FEYREP, Africa farming project partner on women, youth empowerment in Akwa Ibom

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Family Empowerment & Youth Orientation Programne (FEYREP), the pet project of the office of Akwa Ibom First Lady partnered with Africa Farming Project (AFP) on women and youth empowerment in the state.

 

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos State on the WAIPlAS Agribusiness Expo in Uyo, the National Coordinator of AFP, Mr. Bright Isaac Okwu, said that the event was designed to bring various aquaculture, livestock and agro allied stakeholders to show their knowledge to the benefit of the people.

 

He added that farmers, agencies, institutions, governments, producers, processors, manufacturers, marketers, distributors, associations together from all West African states, Africa and other countries of the world would attend to share their business, knowledge too.

 

He further added that the event would involve exhibitions, training, business meetings and trade mission opportunity for the women and the youth in the state.

 

“It will also promote and encourage local agribusiness production, processing, marketing and export, which will in turn empower & create wealth for the people. It will give investors in various parts of West African states and other countries the opportunity to come together to share their business and product innovations which will create an ideas of opportunity to indigenous agribusiness operators.

 

“This will also bring the government, investors, and research institutions together for trade missions and economic integration. It will create a database that will assist to enhance the growth and development of agribusiness in Nigeria. It will further encourage inter-country and continental business links and export. The foreign participants will have an opportunity to introduce their products to West Africa farmers and share their experiences.

 

“This will also encourage local and international market and investment.  It will help the government to ascertain the true position of agriculture development in West Africa and hence help in the future planning”, he said.

Gowon, Obasanjo, others to speak at IITA’s 50th anniversary celebration

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Two former heads of state of Nigeria, Dr Yakubu Gowon, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will be among dignitaries that would grace the 50thanniversary celebration (IITA@50) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan on 24 July. The two former heads of state will be addressing a gathering of more than 1000 staff including former and serving workers of the Institute and other dignitaries.

Other confirmed participants include Dr Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB); Dr Kanayo Nwanze, Former President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chair of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu; Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Burundi, Dr Deo-Guide Rurema; Former Prime Minister, Democratic Republic of Congo, H.E. Mapon Matata Mpoyo; IITA Alumni Representative, Mrs. Ayoka Lawani; Associate Vice President, IFAD, Dr. Perin Ange; the Representative of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Abuja, Dr. Audu Grema; Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Olayinka; and Oyo State Governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi.

Chair of the Planning Committee of IITA@50, Dr. Kwesi Atta-Krah described the event as a significant forum that would afford the Institute the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on its achievements, the challenges faced, and plans for the future.

Established in 1967 through partnership of Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation of the United States, IITA is today the biggest international research institute on the continent of Africa working on Africa’s major staple crops such as cassava, maize, cowpea, yam, soybean and banana/plantain. The goal of the Institute is to increase the productivity of Africa’s key staples, create wealth, and sustainable jobs with a view to achieving zero hunger.

Dr. Atta-Krah said the participation of key stakeholders, signpost the importance of the event to Africa’s development.  “This is an exciting time for us as we will be having in attendance Dr. Gowon who actually, as Head of State then, signed the decree in 1967, that formalised the creation of the Institute. It will be glad for him to see the changes that the Institute has had over the years. The same goes to the other dignitaries,” he added.

Dr. Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director for Partnership for Delivery said the celebration of IITA would provide a platform for the stakeholders to take a retrospect on the impact of IITA and specifically its role in Africa’s food security. “We want to see a more prosperous African continent, and this 50th anniversary is not just about celebration but re-strategizing,” he said.

So far a lot of interest and registration is going on from IITA alumni who plan to come in their numbers to Nigeria for the event. Most of the IITA alumni including Drs Adesina and Kanayo now hold important positions around the world. Dr. Dashiell said, “Our alumni are our greatest assets and contribution to Africa. Today, we are proud seeing them occupy key positions in the agriculture space and making impact.”

PRESS RELEASE: Gateway Fair: Dangote to spend 10 billion dollars on rice cultivation…gives tools to block makers

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Group disclosed that it was investing N10 billion dollars in rice cultivation in five states to boost food self-sufficiency

LAGOS, Nigeria, May 29, 2017/ — The Dangote Group (www.Dangote.com) shone at the just concluded 2017 Gateway Trade fair which was held in Abeokuta, emerging as the second most patronised exhibitor, just as the Group disclosed that it was investing N10 billion dollars in rice cultivation in five states to boost food self-sufficiency.

