National Assembly Senate Committee on Environment organised a public hearing on a Bill for an Act to Amend the National Biosafety Management Agency Act, 2015 today at the National Assembly, Abuja.
Deliberating on the Act, a cross section of experts who participated in the public hearing urged the Senate to outrightly reject any attempt to amend the act saying the move is unprogressive and obstructive to the progress of Nigeria.
While declaring the Public Hearing open, the Senate President Sen Ahmed Lawan, Represented by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, welcomed the participants saying that the submission is an indication that all hands are on deck to proffer solution. He assured that the Senate will do the needful to ensure that the right thing is done.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Ibrahim Hadejia, said the purpose of the public hearing is to brainstorm with the experts to have quality impact on safety and way forward.
In his contribution, Prof. Abdulahil Mustapha, Director General, NABDA said the amendment is not necessary as it will limit the practice of science in Nigeria. “Nigeria has enacted deliberate policies that positioned science and technology as the engine to drive the economic, so turning around to set up unnecessary roadblocks will limit science from taking us to our destination.”
He urged the Senate to jettison the proposed amendment because it anti people and development.
In a submission, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, Executive Directive, IAR said that the NBMA act 2015 remained the best protection for the proactive modern biotechnology in Nigeria. “Amending the bill now will amount to reversing the gains made since the coming of the law in 2015”.
“The amendment seeks to tight the hands of the scientists and make the practice of science impossible in the country. The amendment will not add value to the practice of science in Nigeria” he said.
Also speaking, Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director General, NBMA said the amendment is planned to kill the desire of our scientists to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country but open the country up for dumping of unauthorized GMOs.
Prof. Celestine Aguoro of the University of Agriculture Makurdi said the amendment is targeted at driving indigenous Nigerian scientists away from the country as it will end up limiting their scope while frustrating their efforts.
Sharing more light, Prof Chiedozie Egesi, who represented IITA said that the proposal to amend the Biosafety Bill is retrogressive as it will further reverse the progress made in Biotechnology in Nigeria so far.
Dr Andrew Iloh, the representative of the DG/CEO SHESTCO further reiterated the need to terminate any further move towards amending the Biosafety Act 2015.
Lending his voice, the President of the All-Farmers Association of Nigeria, Arc Kabir Ibrahim emphasized that all the farmers in Nigeria are in support of Biotechnology and any attempt that is targeted at limiting the scope of Biotechnology operation in Nigeria should not be welcome. The AFAN President said that Nigerian farmers needs technology that will lift them out of poverty and that biotechnology is the only solution. The farmer also went further to share his experience with the farming of the biotech beans in Nigeria, PBR Cowpea. “I have been farming PBR Cowpea since its inception, and I can categorically tell you that the PBR Cowpea is giving me a wonderful experience, I get more than 3 times the yield of the local beans” Kabir concluded.
Also addressing members of the public and Senators present at the public hearing, former President of the Genetic Society of Nigeria (GSN) advised that the proposal to amend the Biosafety Bill 2015 should be thrown into the bin with immediate effect. He said that Nigeria as a Nation has moved pass this stage in science and any individual trying to drag the Nation backward should not be given any considerations.
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Project Manager, Mr Vitumbiko Chinoko also shared more light on why the amendment of the 2015 Biosafety Acts should not be given any consideration. Mr Vitumbiko emphasized that Nigeria who has already established herself as the leading Biosafety drivers in Africa would lose her position if her Biosafety act is amended to limit the scope of researchers in the country.