Full Text of HOMEF Press Briefing Issued at the End of a Media Training in Abuja

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Nnimmo Bassey

Statement Issued at a Media Briefing held on 24 April 2017 at Apo Apartments, Apo, Abuja

Gentlemen of the Press,

WE DEMAND:

  • THE PROTECTION OF OUR FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT
  • REVOCATION OF MONSANTO’S GMO PERMITS
  • and REPEAL OF THE NATIONAL BIOSAFETY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ACT 2015

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act, 2015, was signed into law in the dying days of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. In spite of the far-reaching importance of biosafety matters to citizens of Nigeria, the process that led to the passage of the Biosafety Bill and its eventual signing into law was trailed by unresolved controversies and complaints from key stakeholders including farmers, consumers and civil society groups.

Besides the lack of elegance in the drafting of the law, some provisions do not make sense at all and in some places, references are made to incorrect sections or to nonexistent sections. We believe the Act requires to be repealed or at a minimum have a thorough reworking, particularly with regard to the following:

  • Access to information
  • Public consultation and participation
  • Liability and redress
  • Labelling and the right to know
  • Decision-making
  • Appeals and reviews
  • Conflict of interest: The Composition of the Governing Board is arbitrary and populated with GMOs promoters
  • The Precautionary Principle

Conflict of interest is inbuilt in the NBMA Act and raises acute red flags about the administration of biosafety in Nigeria. For example, two of the permits issued by NBMA to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited (the confined field trial of two maize varieties) were applied for by the company in partnership with one of the members of the NBMA board, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA). With a GMO promoter applying for a permit in partnership with a biotech company, and sitting to approve the same permit, there are obvious reasons to call the entire transaction to question.

The NBMA Act gives the agency enormous amounts of discretionary powers with not enough mandatory duties in the operational provisions to ensure that the agency performs a stewardship role to ensure that GMOs do not pose harm to human and animal health, society and the environment.

We are also concerned that NBMA approved and issued “Permit for Commercial release/Placing on Market of Cotton (MON15985) genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest on Sunday 1st May 2015 when government offices do not open. In fact, 2nd May 2015 was also a public holiday. In addition, it is regrettable that NBMA approved Monsanto’s proposal for Bt cotton in May 2015 despite the fact that Burkina-Faso’s cabinet on April 14, 2016 announced its discontinuation with genetically modified cotton due to the poor quality of the cotton. It is worthy of note that cotton production has improved in Burkina Faso in both quality and quantity since they reverted to non-GMOs varieties.

In our objections to the applications by Monsanto and NABDA, we raised serious concerns that would have led to the rejection of the unwarranted applications if they had been considered. We raised concerns related to health, environmental, socio-economic, technical, administrative, molecular concerns, safety assessments and environment risk assessment. We also pointed out that the applicants did not show how they would deal with secondary pests, exposure pathways and pest resistance. Safety and environmental risks and issues of liability and redress were also not adequately addressed by the applicants.

NBMA by its letter of 28th April 2016 acknowledged receipt of objection from Health of Mother Earth Foundation and other civil society groups, stated: “your observations have been noted by the Agency… That the National Biosafety Management Agency would review the application holistically and take the best interest of Nigeria, to avoid risks to human health, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The socio- economic impacts would also be well considered before taking the final decision on the application.”  

We consider it intriguing and suspicious that a mere one working day after this letter, NBMA issued permits to Monsanto. There is no evidence that our objections were considered. This smacks of utter disdain for opinions and positions of concerned citizens who are conscious of the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the failure of these crops, especially GM cotton in neighbouring Burkina Faso as well as in India, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In this era of change we cannot cling to wrong-headed policies or cling to the wrong foot put forward by the previous government. Having a biotech policy cannot be a justification for opening up the nation’s fragile ecosystems and environment to genetically modified organisms. A biotech policy cannot erase the globally accepted Precautionary Principle on which Biosafety regulations hang. We demand that these permits be overturned and the Biosafety law itself repealed and replaced with a people/environmentally sensitive and friendly law.

We reiterate our demand for a nullification of the permits issued to Monsanto and NABDA on Sunday 1st may 2016 and call for an investigation of the process and circumstances leading to the granting of these permits by NBMA to Monsanto and NABDA in disregard to the complaints of millions of Nigerians. Nigerians should not be used as pawns and as guinea pigs in a commercial gambit to open the country to toxic technologies in furtherance of blatant commercial interests.

We also pledge our readiness to work with the media to elevate the voices of Nigerians on these sensitive and life/death matters. We and our partners will also work with the Federal Ministry of Environment and other relevant ministries and agencies to repeal the NBMA Act 2015 that is formulated to flood our country with GMOs rather than protect our biodiversity and ensure biosafety and biosecurity.

Yours faithfully,

Nnimmo Bassey                                                                  Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour

Director, HOMEF                                                                 Convener of Nigerians against GMOs

 

 

​RESPECT LAW COURTS’ DECISIONS AND RELEASE COLONEL M.S. DASUKI ON BAIL PLEASE – Col. Dangiwa

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By Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Rtd)
The decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the SGF Mr David Babachir Lawal and the DG NIA Mr. Ayodele Oke while they are being investigated is a welcome development in its war against corruption. It is also remarkable and commendable that the Govt. has decided not to detain the duo while they are being investigated.

