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 Biosafety agency has delivered on mandate – Minister



Mr Suleiman Zarma, the Minister of Environment says the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has delivered on its target in ensuring safe deployment of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Nigeria.

Zarma made this known in statement issued by Mrs Gloria Ogbaki, the NBMA’s Head of Press Unit on Wednesday at an Experts Validation of the Preliminary Draft Regulations on Biosafety in West Africa at ECOWAS in Abuja.

“NBMA has delivered on its targets in line with its mandate of ensuring that modern biotechnology practices and its products are well used and safely deployed in Nigeria.

“Foremost amongst these delivered targets are laying of an effective administrative and institutional background for modern biotechnology regulation in Nigeria.

“It has also ensured enhanced capacity building of staff and relevant stakeholders, communication and sensitisation of Nigerians and stakeholders on modern biotechnology regulatory activities.

“It has equally seen the establishment of various national and international partnerships for effective regulation and a top class regional GM Detection and Analysis Laboratory.

‘’Others are accreditation of institutes to practice modern biotechnology, granting of biosafety permits and proper positioning and mainstreaming of biosafety into the National Administrative Structures.

‘’The development of operational instruments for effective implementation of biosafety and the ease of doing business within related sectors among others, have also been some of their achievements,’’ the minister said.

According to Zarma, safe modern biotechnology has proven to be the solution which will ensure that our people, farmers, entrepreneurs, and the economy succeed within the region’.

He expressed joy that Nigeria was the first country in the world to develop a genetically modified cow pea which had been granted approval for commercial release.

“I think we as a sub-region has every right to feel proud of these achievements which have enabled us prove to the world that Africa has all it takes to ensure safety in the deployment of modern biotechnology.

“I will therefore state that Nigeria’s commitment to not just the regional biosafety system but that of Africa knows no bounds,’’ he said.

He recognised the need for a regional biosafety system and appreciated the meeting which was aimed at ensuring that cross border trade on living modified organisms and their products within the sub-region were harmonised, improved and safe to human health and the environment.

Dr Rufus Ebegba, the Director-General of NBMA, who chaired the technical session said that West Africa was setting the pace on matters of biosafety as this regulation document was a new initiative that other African countries would in time copy.

“Africa has the capacity but needs to strengthen this capacity to meet emerging trends in this sector.”

The D-G said that with expertise of delegates at the meeting, they could come up with a document that would be internationally acceptable.

He urged the participants to work hard and come up with a regulation that could be endorsed by the ministers.

Mrs Zurafa Lumpo, the representative of West Africa Monetary Union said the regulation, when implemented, would mean a crucial step to ensuring that Africa became more viable to the economic benefits of modern biotechnology.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources of ECOWAS Commission, Sekou Sangare and Director-General, Sahel Institute, Dr Mohammed Abdullahi, were among the 45 dignitaries participating in the four-day review meeting.


COVID-19: Biosafety D-G urges Nigerians to abide by stay at home directive



Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director-General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), has advised Nigerians to abide by the stay at home order by the Federal Government to prevent the spread of  Coronavirus.

Ebegba gave this advice in statement made available to News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday.

He expressed dismay over the flagrant abuse of the stay at home directives of the Federal Government as part of efforts to curb and eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

Ebegba said the pandemic was now spreading into communities and it was becoming alarming as community spread of the disease would be difficult to trace and manage due to the nature of some communities in the country.

“This Virus has started transmitting into communities and this is going to be bad for us as a nation, if it is not properly managed and it can only be managed with the cooperation of the citizens.

” The community spread of this virus is dangerous as contact tracing will be difficult and some people with the disease do not show any immediate symptoms.

“This will in turn cause further spreading of the virus, spelling doom for the country.

He said the cooperation of every individual was needed in other to eliminate this harmful Biological Agent.

“The President has given directives and it is the duty of every Nigerian to do his/her part by following the directive of staying at home, maintaining physical distancing and abiding by other hygienic practices.

“When everyone is at home and physical distance is maintained, the virus will stop spreading and cases will drastically reduce.

