Agency urges stakeholders’ collaboration on National Biosecurity Policy

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The Director- General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba, has called on relevant stakeholders to ensure a National Biosecurity Policy that will help safeguard humans and the environment.

Making the call during the National Biosafety Management Consultative Meeting on Biosecurity in Abuja on Friday, Ebegba said that there was need to come up with a National Biosecurity Emergency Response Strategy on the National Biosecurity Regulations/Guidelines.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the NBMA Amendment Act in August 2019, which expanded the scope of the agency to include emerging aspects of modern biotechnology and biosecurity.

Ebegba said the agency was ready to realise its new mandate on Biosecurity, which, according to him, would not be achieved without the collaboration of other stakeholders.

“Biosecurity has also been added to the mandate of the agency to put in place biosecurity measures to ensure that biological agents are not realised into the environment.

“So, the essence of this gathering is to bring all relevant stakeholders because the agency realised that they are other stakeholders doing pockets of issues on biosecurity

“So there is a need for us to align with their various agencies and what they have on ground to arrive at a national position and mechanism to ensure we have a National Biosecurity Policy and to develop a National Biosecurity Emergency Response Strategy.

“We know most of the biosecurity aspects that are being handled by other agencies really border on human health but we are going beyond that to look holistically on the environment, biodiversity, other living organisms.

“What will be the impact of biological agents that are harmful to other aspects of our lives,” Ebegba said.

He said that the agency was also going to look into how strategies to counter bioterrorism could be developed, adding that the world had gone beyond “Guns and Bombs’ to the use of bioterrorism.

Ebegba assured the stakeholders present that the agency would not be in conflict with other agencies nor steal their mandate but would work with existing mandates before coming up with an Act on Biosecurity.

He stressed the need for punitive measures against the malicious use of biological agents, saying the agency had one in place.

Stakeholders present at the meeting each gave its agencies current roles and existing biosecurity instruments as they all agreed that it will be better to come up with one national document.

Mr Maishanu Sani from Interpol Nigeria, said there was a need for a National Biosecurity Policy because of the current international threat on bioterrorism, adding that one agency of government could not do it alone.

“Before now, we usually share intelligence to other agencies of government regarding bioterrorism and NBMA were not inclusive because a gathering like this has not taken place before.

“But with this recent development, I think NBMA will be the main focal point to address this issue.

“All these while, other agencies are dwelling on existing document but with this Act, we will have a specific punishment for a crime.

“We will also have a mandate we can rely on and I think it will go a long way to deal with this issue of biosecurity.”

He said that stakeholders expected at the meeting include the Armed Forces, the Police, Interpol, Representatives from the National Security Advisers Office, Secretary to the Government Office, Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control, among others.

Stakeholders present at the meeting include Interpol Nigeria, the Armed forces, representatives from Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria Immigration, Customs, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, the National Security Advisers Office, Secretary to the Government Office.