This is a welcome departure from the prevailing anti democratic process by which accused persons, particularly from the opposition camp, are unlawfully detained pending the commencement of investigations, or refused bail granted by law courts. 

There is national unanimity in support of the war against corruption which is expected to be non-discriminatory and waged by a meticulous adherence to the rule of law. For the war to be meaningful and sustainable, it must be elevated beyond a President Buhari personal struggle to a national one.

Most fair minded Nigerians are no more impressed and are indeed sceptical with the conduct of this government’s anti corruption war which appears to be aimed at the neutralization and destruction of the opposition.

It is over one year since three law courts, including ECOWAS Court granted bail to Col. M.S. Dasuki. The Federal Government has however refused to release him citing the untenable excuse of the grievous nature of his offence. Our extant constitution is quite clear on this issue. The Federal Govt. does not have the power to determine which offence is bailable or whether an accused person is deserving of bail. It should therefore obey courts’ decisions and release Col. Dasuki without any further delay. His unlawful detention, campaign of calumny and pretrial publicity make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

The only explanation one can find for Col. Dasuki’s lengthy detention without trial is that he belongs to the wrong camp. He has also the misfortune of having served as National Security Adviser to the much vilified Nigerian President of Ijaw extraction. Colonel Dasuki’s fate is tied to that of his former principal President Goodluck Jonathan; an honourable and patriotic Nigerian who conceded defeat and congratulated the winner of the 2015 Presidential election Gen Muhammadu Buhari even before INEC declared the final results, when he could have held on tenaciously to power as is the norm in many Third World Countries. 

This rare act of statesmanship which pulled the country back from the precipice has been rewarded with utmost disrespect and derision by the APC Federal Govt. President Jonathan is the most maligned Nigerian former Head of State. Col. Dasuki is paying dearly for his loyal service to this patriot. All well-meaning Nigerians must speak out against his unfair and unlawful treatment. We cannot afford to remain neutral in the face of this monumental injustice. When one Nigerian is unlawfully detained all of us must have the moral consciousness to feel psychologically incarcerated.

Umar is Chairman of MUP

PRESS RELEASE: Dangote will be the largest exporter of rice in 5 years to come – AfDB President

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Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), says billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, may become the largest exporter of rice in the world by 2021

LAGOS, Nigeria, April 17, 2017/ — Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), says billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote (www.Dangote.com), may become the largest exporter of rice in the world by 2021.

Speaking at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco over the weekend, Adesina said Africa must focus on agriculture to drive growth and create jobs on the continent.

“I remember when I was minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. Aliko Dangote was there, and he was our biggest importer at the time, and he and I used to have all the time to dialogue,” Adesina said.

“One day, I was in my office, about 10 O’clock, Aliko walks in, Ngozi was minister of finance. Aliko bangs on my door and said ‘minister I came to see you’, and I said ‘what are we going to disagree on this time?’

“He said no, I have actually looked at the policies, and the policies you put in place for import substitution are very right policies. So, I have changed my business model from being an importer to being a local producer.”

Adesina narrated the role Dangote played in his happiest day as a minister in Nigeria.

“I said what exactly are you going to do. He said I will put in $300 million into producing and processing rice in Nigeria. I said yippee! I went home, I told my wife, my best day as minister,” he said.

“He comes back three months after that, he says I have changed my mind, I said ‘what in the world happened?’ He said no, I have changed my mind from $300 million to a billion dollars.

“If they continue that policy, he would probably be the single largest producer of rice in the world, in about four years. The reason why I was so excited about that is that agriculture is cool, agriculture is a business…agriculture pays.”

Adesina was named Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013, while Dangote won the same award in 2014.

It would be recalled that a tripartite agreement put together by the Dangote Rice limited to create jobs for 16,000 outgrower rice farmers in Sokoto was recently signed with the Sokoto State government and rice growers in the country after which he launched the rice outgrowers scheme in Sokoto.

Aliko Dangote , the Chairman of Dangote Rice Limited, Asaid he was moved to go into rice cultivation because of the genuine interest of the Federal government to revive agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, and reduce importation of foods that could be produced locally.

He lamented that Nigeria consumes 6.5 Mtn of rice which costs the nation over 2 billion dollars annually pointing out that it is heartening that the government now has policy direction that encourages private sector’s active participation in agriculture.

He disclosed then that “In the next three years we want to produce one million tons of quality rice and make it available and affordable to the people. We hope to do 150, 000 ha and when we are done, Nigeria will not have anything to do with importation of rice.

“Dangote Rice outgrowers scheme is committed to creating significant number of jobs, increasing the incomes of smallholders farmers and ensuring food security in the country by providing high quality seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals as well as technical assistance on best agricultural practice to farmers.

“This Scheme will help to diversify the economy, alleviate poverty and reduce the nation’s import bill. The scheme has been designed as a one stop solution for the rice value chain,” Dangote stated. 

Distributed by APO on behalf of Dangote Group.