The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba has expressed hope that the agency will become stronger in Africa in the next five years.
He made this assertion during a two-day stakeholders’ meeting to review the draft national guidelines on genetically modified fish, trees, animals and mosquitoes which was held from October 11 to 12, 2022, in Abuja.
Ebegba stated that the essence of subjecting the documents to stakeholders’ review was to ensure that the documents are strong enough to aid in the regulation of new and emerging technologies and to ensure that Nigeria and the NBMA are prepared when the need to check for the safety of these new technologies arises.
“NBMA is the competent national authority for biosafety matters in Nigeria, putting in place necessary measures to ensure biosecurity and provide a regulatory framework to adequately safeguard human health and environment from its potential adverse effect.”
“The stakeholders’ review of GM fish, trees and mosquitoes is to ensure [the emergence of] a holistic document that is easy to understand and comprehend by the public, stakeholders and those wishing to carry out these activities in Nigeria.
“We want to always be on top of our game on any issue concerning biosafety in Nigeria and these guidelines will aid in driving the process of biosafety issues in Nigeria.
“We constantly train our staff to be competent enough to drive the affairs of the Nigerian biosafety system. Striving to continually be on top in the biosafety space, we give room for growth by training and retraining the NBMA staff, as they are eager to learn from stakeholders and other experts in the field. Learning is a dynamic process, so [is] biosafety,” Ebegba said.
He reiterated the agency’s readiness to ensure the safety of food and the environment in the country.
In a remark, the representative of AUDA-NEPAD, Samuel Timpo commended NBMA for its activities which are aligned with the African Union.
He commended NBMA for its diversity and teamwork, having deemed it fit to collaborate with stakeholders to carry out a guidelines review. He said it shows transparency in all its decisions on issues of biosafety.
“NBMA has nothing to hide because most of its decisions are posted publicly on its website,” Timpo said.
He said that NBMA is known for integrity and impartiality, especially in how its biosafety issues are reviewed.
“They allow African countries to ask questions on the review of guidelines. This shows that they are fair to all,” Timpo said.
He said that the agency is accountable and efficient while commending it for professionalism in handling the issues of biosafety in Africa.
In her remarks and while outlining the meeting objectives, expected outcomes and the overview of the draft national guidelines on GM fish, the head, planning and research, NBMA, Bello Scholastica said that the review of the agency’s guidelines was to prevent any adverse effect on human health, animals, plants and the environment.
Bello assured that the meeting would correct errors and capture omissions to enable robust, complete and accurate guidelines.
She said that the meeting would come out with non-contradictory, practicable, and easy-to-understand guidelines to be applied by players.
A statement by NBMA’s head, media and protocol unit, Gloria Ogbaki said the two-day meeting saw various stakeholders from line ministries, sister agencies and departments go through the documents actively and critically to ensure very clean guidelines for the proper regulation of GM trees, animals, fish and mosquitoes.