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News analysis: Advancing food security through GMOs




By Cecilia Ologunagba, Nigeria News Agency (NAN)

For any country to advance its economic growth, Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), analysts say, it must be at the forefront of its key sectors such as environment, health, industry and agriculture.

They are also of the opinion that, the concept of food production (agriculture) has evolved over the centuries with application of what can be referred to as contemporary technology of the time.

According to them, food crops are in fact, very different from original wild plants from where they  was derived the name Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) and become become inevitable part of food landscape.

Scientists say GMOs are biological entities that are genetically modified, using modern biotechnology techniques including living and dead biological entities while LMOs are primarily living GMOs.

To provide further understanding on GMOs and LMOs, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) recently organised a five-day workshop for stakeholders attended by no fewer than 20 countries in Africa.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, at the workshop, emphasised the importance of Genetic Engineering and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in achieving food security in the country.

Onu said that GMOs had important roles to play in the nation’s search for food security.

“It is important that we can feed our citizens and start the process of producing locally, many things that we import with GMOs.’’

According to him, GMOs have in recent years remained at the centre stage in national and intentional discourse.

“This is because we are facing new global challenges in agriculture, raw materials production and drugs for man and animals.

“In all these, modern biotechnology and genetic engineering holds the most potential in guaranteeing the success of human race.’’

Contributing, Prof. Alex Akpa, Director- General, NABDA, noted that for many years, Nigeria grappled with daunting challenges of matching food and agro-raw materials production and environmental integrity with population growth.

Akpa said in the recent years, with increased deployment of biotechnology as a tool of science, technology and innovation, such challenges have been transformed into national opportunities for national development.

The director-general further said that the agency had been supporting initiatives that enhanced credibility and public trust in biotechnology research and deployment.

“Our interventions are very strategic and have led to resounding successes in Bt Cotton commercialisation, approval for release of Bt Cowpea and even more recently, massive production of yam seedlings for the Nigerian yam value chain.

“Perhaps, more pertinent today is the enactment of the Bio-Safety Bill and establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), both of which received strong support from NABDA.

“The Bio-safety Bill has stimulated more activities in the deployment of biotechnology.

“These heightened interests have increased the need for NBMA regulation and approval of GM crops and related activities in Nigeria.

“Given these developments, NABDA considered it apt to embark on capacity building on detection and identification of LMOs in products of biotechnology modification,’’ Akpa said.

He said that it was heart-warming that Nigeria had adopted genetic engineering as viable technology for crop and animal improvement.

“In recent years, in collaboration with national and international partners, we have made significant investment in modern biotechnology to assist in deepening awareness of the technology and its impact on national growth and development.

According to him, the workshop was supported by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Italy and Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), Canada and the NBMA.

Mr Austein Mcloughlin, a representative of the Secretariat of the SCBD, Canada said the secretariat had been building capacity of developing countries as part of efforts aimed at implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movement of LMOs resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another.

It was adopted on Jan.29 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on Sept. 11, 2003.

Mcloughlin said he had beencvcvcc  capacity of the developing countries in relation to protection and identification of LMOs and other biosafety related discipline.

Dr Rufus Ebegba of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), however, assured Nigerians of safe application of modern biotechnology to boost the economy and enhance environmental sustainability.

Ebegba said Nigeria believed in the application of safety modern biotechnology for the enhancement of economy, industrial development, growing of medical field, agriculture and other spheres of human endeavours.

According to him, Nigeria has signed and domesticated the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety by providing legal and administrative instrument for its implementation.

At the closing of the workshop, the course coordinator, Dr Toyin Solebo, said LMOs and GMOs were technologies that had come to stay but stressed the need for Nigeria to be equipped on its identification and detection.

Solebo, Deputy Director, Agriculture Biotechnology Department, NABDA said the workshop was also an avenue to grow the African network of GM labs to get more activities within the network.

“Like the European Union, they have become so organised in the regulation and analytical issues with GM crops.

“We really need to develop this relationship among ourselves as African countries and this training has provided a good opportunity for that,’’ she said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Maimuna Abdulmalik, a participant from the Institute of Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said the workshop had helped to enhance her capacity in the area of LMOs/GMOs identification and detection.

