Nigeria has formally launched her National Biosecurity Policy and Action Plan (NBP & AP) 2022-2026 to firm up her systems and secure the health of citizens and their immediate environment from biological threats and sustain socio-economic development.
Speaking at the unveiling and public presentation of the policy document today in Abuja, the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, said the document which has been classified as a model for other African Union (AU) member nations, takes into consideration the interconnections between human, animal, plant and environmental health, and recognises that a collaborative, multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach is key to the mitigation of bio-threats and the success of any national biosecurity intervention.
Ikeazor said the plan, which takes into account the nation’s needs, is a product of the input of several related MDAs, sub-nationals, civil society groups, professional associations, private sectors and the international community.
She said it is intended to escalate the functionalities of the country’s various mandates in ensuring a biosecured nation through up-scaling technical, scientific and administrative capabilities, the sustenance of functional infrastructure and the aggregation of workable systems for information exchange; explored the improvement of our system by considering new knowledge, expertise, infrastructure, technologies and advocacy as frontiers to ensure prevention, preparedness and response to bio-threats.
“This document has considered implementable strategic areas of focus – which include but are not limited to – human health, animal health, plant health, food safety, environmental protection, biotechnology and biosafety, biosecurity information and database, bioterrorism and biowarfare, bio-threat risk assessment, border control and management, transport security, facility establishment and security, research and development and waste management. These policies and strategic actions are articulated to reinvigorate Nigeria’s commitment to the protection of national sovereignty, human and biodiversity security and the wellbeing of her citizenry,” she added.
The minister urged all implementing institutions to take the document implementation extremely serious, even as she expressed the hope that the nation would have significantly improved her national biosecurity system through sincere and efficient implementation [of the plan] by the end of 2026.
In his goodwill message, the Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said it is important the country continues to make progress by making sure action plans are put in place to tackle biosecurity threats to ensure a bio-secured country.
He pointed out that Nigeria is utilising biosecurity as a strategic and integrated tool encompassing policy and regular frameworks to analyse and manage risks in vital sectors such as food safety, animal and plant life and health.
Earlier in his welcome address, the director-general, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, said the NBP & AP was developed to improve the issues of biosecurity specifically to put measures in place to ensure that biological agents are contained and prevented from being used to cause harm to the environment and human health.
He pointed out that the new document is the first in Africa to cover all the four thematic areas of biosafety and biosecurity, national governance structures, surveillance and epidemic intelligence and non-proliferation, adding that it will serve as a guideline for other countries to model their framework in biosecurity.
In his remarks, the World Health Organisation (WHO), emergency preparedness and response cluster coordinator, Rex Mpazanje, commended the Nigerian government through the environment minister for being one of the pioneering countries in implementing an integrated OneHealth approach to biosecurity through the establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency, the formulation of the policy and plan through a multi-stakeholder engagement process and clearly articulated the responsibilities of all relevant sectoral ministries, departments and agencies of government.
“WHO feels privileged to have supported in the development of these important documents. We consider the policy and associated plan as being very important to Nigeria towards the protection of human, animal and plant life and health in an integrated manner. We look forward to continuing to support the NBMA to facilitate its implementation especially knowing that achieving such will require strong multi-sectoral accountability mechanisms,” he added.
Similarly, the acting high commissioner of Canada to Nigeria, Kevin Tokar, said Canada is very proud of its longstanding partnership with Nigeria to strengthen national and regional biosecurity capabilities.
“Canada’s continued commitment to strengthening biosecurity and health security capabilities in Africa is reflected in our ongoing leadership of the Signature Initiative to Mitigate Biological Threats in Africa, which is being implemented by the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction,” he stated.
He expressed confidence that key policies and initiatives such as Nigeria’s new National Biosecurity Policy and Action Plan will support the evolution and impact of the Signature Initiative and encourage Nigerian partners to play an active part in discussions around its four pillars of biosafety and biosecurity, national governance structures, surveillance and epidemic intelligence and non-proliferation.
In his goodwill message, the country coordinator, Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS), Dr. Mathew Dore, congratulated stakeholders for success in developing a policy on biosecurity.
Dore stated that the PBS is proud to be associated with building capacity for biosafety in its collaboration with the NBMA.
“In building capacity in biosafety, we have dwelt on the best practices to be followed to avoid any harmful effects on human health and the environment. NBMA has taken the leadership and extra step and gone further to spearhead the evolution of the biosecurity policy which aims to prevent any misuse, theft or intentional release of pathogens, toxins and other biological materials,” he added.
The director-general, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said the concept of biosecurity which focuses on the prevention of disease-causing agents entering where they can pose a risk to humans, plants and animal have measures that must be strictly followed and this necessitates having a policy on the ground to guide adoption and use.
He maintained that such measures must be in place to achieve biosecurity in any region, stressing Nigeria would not be left out in making efforts to guide decisions in which today we are here to unveil the approved biosecurity policy and action plan 2022 – 2025.
“NABDA, as a critical stakeholder in the all the process of review and validation of the approved biosecurity policy, wish to kindly support and collaborate with the NBMA on the policy implementation and the 2022 – 2025 action plan for greater governance of modern biotechnology research and development in Nigeria,” he added.