To mark its Day at the Fair, a subsidiary of the Group, Dangote Cement, gave out several tools and implements to the block makers in Ogun State in appreciation of their patronages. Tools such as wheel barrowers, shovels, umbrellas and hand gloves were donated to block makers who assembled from different areas of the state.

During the 10-day trade fair, Dangote Flour delighted customers and participants with free sampling of its new pasta products. The wet sampling made the Group’s pavilion the center of activities at the Fair as participants trooped in for their daily meal. Customers were rewarded with branded coolers, kitchen aprons, exercise books and customized ladles.

Commending Dangote Group for its sponsorship and participation at the Fair, President of Ogun State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OGUNCCIMA) Mrs. Adesola Adebutu said the support given by the Group went a long way in making the staging of the Fair a success.

She commended the Pan African Conglomerate for its giant strides in economic development of the country through massive investments in several sectors of the economy describing the feat as worthy of emulation by other Nigerians.

A director of Dangote Group, Tunde Mabogunje who represented the Group at the special day, said that the partnership with OGUNCCIMA is beneficial as Ogun State is the host of the 12 mmtpa Dangote Cement Plant, Ibese, the second largest cement plant in Nigeria.

Dangote Cement, he said, “through the plant provides thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the state. As a responsible corporate citizen, we participate fully in all events and activities designed to drive social and economic welfare of the state.”

He described the theme for this year’s Trade Fair: Promoting Agricultural Value Chain through SMEs for Nigeria Economic Recovery as being apt, given the nation is now paying attention to Agriculture, which has the potential of becoming the major driver of the economy instead of oil, pointing out that in line with the theme the Group is at the forefront of job creation and is the largest employer of labour outside government.

Mabogunje stated “We have been contributing our quota to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy. Towards aiding agriculture, we are building a fertilizer plant in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos State. When completed, farmers will have regular access to fertilizer for their farming activities. The delays and disruptions experienced in waiting for imported fertilizer will cease.”

“We are investing about $1 billion in rice cultivation. We have an outgrowers scheme where thousands of farmers are empowered with improved seeds and items needed to cultivate rice.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Dangote Group.

Press Release: “Seeds of Renaissance” offer internally displaced persons in Nigeria’s north east lifeline

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Ibadan— The improved seeds donated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to Borno State are lifelines for farmers, and will help rebuild the livelihoods of food insecure persons in the region.

Tagged ‘seeds of renaissance’, the35,930 kilograms seeds comprising cowpea, maize, soybean, rice, sorghum and millet were received by the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima on 22 May in Maiduguri.

The delivery of the seeds comes at a time when aid agencies offering food packs are hurt by funding cuts from donor agencies, and some are scaling down their operations.

Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnership for Delivery, IITA, said today in Ibadan that the seeds donated to Borno state were among the best planting materials suited for the semi-arid zone which is divided between Sudan and Sahel savannahs.

“The varieties are extra-early maturing or early maturing, meaning that in few days farmers who plant them can harvest and have food on their table. We encourage farmers to plant these seeds this year because the seeds will help in building their livelihoods, raising their productivity, and by next year these farmers should be able to share their harvest of these improved seeds with their fellow farmers for planting during the 2018 growing season,” he added.

Borno State Commissioner of Agriculture, Mohammed Aliyu Dili said the people of the state were excited over the donation, adding that a seeds are life.

“You have come to give us life…When we heard that IITA was bringing seeds to donate to us, our hearts were filled with joy because we are sure and confident that the planting materials you are giving to us will not disappoint our farmers,” Mr Dili added.

Ravaged by insurgency, the north eastern part of Nigeria in general, and Borno state in particular, is a familiar terrain where IITA and partners have been conducting research. In 2004 to 2009, IITA led a project called Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Borno State (PROSAB). That project was able to increase productivity and incomes of farmers and it reduced poverty by 14 percent in participating communities. In 2014, IITA began the training of youths under the N2Africa project to establish agricultural businesses.    Many of these youths have established and are operating profitable businesses in Borno State. 

Mr Dili noted that his first contact with IITA was in the early 1980s when he received improved maize varieties from IITA to plant in a farm in Borno.

“Using the varieties from IITA, we were able to realise more than 6,000 kilograms per ha as opposed to 900 kilograms per hectare using local varieties… So I am optimistic that the varieties we have received from IITA will help our farmers,” he explained.

But besides donating seeds, IITA plans to step up its operations in the northeast by strengthening its office in Borno and increasing its investment in that region.

Dr Dashiell observed that the challenge faced by farmers/IDPs was huge and more humanitarian assistance is needed to bring back normalcy.