“I have learnt that you can identify and detect GMOs/LMOs by PCR, which is Polymerase Chain Reaction, a technique used to detect the GMO at the DNA level.

“I can also detect the GMO and LMO at the protein level,’’ she said.

Abdulmalik said she would take what she had learnt to the classroom, to enlighten her students on ways of identifying and detecting GMOs in either food or crop plant, as well as utilise the knowledge to boost her research work.

Mr Mukwaba Erisa, a Biosafety Regulator from the Ministry Of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Uganda, said he would help build the capacity of regulators in his country through training, from what learnt.

“The practical knowledge has been a big opportunity first for all, I have learnt the data base and what to access internationally, I have learnt how to test for these LMOs.

He said the knowledge had been very practical, adding that it would help to change the regulators’ knowledge and all players in the system of biotechnology

For Mrs Julia Njagi, Principal Biosafety Officer, National Biosafety Authority, Kenya she learnt a lot from the event and from Nigeria, on how to apply biotechnology in food production.

“Nigeria is ahead of Kenya, Nigeria has approved the drought resistant cowpea and cotton but what have is Bt maize and Bt cotton in Kenya.

“What we are doing is performance trial and Nigeria has already gone ahead of us with likelihood of  commercialised them before Kenya,’’ she said.

In all, the participants expressed optimism that with knowledge gained and with harmonisation of various regulations and biosafety protocols, GMOs and LMOs will enhance food security in the country as well as the continent.  (NAN)


Edited By Dada Ahmed

Science & Technology

Committee urges FG to tackle challenges in NIGCOMSAT



House of Representatives Committee on ICT on Wednesday, called on the Federal Government to address the challenges in NIGCOMSAT in order to boost the digital economy in the country.

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Lado Suleja, made the call during the House of Representatives Committee on ICT members’ oversight and familiarisation visit to NIGCOMSAT in Abuja.

” I was amazed and disappointed, in the other hand , from what I have seen here and the kind of negligence, I felt disappointed due to some dilapidating structures.

” If this structures were properly put in place, we can generate trillions of naira and will not have to depend so much on oil.

“We have gone round and we have seen what is on ground and we will do the needful and see how we can put heads together to NIGCOMSAT come to reality,” he said.

Suleja said there was need to urgently address policy and funding of NIGCOMSAT as well as proper intervention.

Earlier, the Managing Director of NIGCOMSAT, Ms Abimbola Alale, said the company was established to manage critical ICT infrastructure; beginning with NIGCOMSAT 1 launched in 2007 and NIGCOMSAT-1R launched in 2011.

” We have been managing NIGCOMSAT 1R since December 2011, by next month, it would have been eight years in the orbit.

“The satellite, which is geostationary orbit, would have have passed the mid life span,” she said.

Alale lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for the new Ministry of Communication and Digital economy.

She said the company could contribute favourably to building the digital economy but needed intervention of the committee and support of Federal Government to revive and reposition for improved performance.

Nigeria News Agency reports that NIGCOMSAT Ltd, is a satellite communication service provider, wholly owned by the Federal Government  aimed at providing secured broadband, broadcast network and ancillary services in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.

The company, incorporated on April 4, 2006, currently manages and operates Nigeria’s communication satellite – NigComSat – 1R.

Edited by Dada Ahmed (NAN)

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commission urges scientific community to take Africa from poverty to prosperity



The African Union Scientific Technical Research Commission (AUSTRC) has urged the Scientific Community in Africa to take the continent from poverty to prosperity.

Dr. Ahmed Hamdy, Executive Director, AUSTRC said this while briefing participants on modalities at the African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC) meeting with the theme “Freeing Africa from Poverty, Hunger and Diseases“ on Wednesday in Abuja.

“We need you people to solve our problems in a creative way, in a way that if we sit in our offices to work for Africa for 10 years we will not be able to achieve.

“Because we are talking to the grassroots of the pyramid, which are the scientists, you are on the top of the pyramid by the way, that is the reality.