COVID-19 is in battle with humanity but our collective will, commitment and faithfulness to directives will go a long way for us to over come this invisible scourge that has threatened our existence,” he said.

The director-general appealed to Nigerians to endure and be patient with the government, which he said was doing everything possible to ensure that citizens are safe and their welfare taken care of.

” Nigerians should ensure they keep abiding by the safety precautionary measures in other not to contact the novel virus as there is no cure and the only way to stop the spread is for everyone to fight in unity”.

Ebegba said the NBMA was in synergy with relevant agencies in ensuring that efforts are being made to combat the pandemic as all hands are on deck to ensure that COVID-19 is contained and eliminated in Nigeria.

Edited By: Deji Abdulwahab/Felix Ajide (NAN)



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Coronavirus – Nigeria: The Lagos State Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory activated for COVID-19 testing




 The Lagos State Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory has been has been activated for #COVID19 testing. This brings the number of COVID-19 testing labs in Nigeria to 9 In progress- Maiduguri, Kano, Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Jos & Kaduna.

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COVID-19: Biosafety boss urges citizens to abide by stay at home directive



Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director-General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), has urged Nigerians to abide by the stay at home directive by the Federal Government in other to control the spread of COVID-19.

Egbeba in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the COVID-19 pandemic had spread to many countries of the world including Nigeria.

He added that the Federal Government was doing all in its power to ensure Nigerians were safe from the adverse impact of the virus.

“The Federal Government has the interest of its citizens at heart, that is why every citizen should do his/her part by complying to the stay at home directives by the government.”

“As a nation we can defeat this pandemic but it behooves on us to do everything possible to ensure that we fight together to win the battle; we seek the corporation of Nigerians in this fight.

Egbeba said simple practices of staying safe, social distancing, ensuring proper hygiene through constant hand washing, using hand sanitisers and keeping the basic directives by the authorities would go a long way to curb the pandemic.

“The Federal Government is making very swift moves to ensure that the Coronavirus is properly contained, hence citizens should complement the governments efforts by obeying directives.

“I urge that anyone who has recently returned from countries with high cases of COVID-19 or has been in contact with anyone who has shown symptoms of the disease should present him or herself for tests and proper screening.

“The government has expanded the isolation centres to ensure that the spread is minimised as much as possible until the pandemic is contained and eliminated.”

The D-G said self-isolation was key to stop the spread of the disease and urged those with confirmed cases to make themselves available in the designated centres for quarantine and proper recovery process.

He said the NBMA was in constant talks with line ministries, departments and agencies to chart the best way to eliminate this Biological Agent from the country.

“As an agency we are working with line MDAs to come up with a harmonised national Biosecurity policy guideline and emergency response strategy.

“This strategy when in place will help to save humans and the environment from harmful biological agents.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has called for the urgent need for this strategy and the need to urgently ensure that biological agents are controlled.”

The D-G urged Nigerians not to panic but rather ensure to follow laid down procedures adding that people should stop the spread of fake and unverified news as it would further send panic to others.

Ebegba assured Nigerians that in spite of the challenges caused by the pandemic globally and in Nigeria, government would continue to ensure that citizens were not adversely affected.

Edited By: Donald Ugwu

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Stakeholders call for multi-sectorial approach to biosafety regulation



Some stakeholders have called for a multi-sectoral approach to the regulation of biosafety in the country.

The call was part of resolutions reached after the stakeholders conference on Biosafety/Biodiversity organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation, headed by the Nnimmo Bassey.

The stakeholders at the meeting include the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, the National Agency for

Food and Drug Administration and Control, Federal Competition (NAFDAC),

Consumer Protection Commission and Standard Organisation of Nigeria.

The communiqué called for collaboration in the regulation of biosafety in Nigeria.

“Stakeholders should promote networks of organic agriculture producers as part of the GMO-free, Nigeria Alliance to promote market for organic products and tackle climate change.

“Seed banks should be developed for the preservation of indigenous seed varieties.

