The Director General/Chief Executive Officer (DG/CEO) of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof Abdullahi Mustapha, alongside other stakeholders, vehemently knocked the proposed amendment of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act 2015, at the public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Environment.
Prof. Mustapha, who led the pack in the protest mounted against the planned amendment, boldly told the Senate Committee that it was needless and not in the best interest of the country.
According to the Professor of Chemistry, who has since become a determined champion for the advancement of the cause of biotechnology in Nigeria, any attempt to allow the passage of the said amendment, the progress and achievements that have so far been made in the application of modern biotechnology would amount to nothing.
In his submission at the public hearing, the NABDA DG/CEO strongly argued that the proposed change to NBMA Act by the Senate will inhibit the practice of science in the country, emphasizing that Nigeria has a well-entrenched biosafety law to regulate the safe application of modern biotechnology.
The NABDA Chief said: “If at all there is a need for any amendment, it is the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) that will look for it. If this amendment is made, then it is going to draw back all the developments that have been achieved in this country. It will bring down all activities being done in the biotechnology space. This is science. If you look at it, it is driving the world faster.
“If we amend this bill (Act) then all the successes we have recorded in the sector will now go down and that is the negative effect of this amendment and we are not in support of this amendment. We categorically, clearly, say No! I am representing the interest of the country and the country has developed biotechnology to foster the development of the nation.”
He further stated: “There is no reason, there is no justification for the proposed legislation as NABDA has made significant achievements on Agriculture and Vaccines production towards checkmating consumption of toxic chemicals from modified foods and addressing the problem of insecurity.
“It is on this achievement that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill now Act, making NABDA embark on a wide range of research work and accessing international grants for its scientifically and technologically driven biotechnology development.”
The NBMA Act Amendment Bill was sponsored by former Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, representing Kebbi North Senatorial District. The bill, according to reports, sought for strict regulation on foods that are genetically modified.
But Prof. Mustapha and the other key players believe that the NBMA Act 2015, which was amended in 2019 to expand the scope of operations and increase the regulatory powers of the Biosafety Agency, need no further amendment just about four years after. The stakeholders maintained that the relevant agencies have been carrying out the regulation that the amendment is seeking for in the prevention of the consumption of toxic chemicals by Nigerians.