“We are politicians, we sit, we develop nice programmes, projects, agenda 2063 amongst the others, but if we do not have the backing of

the scientific community, you people, we will not go anywhere.

“So, I am calling upon this meeting to be open minded, create clusters of science, virtual labs, work together to solve our problems, to take us from poverty to prosperity.

“All nations that achieve prosperity, they use Science and Technology, and the soldiers of development are the scientists, like it or not this is your own responsibility“

Hamdy said the flagship projects which will be developed during the course of the meeting should be able to address problems that are more inclusive to bring services to the African Communities.

According to him, more participation of scientists in the continents database is crucial for success, and noted that out of 16,000 scientists in Africa, Nigeria takes the lead with the most number of scientists.

“We need projects that are market driven; we need more participation of scientist in our database today.

“We have about 16,000 scientists from all over the continent, the largest number are coming from Nigeria, and thanks to the Nigerian Academy of Science for the good work.

Secondly, we have from Ethiopia, and thanks Ethiopia for the good work; the Chairman of the Egyptian Academy, Egypt is the second largest producer of knowledge in the continent.

“Let me plead with you once more and say please publicise our work in your academy, call your scientists to work with us in the Africa Union method of sciences.

“I know Egypt is doing a lot, but we need more, South Africa too, so, I need to call on those countries where 60 per cent of our knowledge is coming from, the countries are Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya

and Tunisia“.

The Executive Director also noted that the African Union Science and Technology Innovation Fund (ASTIF) is functional, and appealed to

Prof. Raleno Mechieka to educate his country on need to champion science and technology.

He said as Africans, we are the problem and also the solution, and urged everyone to join hands to achieve the Africa we envisage.

Similarly, Prof. Raleno Mechieka, Chairman, African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), appealed to the scientific community to strive to get the specific project that can make an impact in the continent.

“Let us all complement and interact with each other in this meeting by coming up with strategies that can help in implementing the flagship projects of ASRIC,“ he said.

Nigeria News Agency reports that this is the second edition of the AUSTRC Meeting to be held in Abuja, the first edition was held in 2017.

Edited by Felix Ajide (NAN)

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NCC inaugurates Multi-Sectorial Committee on e-Fraud



The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has inaugurated multi-sectorial Committee on e-Fraud to drastically curb crime in the country.

Inaugurating the multi-sectorial committee on Wednesday in Abuja, the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the committee would develop a plan for the implementation of the MoU aimed at checking e-fraud among others.

Danbatta assured that the commission would work closely with critical stakeholders and other relevant agencies to implement technical and operational solutions in checking e-fraud.

He said that the Customer Service and Fraud Operations team in Banks and Mobile Network Operators needed stronger processes and tighter guidelines on how to detect potentially fraudulent activities.

The NCC boss also said that victims should be compensated when prevention mechanisms failed, emphasising that effective collaboration between government agencies and private organisations was pivotal in tackling electronic fraud.

Danbatta said, “With the attainment of 35.4 per cent broadband penetration, cyber criminals, hackers and other unscrupulous elements are exploiting platform vulnerabilities to gain illegal access to bank accounts.

“Illegal access through phishing and other social engineering ploys, such as fraudulent SIM swaps to bypass authentication systems, regardless of whether the transactions are conducted via mobile phone, desktop browser, or point of purchase.

“With this in mind, members of the committee have been carefully selected to provide broad perspectives and leverage their diverse experience to successfully deliver on this critical assignment.

“Understandably, our expectations are high and we look forward to a comprehensive and all-encompassing output from the committee.”

Earlier, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, said prior to the Stakeholders Forum, financial fraud, using telecom platforms, was pervasive crossing borders and boundaries as well as industry spectrum.

Onwuegbuchulam said the negative implications of such frauds were not only huge in financial losses but also high in “reputational damage to telecoms operators, financial institutions, regulators, security agencies and the nation.“

“The commission has also been inundated with complaints on the unceasing cases of financial fraud via the use of telecom platforms.

“As a result, NCC is poised at seeking initiatives aimed at creating greater awareness on the issues as well as creating ways of mitigating problems arising from their occurrence.

