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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Why Biosafety Bill should not sail through, by Bassey

Opposition has emerged from within the National Conference over the prospects of the Biosafety Bill, which is presently awaiting Presidential endorsement to become law.

The Science, Technology and Development Committee of the confab in its report presented to the floor had on Page 34 urged President Goodluck Jonathan to speedily act on the proposal.


But a member of the Environment Committee, Nnimmo Bassey, says the Science, Technology and Development Committee’s call should not be accepted. According to him, the bill, as drafted, is pro-industry and does not adequately protect the people and biodiversity.

Bassey, Director at Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), states: “The Biosafety Bill has no provisions for strict liability and redress. The fundamental flaws of HB.184 are that it
does not mention the issue of liability and redress; does not contain meaningful provisions ensuring effective public participation; does not take into account the precautionary principle; and, contains inconsistent language to an extent not acceptable.”

He points out that, before endorsement, the Biosafety Bill should include strict liability and have sanctions for pollution by genetically engineered products. He adds that polluters should be liable to a fine of not less than N100 million for corporate bodies and their directors committed to no less than five years imprisonment or both.

“With regard to redress, the polluter should be subject to the same penalties as above, but in addition should be held responsible for the restoration of polluted or contaminated environments and should make adequate compensation for the victims,” he stresses, adding that protection of biodiversity is cardinal, but modern biotechnology erodes biodiversity.

“Nigeria is party to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and one of its key pillars is the Precautionary Principle. This principle as the name implies calls for caution when there is doubt. Nigeria should not go the way of allowing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“We do not need a National Biodiversity Conservation Authority as proposed by the committee. There are sufficient departments in the Ministry of Environment to handle the expected duties. The proper ministry to handle Biosafety issues is the Federal Ministry of Environment and should not be moved to the Ministry of Science. Biosafety issues are mostly about environmental issues.”

Bassey’s other comments on Science, Technology and Development include: “On page 16 at item (f) the Committee described products of our educational system as academically unsound and morally bankrupt. Although this is not a recommendation, the characterisation is objectionable.

“On page 18, item 1.5j – exposure to science and technology should be extended to primary schools and not just adult education classes.

“On Page 32, item 3.19(ii) – the Committee asks for “adequate funding” for nuclear technology. With the Fukushima nuclear accident and considering the poor state of our power generation structures, Nigeria should invest more in renewable power generation rather than investing in a technology that countries like Germany are moving away from.”

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