Following the discovery of Anthrax disease in Nigeria, Dr. Agnes Asagbra, director general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), issued a warning to the Nigerian public to avoid consuming Cow-Skin, locally known as Ponmo. In response to questioning from journalists at a press briefing in Abuja, the nation’s capital, the DG confirmed that the Agency had issued a public release warning Nigerians about the disease shortly after its discovery in Ghana. When it was initially detected in Ghana, a press statement was issued and another one was released when it finally got to Nigeria. Dr. Asagbra has advised that people avoid eating ponmo until the situation has been resolved.
They are aware that this particular micro-organism is highly contagious, and if it comes into contact with food or if someone who is infected with it comes into contact with others, the infection could spread. As it’s known, prevention is better than cure; however, there are other things that can be eaten, despite the fact that people might say they will cook them well before eating. Since one never knows for sure, the best course of action is to avoid it for the time being. She reaffirmed the Agency’s dedication to preserving the nation’s biodiversity by promoting the responsible application of contemporary biotechnology.
Technology should coexist with the environment, health, and socio-economics
She assured the public that the Agency would maintain its commitment to bolstering Biosafety standards and would work tirelessly to do so in concert with relevant stakeholders. They recognise the importance of transparency and public participation in Biosafety issues and support their efforts to develop a world-class regulatory system that will inspire confidence among people and investors. To address issues and convey information efficiently, they would actively promote open discourse and consult with the public, Dr. Asagbra stated. She pledged that the NBMA would work towards a standard of excellence in biosafety governance.
More so, she elaborated that the primary focus of her work here will be improving Biosafety standards, with the ultimate goal of creating an environment where cutting-edge technology, as well as its applications, may coexist freely with the environment, public health, and socio-economics. She added that the Agency would proactively respond to new developments to keep its regulations current and relevant. The future holds many obstacles, and a strong regulatory framework is needed to ensure the safe and responsible use of genetically modified organisms (or GMO) as the area of biotechnology is advancing rapidly.
It seeks collaboration with national and international organisations.
Other advances in biotechnology will also be a high priority for their agencies. As mentioned, the world is constantly changing, and as biotechnology continues to grow, it will be keeping a careful eye on new technologies as they emerge. She is determined to sustain the qualities of honesty, openness, and excellence, and she can only do so with the people’s help and the cooperation of their dedicated team. She added that to fulfil its mission; the NBMA would seek collaborations with national and international organisations, research institutes, and the corporate sector to promote knowledge and exchange mutually beneficial endeavours.
Capacity building, and the growth of human resources, are crucial to the prosperity of any organisation, and they are no exception. In order to maintain their position as a leader in the fields of biosafety regulation, collaboration, and partnership, they plan to invest in training and skill development programmes for their personnel and partners. She mentioned that they consider close cooperation an absolute necessity for success. In addition, she emphasised the Agency would implement measures to ensure the presence of Biosecurity in Nigeria and to protect against Bioweapons.
Biosecurity is needed to guard the country against bioweapons.
Since the threat of bioweapons is very real and has been witnessed in the modern era, the NBMA Act was amended in 2019 to include provisions related to biosecurity, and these provisions will be enforced along with Biosafety. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other poisonous compounds produced by living organisms are examples of biological weapons. They are created and released on purpose to inflict harm on humans, animals, and plants. Biological agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin, and the plague can represent a serious threat to public health by rapidly harming huge numbers of people.