“The Stakeholders forum is indeed one of the initiatives put in place by the commission to harness ideas and solutions toward solving the menace,” she said.

NAN reports that the stakeholders comprise Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) among others.

The committee is made up of members from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, National Inter Bank Settlement System.

Others are:National Identity Management Commission, Telecom Service Providers (ALTON), Banks, Security agencies and Ministry of Justice.

The Nigeria News Agency recalls that the MoU, proposed January this year in Abuja, is one of the resolutions of the Stakeholders Forum of Financial Fraud using Telecoms Platforms.

Edited by Dada Ahmed (NAN)

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ASRIC congress: Council wants science and technology sector strengthened




Abuja, Nov. 20, 2018 Prof. Ratemo Mechieka, Chairman of African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), Abuja has urged participants at its four-day congress to develop frameworks to strengthen the science and technology sector in Africa.

Mechieka gave the advice on Wednesday in Abuja while briefing participants on modalities at ASRIC congress, entitled “ Freeing Africa from poverty, hunger and diseases.’’

He also urged NGOs, government establishments, academia, media stakeholders present at the occasion to interact and come up with ideas that could help achieve the theme of the congress.

“I call on everyone present here-academia, NGOs, private and government establishments and the media to exchange information and ideas that can address the challenges in the science and technology sector, especially in Africa.

“Let us all compliment and interact with each other in this congress, by coming up with frameworks and strategies that can help us in implementing the flagship projects of ASRIC,’’ he said.

He lamented the climate change pollution bedeviling African continent and called for participants contributions on how it could be addressed.

He said ways on funding from civil society, private and government donors are welcome to support the African Union Science and Technology Innovation Fund (ASTIF).


“Funding will help achieve the mandate of ASRIC to free the Africa from Poverty, hunger and diseases.’’

Also addressing the participants, Dr Ahmed Hamdy, Executive Director of African Union, Scientific Technical Research Commission (AU-STRC) said the congress was a free zone meeting for exchange for ideas.

He urged participants, mostly scientists in various fields of science, to come up with innovative ways in addressing science and technology challenges confronting Africa.

He expressed pleasure at the presence of government establishments at the congress, adding that the development would help in enacting and effecting policies that would advance the growth of science, technology and technology (STI).

Hamdy stressed the need for the congress to address challenges found at the grassroots where hunger, poverty and diseases were more prevalent.

“ The poor are more affected with effects of climate change, diseases and hunge, so the congress should come up with innovative ways of addressing the issues and make impact on them.

“ We need all the aspects of the scientific committees; from business scientists, environmental scientists, medical scientists, food scientists, energy scientist amongst other scientists in civil societies, private and government establishments.

“They should come together and enhance the development of STI sectors in Africa,’’ he said.

He noted that there was a need for commercialisation of STI by-products in Africa as it would help in addressing poverty through job creation.

He said the role and participation of African capitalists could not be overemphasised, adding that they were needed to champion and fund the growth of STI in Africa.

“ ASTIF is functional and science and technology cannot grow without us calling on industrialists, capitalists, financial institutions, government institutions, business communities for funding.

We need them to achieve the Africa we dream of,’’ he said.

NAN reports that not less than 150 scientists across African countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Tunisia and Nigeria are attending the congress.

Over 40 papers, addressing various aspects of science such as environment, food, soil, public health, space, business and water will be presented by academics.


Edited by Dada Ahmed/Dada Ahmed (NAN)

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DSN unveils AI book, plans to raise 1m experts



Data Science Nigeria (DSN), an NGO, on Wednesday unveiled the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) book for primary and secondary schools as part of its plan to raise one million AI experts.

The unveiling which was done at a Summit in Lagos was to promote knowledge in AI and related fields for socio-economic development of Nigeria.

In computer science, Artificial Intelligence, sometime called Machine Intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans.

The Convener, DSN, Dr Olubayo Adekanmbi. said that as a nation of 200 million people, with median age at 18 years, it was important to prepare the young people for the future by exposing them to the right skills.

Adekambi said that especially when it was known that most of the jobs today would go into extinction in the next five to 10 years.

