Nigeria recorded a phenomenal victory in its biotechnology development when the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja under Justice D.U Okoro upheld a 2017 judgement and dismissed the suit filed by some groups against the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for approving the commercialisation of Bt Cotton in the country.
Recall that the NBMA had, in 2016, issued the permit for the commercial release and placing on the market of genetically modified cotton to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited. Subsequently, a coalition of 16 civil society organisations led by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in September 2017 filed a lawsuit against the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the first defendant and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) as the second defendant. The ministers of environment, agriculture, the attorney general of the federation and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) were also defendants in the GMO case.
The suit was, however, struck out because it appeared statute-barred and the group proceeded to reinstitute a case against the agency and its defendants at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Delivering judgement yesterday Justice Okoro upheld the 2017 judgement and dismissed the suit filed by the groups in its entirety.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with our correspondent, the NBMA director-general, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, described the judgement as a “win for biotechnology application and biosafety regulation” in Nigeria.
He maintained it has further given confidence to the agency in taking the right decisions in biosafety regulation in Nigeria and urged Nigerians to trust the agency in taking decisions on safe biotechnology products which would positively affect Nigeria’s food security and economic development.
The NBMA boss further said the victory would also give other African countries the impetus to stand firm in terms of regulating products of safe modern biotechnology in the respective countries.
Ebebga said it was difficult to see why biotechnology products which had been scrutinised by the biosafety regulator and found to pose no health risk or negative environmental impact should not be approved.
“As long as it has been declared safe for humans and the environment and has been verified to add economic value to the nation, it should be approved to strengthen the nation’s food security and economic development,” he added.