The director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Abubakar, has listed gains the country stands to benefit from the newly passed NABDA Establishment Act 2022, saying it will catalyse the resurgence of Nigeria’s textile industry, the health sector amongst others.
He made this assertion during a press conference to highlight the importance of the passage of the Act yesterday at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.
Recall that the textile industry in Nigeria was a major employer of labour and revenue-earner in the ‘70s; however, the sector became comatose owing to the lack of good seeds and other reasons.
This development motivated NABDA’s collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Bayer and Mahyco Agricultural Nigeria Ltd, for the development, commercialisation and deployment of new varieties of transgenic hybrid cotton.
He said the Act will help fast-track national development and, by extension catalyse a resurgence of Nigeria’s textile industry by making cotton lint, a raw material for textile manufacturing, readily available.
“Furthermore, the agency recently formalised a partnership with the government of Cuba. The main objective of the partnership is to promote joint research in tissue culture, drug and vaccine manufacturing. At the moment, Nigeria imports 70 per cent of medicines used in the nation. This collaboration holds the possibility of reducing it to about 20 per cent in the next few years. One of the implications of this is that the era of substandard drugs is coming to an end as local production will lead to quality enhancement. Again, when pharmaceutical companies start local manufacturing of drugs, the strength of the Naira will increase,” he said.
Listing other areas the Act will impact, he said the agency through its research activities is jump-starting Nigeria’s dairy industry and working on how to improve livestock genetics.
“This is aimed at ensuring our indigenous cattle increase their milk and beef production capacity. This would come with many advantages and address some of the issues hindering livestock development in the country. The economic impact of the dairy industry is enormous, ranging from employment opportunities to increasing the nation’s GDP.
“Also, the agency has helped to meet a critical need in Nigeria by identifying indigenous bacteria as starter culture for yoghurt and other dairy uses. In addition, a thermal resistant yeast was developed for bioethanol production, bakery and other food beverages.”
The NABDA boss added that the passage of the act will be a catalyst for the stimulation of rapid commercialisation of biotechnology research and development products. It will afford the agency a platform to collaborate with international research centres, NGOs, national and international biotechnology agencies and institutions, and ensure the sustainable mechanism for adequate funding of biotechnology activities through national and international funding agencies.
This, he said, would invariably trigger private sector participation in biotechnology applications, which will extend the frontiers of economic development, and thereby, abate Nigeria’s over-reliance on the petrodollar.
“For example, private sector participation is needed for the mass production, commercialisation, and supply to end-users of the bio-digesters invented by the agency. As you are aware, the biodigesters which were locally fabricated with locally sourced material would foster energy generation and efficiency,” he stated.
Abubakar maintained that the prompt assent and passage of the NABDA Establishment Act by President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly demonstrates the government’s commitment to transforming Nigeria from a consuming, import-dependent nation to a producing, export-oriented one.