House C’ttee On Environment Visits NBMA To Enhance Biosafety Regulations

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The director-general, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr. Agnes Asagbra (third from right) escorting the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Environment, Pondi Gbabojor and other committee members to agency’s laboratory during their familirisation visit to the agency in Abuja.

The House of Representatives Committee on Environment has paid a visit to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) at its head office in Abuja, to oversee and enhance biosafety regulations in the country.

Led by its chairman, Pondi Gbabojor, the committee’s visit was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the agency’s jurisdiction, operations, challenges and achievements.

The familiarisation visits initially planned for the ministries, departments and agencies were deferred due to time constraints and the National Assembly’s commitment to maintaining a regular fiscal year, aligning with the January-December budget cycle for the 2024 Appropriation Act.

Gbabojor stated, “We are here today in fulfillment of the age-long custom. As you may be aware, the jurisdiction of the Committee is pursuant to Order Twenty, Rule 34 of the Standing Order of the House of Representatives.”

He emphasised the significance of the visit, noting, “Today’s visit presents an excellent opportunity for us to gain insights into the operations, challenges and achievements of your agency, thereby enabling us to better fulfill our duties as representatives and stewards of the public interest.”

He expressed the committee’s determination to succeed, stating, “We can only succeed when you succeed. That is why we have come to engage you with the hope that we can enrich our understanding and forge stronger connections that will ultimately contribute to our collective efforts in serving the needs of our constituents and the nation at large.”

In response to the committee’s visit, the director-general of NBMA, Dr. Agnes Asagbra highlighted the agency’s pivotal role in ensuring the safety of modern biotechnology. She explained that NBMA regulates genetically modified organisms in Nigeria, aiming to prevent adverse effects on human health, animals, plants, and the environment while implementing measures to ensure biosecurity.

Asagbra provided an overview of NBMA’s mission, vision and core values. She mentioned the zonal offices in all six geopolitical zones, emphasising the agency’s commitment to promoting biosafety and biosecurity in Nigeria.

The director-general outlined NBMA’s objectives and functions, including providing information on modern biotechnology, ensuring GMOs have no adverse effects, conducting biosafety and biosecurity risk assessments, and formulating and implementing related policies.

Highlighting the benefits of biosafety, Asagbra emphasised the assurance of a bio-secured environment, advancements in the medical sector through safe improved plants, job and wealth creation from modern biotechnology activities, and the provision of an enabling environment for scientists under a robust legal framework.

As for achievements, NBMA has undergone departmental restructuring, conducted training for laboratory and scientific officers on risk assessment by the Federal Institute of German Risk Assessment and upgraded its GM detection laboratory.

However, the agency faces challenges such as the lack of a harmonised global definition and laws, public understanding and trust issues, regulatory uncertainties for developers, inadequate operational funds and facilities and the absence of library facilities for research.

The visit by the committee on environment signifies a proactive approach to ensuring biosafety regulations and fostering collaboration between regulatory bodies and legislators for the benefit of the nation.

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