“Lessons should be learned from the COVID-19 experience and embark on a radical rethink of

tinkering with genetic materials of living organisms as this can compromise our food system and health and can easily be weaponised.”

The statement said more research should be done and supported on GMOs and biosafety, adding that there should critical studies and analyses on the health hazards of GMOs.

“Messages on GMOs should be disseminated in forms that are understandable to different

stakeholders including by use of pidgin or local languages for a greater reach to the grassroots.

“Efforts should be made by all stakeholders/citizens to bring about radical changes on biosafety management in Nigeria.”

The stakeholders said there should be better support for smallholder farmers in terms of infrastructural development in

rural and sub-urban areas including the construction and maintenance of feeder roads, storage and processing facilities and essential social amenities.

They added that national food production, storage and processing standards should be established and enforced to

address the issues of post-harvest losses.

“There should be free access to land by women/communities and provision of irrigation and extension services.

“Government should incentivize and encourage agro-ecological food production and use of organic inputs to address the issues of pest and diseases, increase production of nutritious and healthy foods, among others.’’

They also called for the amendment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act and that the National Biotechnology Development Agency be taken off the board of the NBMA.

They suggested that strict liability clauses should be introduced and other identified loopholes rectified.

The resolutions were signed by various stakeholders at the conference including farmers, students, CSOs, medical practitioners, lawyers, journalists, legislative researchers and some public officers.

Edited By: Grace Yussuf


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COVID-19: Biosafety agency calls for national biosecurity policy, emergency response strategy



The National Biosafety Management Agency of Nigeria (NBMA) has called for a harmonised national biosecurity policy guideline and emergency response strategy to prevent harmful biological agents in the environment.

Dr Rufus Ebegba, the Director-General, made the call in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Abuja on Tuesday against the backdrop of  the global pandemic COVID-19.

Ebegba said the need to develop a biosecurity policy and emergency response strategy for Nigeria was timely as COVID-19 pandemic had brought to the fore the need to control biological agents.

According to him, those agents may be harmful to human health and the environment.

“You see everything has its own time and globally the issue of biosecurity has not been brought into international discuss in an elaborate way.

“But what has happened is going to give the globe a different perspective on the issue of biosecurity. So Nigeria coming in with a policy and strategy is very timely.

“We want a centralised system knowing full well that the agency has been given the mandate to put in place biosecurity measures.

“We want to work with existing structures to see how we can have a national position to have a national biosecurity policy and to have a national biosecurity emergency response strategy,” he said.

According to him, what happened is as a result of harmful biological agents that are hazardous to human health, so the strategies needed are to tackle emergencies.

The D-G said that the guidelines and regulations to be developed would ensure those who maliciously release harmful biological agents into the environment were punished.

He, however, said the agency had prescribed penalties for violations on issues of biosafety.

Ebegba said that the Federal Government needed to ensure that proper funding of the process was adequately concluded that the health of Nigerians and the environment would be protected.

He assured Nigerians that though the pandemic had caused a lot of changes in the global economy, the government of Nigeria was adequately prepared to properly contain it through preventive measures.

Ebegba said the Federal Government had set up a coalition of government agencies, which the NBMA was a part of, to ensure the proper management of COVID-19.

He said the agency had joined voices with other government agencies to ensure the public was properly enlightened on how to prevent COVID-19.

“We have come out with press statements, and to ensure we are protected against it, we have developed some flyers which we have put on our website.’’

The biosafety boss urged Nigerians not to panic assuring that government had put in place all necessary measures to ensure the pandemic was properly contained in the country.

“We also seek the cooperation from Nigerians and we want to strongly advise that everyone should avoid those countries where the prevalence are more pronounced for now.

“Also anyone that comes from such countries should make themselves available for proper screening.

“If the person needs to be quarantined, the government has designated quarantine centers to ensure the spread in minimised as much as possible.”

Edited By: Josephine Obute/Grace Yussuf

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National Biosafety receives guidelines draft on gene editing



The committee for the drafting of the National guidelines for the regulation of gene editing  has presented the  draft document to the Director- General,  National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba .

