From Idu Jude, Abuja
The Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba, has said that Nigeria from 2023 will start gaining external revenue from the exportation of genetically modified products GMOs proudly produced in Nigeria.
This it said can be achieved through the certifications from the GMOs regulatory body in Nigeria accepted all over the world.
Dr Ebegba let the cat out of the bag Thursday in Abuja while giving the agencies scorecards from 2015 to 2022, with an assertion that the successful GMOs products in Nigeria, has become an economic enabler and means of diversification.
According to the microbiologist, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) was established in 2015 through the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015 and is charged with the responsibility of providing regulatory/enforcement framework, institutional and administrative mechanisms for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria with the view to preventing any adverse effect on human health, animals, plants and environment.
He said, that the agency’s regulations and decisions are based on scientific evidence in line with safety and socio-economic considerations, adding that prior to the inception of NBMA, National issues of Biosafety were handled by a Special Biosafety Unit in the Federal Ministry of Environment. Upon coming into force of the NBMA Act, 2015, the Biosafety Unit transformed into the National Biosafety Management Agency still under the Federal Ministry of Environment, with the mandate to carry out regulatory functions.
Commenting on the overall achievement since the establishment of NBMA which he said coincided with the coming to be of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Agency has recorded the underlisted milestones including being properly positioned and mainstreamed the agency into the National Administrative Structure. Also developed robust capacity-building programmes which have led to a critical mass of well-trained and vibrant staff.
The agency from 2015 to 2022 has developed biosafety operational and implementing instruments, regulations and Guidelines to ensure effectiveness in the discharge of the agency’s mandate creating a robust synergy among stakeholders for effective regulation of GMOs and their products as well as the signing of MoU with relevant regulatory agencies.
The NBMA, he said, has ensured that only safe modern biotechnology activities and GMO products are allowed in Nigeria and ensure that the agencies’ primary responsibility as a regulatory body is achieved.
Dr Ebegba said “this is ensured through biosafety risk assessment and regular nationwide survey/surveillance, tracking and profiling of GMOs to ensure compliance with the Biosafety Permit conditions. Biosafety approval was granted for the commercialization of Bt cotton, PBR cowpea and TELA Maize after rigorous biosafety risk assessment. Biosafety approvals granted for Biosafety facilities, containment, confirmed field trails, import of GM crops and developers.”
The DG, further explained that all these were achieved through a critical mass of well-educated and sensitized stakeholders about NBMA’s role and increased commitment by stakeholders to ensuring safety in the sector.
With the internationally recognised scientific efforts, the NBMA he informed has become a training Hob for local and international University Students on GMO Detection and Analysis.”Nigeria is benefiting from safe modern biotechnology under a legal framework for economic growth, improved agriculture, job and wealth creation, industrial growth and a sustainable environment as operators now have confidence in the sector; Reduction of risks to human health from the practice of modern biotechnology practice and the use of GMOs are at their barest minimum.”
With this loud available fits, he noted that Nigeria may no longer be a dumping ground for unauthorized GMOs hence the potential risk and socio-economic consequences of unauthorized GMOs.
He said that fall out of the fits, however, has gained the country recognition in the International Biosafety Community with other African Countries looking up to Nigeria for leadership.
Scientifically, Ebegba, revealed that avenue is being provided to confirm and harness the potentials of modern Biotechnology practitioners and reduce brain drain in the sector;
He said that biosafety approvals have led to increased confidence in the sector by investors, researchers, farmers and consumers with overall increased benefit to the economy.
Approvals have added to stimulating and enhancing socio-economic development, industrial environment, health and green economy.
Also on improved food security by the provision of better seeds resistant to climate change, adverse climate conditions and pest and diseases; Increase in crop yields per planted area through reduced pest damage and increase gain in profit among farmers due to reduced use of agrochemicals
Creation of direct and indirect; Job and wealth, and increased GDP growth; Increased presence as global trade player resulting in increased foreign earnings.
The GMOs regulations are to aid Nigerian industries with the availability of safe, reliable, more affordable and better-quality raw materials for industries resulting in the revamping of industries such as textile industries.
Farmers, are to experience great reduction in pesticides and agro-chemical use and their attendant cost
Increased in yields and early maturation of their crops, Increased shelve life of crops, Improved protection from insect/peat and disease, Increase tolerance to heat, drought and other environmental stress, Healthier and more protective farmer, Increase in farmers income, Reduction in communal clash, Improved social relationship between farmers and their spouses, Increased farmers empowerment leading to increase in their socio-status, education of their family members and overall contribution to the economy, Making unprotective soil available for protective agricultural uses.
On Consumers protection, the DG noted that the achievements yas given the government the confidence for the assurance of safe, nutritious and more affordable food and environment leading to healthier society, increased disposable income generation.
Moving forward, Dr Ebegba, said that the agencies agenda 2023, is to consolidate on its achievements l, which is to create more awareness on the acceptability and to cub the trade war ongoing against the GMOs in Nigeria. This he said will end the negative propaganda being carried out by those who are neither farmers nor government officials.
He says d that breaking new grounds for the implementation of the National Biosecurity Policy and Action plan remains a continuous function of the agency.