The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has said the agency will ensure that biosafety is applied in a way that the technology does not militate against conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
He made this assertion during a meeting with the executive director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr. Canisius Kanangire, in Abuja, saying the agency will also ensure the equitable use of biologically-derived resources.
According to him, this equity is ensured through justice and economic benefit to the people.
“The principle behind our regulatory system is to build a strong regulatory system that is not biased and based on strong science. It is on that premise that we carry out our bio-safety regulatory functions.
“For us to regulate we ensure that we have strong knowledge background and courage to take decisions in a controversial technology – to an extent – right from the onset.
“It should be noted that our regulatory system is hinged on the convention of biological diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which Nigeria signed and subsequently ratified. Biosafety is meant to ensure that measures and approaches are put in place for the safe application of modern Biotechnology and the safe use of the products which are genetically modified organisms,” he said.
Ebegba added that safe use of the technology can be used to diversify the economy, strengthen the economic base of our farmers, ensure higher yield and ensure food security in the country.
“We ensure that every institution that is engaged in genetic engineering in Nigeria is accredited and that there are laid down guidelines to develop products. We also ensure that the containment facilities, which are biological laboratories and greenhouses also meet our safety standards. Institutions that own those facilities must have basic knowledge of Biosafety. We believe that the safe application of this technology will enhance our green economy/bio-economy to ensure that our environment is safe and climate change is mitigated. We have not relented in the bid to ensure that our regulatory system is strengthened, hence the amendment of the Act in 2019,” he stated.
The NBMA boss harped on the need for capacity strengthening while commending AATF for its efforts in the capacity strengthening efforts of the agency, noting that more needs to be done in terms of awareness creation and capacity strengthening.
“I hope you will champion the course to ensure that Nigeria is key to your policy direction,” he added.
In his response, Kanangire said the essence of the visit to Nigeria was to introduce himself since the resumption of office in July and to seek ways to deepen collaboration and partnership between the NBMA and AATF.
“For me, this is the only way to get to meet my partners because the partnership is very important in this business. We can’t work alone, the issues we are trying to address are so important and so big for one institution to understand, hence we need everyone including the policymakers to come and contribute their bit.
“We are willing to increase the pace as those who are expecting condition to improve in their lives are many hence the need to keep going. We need stronger cooperation and partnership,” he said.
Kanangire thanked Ebegba for the partnership so far noting that Nigeria has made history in biotech innovation by cowpea and Tela maize commercialisation.
“The work is still enormous but with what is on the ground we will give Africa more wings to keep flying,” he added.
The AATF executive director assured that they will continue to partner NBMA in ensuring that her mandate is achieved noting that they are willing to work with the two years plan and projection of the agency.