Head Press Unit, NBMA, Gloria Ogbaki in a statement in Abuja said that the document was presented to the D-G by the leader of the committee Chinyere Nzeduru.

Nigeria News Agency reports that gene editing also called genome editing is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.

These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome

Ogbaki quoted the D-G as saying gene editing guideline is aimed at ensuring good understanding of the concept, techniques, global approaches and regulatory mechanism of gene editing.

“The guideline also provides guidance and detailed information on general regulatory provisions for application of gene edited products, packaging, identification and transport, import and export.

“The guideline states that applicant for permit for import of Food, Feed and Processing (FFP) shall comply with the National guidelines for importation of GMOs for FFP (2020).

“Some additional information contained in the guideline includes contingency plans, monitoring and reviewing of steps in risk analysis, among others. This is to ensure that the right procedures are taken.

“The document also contains risk communication strategy in order to promote a clear understanding of all aspects of risks and provide information about risk.

“This is to enable people make informed decisions and choices to minimise conflicts, improve understanding of perceptions and positions and to achieve reasonable outcomes,” he said

The draft guideline, he said, contained socio-economic considerations which focused on those with impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

He said the document had modalities for approval or rejection of permit for commercial release, confined field trial, importation and exportation among others.

Ebegba commending the committee for their in-depth research, passion and dedication put into the development of the document.

The D-G noted that the document would still undergo a stakeholders’ review.

Ebegba said that the essence was to ensure a robust and well-articulated National guideline that will be for the overall benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

He said the guideline was imperative as the amendment of the NBMA act 2015 to include these new technologies has empowered the NBMA to identify and develop functional strategies to facilitate its implementation.

“This technical document provides pertinent information and guide to applicants, stakeholders and the general public on the NBMA’s statutory oversight on gene editing activities.

“It explains the processes and procedures of the NBMA in dealing with application for gene editing and highlights the requirement of an applicant,” he said.

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola

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Biosafety agency cautions citizens on Lassa fever, coronavirus , assures on containment



Dr Rufus Ebegba, the Director- General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has enjoined the general public to be alert over the outbreak of Lassa fever virus in some states of the country.

Ebegba gave the advice in a statement signed by Gloria Ogbaki, Head, Press Unit of the NBMA in Abuja on Tuesday.

The D- G said that the agency was working with line ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that every harmful biological agent was contained and eliminated.

“The agency is working assiduously with sister agencies to ensure the spread of Lassa fever and any other disease caused by biological agents are contained and not allowed to cause any more harm to humans and the environment,” he said.

Ebegba, however, advised the general public to be vigilant and take necessary protective measures such as avoiding contact with rats, blocking all rat hideouts and ensuring food- stuff were stored in rodent proof containers.

He also advised that food should be cooked thoroughly and ensure hands were washed thoroughly after contact with a sick person.

He said that some symptoms of Lassa fever included fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and severe cases of bleeding from the mouth and other body openings.

He also urged Nigerians not to panic as the government was doing all within its power to ensure the deadly Coronavirus was not allowed in the country.

“This virus is a type of corona virus; it can affect the lungs and symptoms include common colds and flu and can spread person to person by coughing and sneezing.

“Its symptoms also include difficulty in breathing, fever and coughing and can lead to organ failure, pneumonia and death.

“The best way to combat it is to avoid close contact with people who might be sick or carrying it.

“The Federal Government is making very swift moves to ensure that the Lassa fever virus is properly contained and the coronavirus not allowed into the country.’’

Ebegba advised citizens to avoid countries already confirmed to have cases of coronavirus.

He said with the creation of the new biosecurity department, the NBMA would collaborate with line agencies and stakeholders to ensure that harmful biological agents were contained and eliminated.

The D-G said the just concluded consultative meeting with stakeholders had given the agency a good lead way in ensuring “very robust biosecurity emergency response strategy and policy.’’

