release of Bt Cotton.

Dr Rufus said that Nigeria is benefiting from safe modern biotechnology under a legal framework for economic growth, improved agriculture, job and wealth creation, industrial growth and sustainable environment as operators now have confidence in the sector, risks to human health from modern biotechnology practice and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are at their barest minimum.

He noted that the dumping of unauthorised GMOs into Nigeria is now at its barest minimum. He stressed that avenue is being provided to confirm and harness the potentials of modern biotechnology safely, negative socio-economic consequences of GMOs are being guarded against, even as confidence is being built in the practice of modern biotechnology, use and handling of GMOs and GM products.

“Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of international Agreements and Treaties to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) is reaffirming, Proper regulation for imported GM products, so that Nigeria will not be a dumping ground for GMOs and products is assured. Other African countries look up to Nigeria for leadership in biosafety Issues.”

Ebegba said in the coming year the agency looks to train more staff and urged Nigerians to trust government decisions as government has put in place measures to ensure that human health and environment is safe.

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