By Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu
The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has given reasons why it allowed the importation of genetically modified maize into Nigeria in December 2017, by WACOT, after an earlier refusal to allow the product into the country.
In a press statement issued by Gloria Ogbaki, Head of Information and Communication, January 30, 2018, in reaction to an allegation by a group which accused NBMA of complicity in the transaction; the Agency denied the allegation, describing it as a continuation of past failed efforts of a group whose leadership had consistently pushed a personal agenda, ‘’hiding under the guise of GMO, to render the Agency a lame duck’’.
NBMA confirmed that WACOT imported GMO maize in December 2017, and explained that it was after the firm had applied and met all regulatory conditions necessary for approval as prescribed by NBMA, which the firm was unable to do at the time its goods were not allowed entry into Nigeria. ‘’The Agency issued some permits and due processes were followed in the course of reviewing the applications and ensuring that all the necessary requirements are met before the permits were granted’’, she stated.
NBMA reiterated that the establishment of the Agency is not to stop the use of GMOs but to ensure that it is safe for Nigerians and that it has no adverse effect on human health, plants, animals and the environment, adding that ‘’It will be wrong and indeed out of place to accuse the agency of complicity as the Agency is an unbiased umpire and has the interest of Nigerians at heart in the process of regulation and as such can’t be involved in anything that will cause harm to the people and the environment’’.
Given insight into previous efforts by Health of Mother Earth foundation (HOMEF), the group that made the allegation to discredit NBMA through ‘’series of inclusive and unpatriotic statements’’, the Agency recalled that HOMEF had also dragged the Agency to court for performing its legal duties, alongside other Federal Government Agencies and Ministries.
NBMA stated in the press statement that ‘’while the Agency does not want to banter words with HOMEF or any of its kind, it is important to state here that NBMA is a government agency established by law as a regulatory agency to ensure the safe handling and use of modern biotechnology and its products which includes Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)’’.
It further stated that ‘’the Agency has no intention and will never engage HOMEF verbally, but these statements made against the Agency are not only incisive but negate the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure safety in the application of the technologies that assure Nigerians of food security and food safety’’.
It explained that the Agency does not go outside the law in the course of the discharge of its duty and ensures that the public is carried along in all their activities ‘’through effective public participation, public awareness and access to information in the use and application of modern biotechnology and GMOs’’.
The agency reassured Nigerians that it is out to ensure that whatever GM foods or crops certified safe by the Agency are indeed safe for the people and the environment. ‘’We will continue to voraciously carry out our vision which is ‘’to ensure that the practice, processes and procedures of Modern biotechnology is undertaken within the limits of regulatory systems that guarantees its safe use, protects Nigeria’s biodiversity and provides minimum risk to human health, animals, plants and the environment’’ for the good of all Nigerians’’, it said.
EDEL-QUINN AGBAEGBU, is the Secretary of the National Biosafety Biotechnology Consortium