By Edwin Nwanojuo
Minister of Environment Surveyor 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.
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 held today, (14th May, 2019) at the ECOWAS Office, Abuja.
The Minister said foremost amongst these delivered targets includes- laying of an effective administrative and institutional background for modern biotechnology regulation in Nigeria; enhanced capacity building of staff and relevant stakeholders; communication and sensitization of Nigerians and stakeholders on the modern biotechnology regulatory activities; establishment of various national and international partnerships for effective regulation, 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.
Surveyor Zarma said safe modern biotechnology has proved to be that solution which will ensure that our people – farmers, entrepreneurs, and the economy succeed within the region and 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 realization 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”.
He said , Nigeria greatly recognizes the need for a regional biosafety system and appreciates this meeting which is aimed at ensuring that cross border trade on living modified organisms and their products thereof within the sub-region are harmonized, improved and most importantly safe to human health and the environment and called on all participants to give this expert review assignment all the seriousness it deserves.
Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr Rufus Ebegba who chaired the technical session, said West Africa is setting the pace on matters of Biosafety as this 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 and 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 this regulation, when implemented, will mean a crucial step to ensuring that Africa becomes more viable to the economic benefits of modern biotechnology.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources of ECOWAS Commission, Sekou Sangare and Director General Sahel Institute Dr Mohammed Abdullahi where among the 45 dignitaries that are participating in the 4-day review meeting.