According to him, the question was what becomes of the country with so much young people who were lacking in the right skills for the ‘future jobs?

”That informed the whole idea of Data Science Nigeria Artificial Intelligence Skill Building. It has become a mandate.

”We have taken up the responsibility to say that children in this country have access to the same knowledge that students in San Francisco, Paris and London have by creating a book that will be distributed free.

”We are not going through the traditional model ‘I buy for my child’ rather ‘you buy for a community or the whole school’.

“The approach is: “make knowledge in a simplified manner,’’ he said.

Adekanmbi said that it was also to build a system that would pass on knowledge and that informed working with various state governments to run a lot of ‘train-the-trainer’ programmes to equip the teachers.

He said that DSN was going to train the teachers in batches on AI as well as giving them a few copies of the book so as to pass on to the children till every part of the country is reached.

The convener said that government could be a part of the process to raise one million inspired young people to change the country’s narrative and make Nigeria the AI destination in future.

He called for integrating AI as part of the national curriculum which would generate more attention by the students toward learning the discipline.

He, however, urged government to support the effective production of the book which was being given out free so that every Nigerian child would be exposed to the possibilities of AI.

”Let them build the right skills and let’s get our nation ready for the opportunities that AI presents; shaping opportunity creation, innovation, invention research, and transformational possibilities,’’ Adekanmbi said.

Also at the Summit, in a keynote presentation titled, ‘Artificial Intelligence for Development’, Prof. Thomas Dietterich, described AI as a catalyst for economic advancement.

Dietterich, Director of Intelligent Systems Research, Oregon State University, said that AI presented opportunities for economic transformation in unique ways.

According to him, although, the developing economies still lack in some areas with regards to AI adoption and applications.

“However, organisations such as DSN had shown clear roadmap capable of putting the country on the right footings and build the national competitiveness, given the right skills, ’’ Dietterich said.

He noted that developing AI enabled weather management solutions that would assist the continent address some challenges faced by farmers, thereby leading to improved food production and sufficiency.

The don said that with the growing community of AI enthusiasts and learners, Nigeria and indeed Africa would witness a major boost in skills needed for research and development.

He said the skills would focus on bringing applied Artificial Intelligence solutions to existing community problems.

While applauding the First AI book for Primary and Junior Secondary School students in Nigeria, Dietterich urged experts and stakeholders to rave-up DSN’s mission of delivering positive impact to the society using Artificial Intelligence.

NAN reports that the highlights of the event were the unveiling of the book as well as the impromptu debate on Artificial Intelligence by students.

The debate was won by Julliard Academy, 422 points; second position was Chrisland School, 412 points; and the third was Atlantic Hall, 399 points.

Edited by Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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British High Commission seeks partnership with NCC on digital access



The British High Commission (BHC) says it is seeks partnership with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to deepen conversations in execution of Global Digital Access Programme initiated by Her Majesty’s Government.

Mr Guy Harrison, Head of Prosperity, BHC, made this known during a courtesy visit at the NCC’s Head Office in Abuja on Monday.

Harrison, accompanied by Mr Idongesit Udoh, Digital Access Programme Adviser and Mrs Grace Olomiwe, the Digital, Press and Public Affairs Officer at BHC, informed NCC about components of the Programme.

According to him, the central interest is digital access.

“Peripherally, the programme will also involve security support as well as support to the business ecosystem.

“The implementation of the programme will be expressed in form of technical assistance on policy that focuses on expanding digital access, to enhance job creation and economic development in Nigeria,” he said.

Responding, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta expressed appreciation to BHC for the initiative.

Danbatta noted that NCC efforts were aimed ensuring connectivity across Nigeria, especially to link identified access gaps with existing connectivity networks.

He said that the assistance came at an auspicious time and promised that the commission would review the proposition and liaise with the appropriate departments of the Nigerian government to institute processes.

Danbatta explained that the processes connected with partnership would help to ensure proper and speedy take-off of the programme.

“The NCC will review the proposition and liaise with appropriate departments of the Nigerian government to institute processes, which will ensure proper and speedy take-off of the programme,’’ he said.

Edited by Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Dada Ahmed

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