“We are happy with the level of willingness by sister agencies to collaborate with the NBMA in ensuring that harmful biological agents are adequately contained to avoid harm to humans and the environment.

“We are working on and will come out with a comprehensive National Biosecurity Emergency Response Strategy and Policy that will check biological agents and ensure that they are adequately contained,” he said.

Ebegba assured Nigerians that the agency would not rest on its oars in the bid to ensure that humans and the environment were safe.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Grace Yussuf

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National biosafety management agency receives world customs award



The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), has received award from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS)  for its role in ensuring that unapproved Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not allowed into the country.

A statement by Mrs Gloria Ogbaki, the Head, Press Unit of NBMA, said the agency was also awarded for the strategic partnership between it and the Nigerian Customs Service.

Col. Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, while giving the award, commended the agency for its dedication to ensuring safety of humans and the environment.

Ali said that the certificate of merit was given to the agency by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) on the occasion of the International Customs Day for rendering exceptional service to the international customs community.

He said that the award was based on the theme for the World Customs Day 2020 tagged: “Customs, Fostering Sustainable Future for People, Prosperity and Planet”.

The C-G said that the NBMA had shown  commitment and distinguished itself in the area relating to the theme, hence the honour with the prestigious WCO merit award.

Dr Rufus Ebegba, the Director -General, NBMA, who received the award on behalf of the agency, thanked the NCS  for the honour .

Ebegba pledged that the NBMA would continue to partner with  customs in ensuring that only safe and approved GMOs were deployed for the benefit of Nigerians and the environment.

“The NBMA is an agency of the Federal Government and the Nigerian customs service has been a wonderful partner as the joint partnership resulted in the repatriation of 9,000 metric tonnes of unapproved GM maize that was imported into the country in 2017.”

“We will continue to partner with the NCS to build a safe environment for Nigerians by ensuring that unapproved GMOs are not allowed to enter the Nigerian market through our borders,” he said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Grace Yussuf


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Infectious diseases: Lagos biosafety laboratory begins operation



In a bid to tackle future disease outbreaks in the country, the Lagos State biosafety laboratory has began operations, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has said.

Abayomi in a statement issued on Monday, said the facility has the capacity to process, identify and store samples of infectious diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Coronavirus among others.

Abayomi said that the laboratory was built by the state government with support from the Canadian government to ensure effective management of infectious diseases for improvement of public health.

“With this facility, which is the highest and most functional biosafety, biobanking laboratory in West Africa, Lagos is prepared to tackle and contain any possible outbreak of emerging infectious diseases, novel and highly infectious pathogens.”

The Commissioner noted that prior to the commencement of operation of the biobank, series of trainings were organised for the team of experts that would manage the facility.

Abayomi said that the trainings which started about two years ago, was part of the one-health and biosecurity strategy to build the biobank staff capacity in readiness for possible disease outbreak.

“As part of these series of capacity building, officials from the Public Health England recently trained staff of the Biobank on how to identify novel and highly infectious pathogens.

“This training is in line with building a resilient health system that can withstand the shocks of any possible disease outbreak and in readiness for the formal opening of the facility scheduled for February.’’

Abayomi further said that the Biobank was part of the new biosecurity unit located at the Mainland Hospital which serves as the state’s infectious disease hospital.

He added that a section of the hospital would be renovated and expanded in accordance with the improved prototype design for health facilities to increase capacity for quality and efficient healthcare.

In view of the raging novel CoronaVirus in South East Asia and Lassa fever outbreak in some parts of the country, Abayomi said the state is working closely with National Centre for Disease Control and Ports Health to strengthen surveillance in the state.

The Commissioner urged citizens to adopt and practice high standard of personal and environmental hygiene, including regular hand washing, covering of mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

He advised people to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.

He also advised Nigerians to keep practicing good biosecurity precautions with domestic and wild animals, as measures against the transmission of contagious infection and pathogens.

Abayomi stressed that most of the emerging dangerous pathogens were zoonotic infections which comes from the food chain and environment to infect human.

Edited By: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Sadiya Hamza

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