“We will be engaging the World Food Program (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the private sector and other partners to see how we can build common synergy and support the people of North East…Moreover, we are 100% confident that the intelligent, patriotic, motivated and hardworking youths of this great State that we had trained under the N2Africa project would be important participants in revitalizing agriculture and the economy,” Dr Dashiell explained. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

PRESS RELEASE: Fendt tractors launch in South Africa at NAMPO 2017

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South Africa has around 40,000 commercial farms, which together generate around 12% of the country’s GDP and the introduction of Fendt recognises this growing market segment
BOTHAVILLE, South Africa, May 16, 2017/ — On 16 May 2017, the official launch of Fendt (www.Fendt.com) machines in Africa will take place at the NAMPO Harvest Day in Bothaville, South Africa. Four tractors from the high-tech brand Fendt will be introduced into the South African market.

“We are delighted to launch our machines at South Africa’s biggest trade fair for agriculture and farming technology. With this market launch, professional South African farmers can now manage their businesses with efficient and powerful Fendt machines”, said Gary Collar, AGCO (www.AGCOcorp.com) Senior Vice President and General Manager Asia-Pacific and Africa (APA). “Going into South Africa with our sales partner, BHBW Holdings (Pty) Ltd, with Fendt is another important step for us to expand to markets outside of Europe. It’s also an integral part of AGCO’s global growth strategy.”

BHBW Holdings (Pty) Ltd is a joint venture between the South African company, Barloworld, and Germany’s BayWa AG. The joint venture will build on Barloworld’s existing agricultural equipment and logistics technology business and comprises around 400 employees, 10 sites and a retail network of 40 sales partners in southern Africa.

At exhibition stand 43/44, four Fendt series tractors will be presented for the first time to visitors at the NAMPO show:

  • The Fendt 200 Vario V is the smallest Fendt tractor with an output of 70-110 hp. With an outside width of just 1.07 m, this narrow gauge tractor is ideal for fruit and wine-grape harvesting. The self-levelling front axle suspension is unique and guarantees maximum comfort, ultimate driving safety and optimum traction.
  • The Fendt 700 Vario on show is a versatile high-horsepower tractor with a power range of 150-246 hp, suitable for any application – from light green land use to dynamic transporting, to heavy field or fleet use.
  • With a power output ranging from 275 to 396 hp, the Fendt 900 Vario series has been the front runner of the tractor market for large-scale farms and contractors in Europe since 1995. With a record result in the DLG PowerMix Test (242 g/kwh at just 10.7 g/kwh AdBlue, exhaust standard Tier 4 Final), the Fendt 900 Vario is not only powerful but also extremely fuel-efficient.
  • With up to 517 hp, the Fendt 1000 Vario is the largest standard tractor in the world and is the latest and largest of the Fendt series. Its large tyres, intelligent ballasting and tyre pressure assistants, as well as unique, variable four-wheel drive, deliver the right amount of grip in any situation – along with outstanding manoeuvrability.

As a high-tech agricultural machine manufacturer, Fendt also offers a fully integrated track guidance system as standard for all tractor series from 100 hp, so that farmers can also reap all the economic benefits by saving on seeds, fertilizers and spraying agents.

“We are expanding our product strategy towards worldwide needs for professional farming under the toughest conditions. South Africa is fully integrated into this strategy and an important contributor to our growing ambition” said Vice President and Fendt Brand Director Peter-Josef Paffen. “We developed the Fendt 2020 strategy. It stands for a strong worldwide growth for the Fendt brand and it’s intended to grow the production volume at the German tractor plant from this year of approximately 15,000 tractors to 20,000 in the year 2020.”

South Africa has around 40,000 commercial farms, which together generate around 12% of the country’s GDP and the introduction of Fendt recognises this growing market segment.

“Introducing the Fendt brand in South Africa is another important step for AGCO and also a positive sign for future agricultural development in South Africa,” says Nuradin Osman, Vice President Africa. “South Africa was the natural choice for launching this important brand on the continent. For years, Fendt tractors have been setting standards in efficiency and performance in Europe and this is what South African farmers demand as well.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of AGCO Corporation. 

GMO Alarmist Nassim Taleb Backs Out of Debate. I Refute Him Anyway

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By Ronald Bailey | February 19, 2016

Fallacious arguments against developing and growing modern biotech crops are cause for great moral concern.

Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and NYU statistician extraordinaire, has ducked out of a debate with me that had been arranged by the Journal of Markets and Morality. The topic of the debate was to be, “Do GMOs [genetically modified organisms] present cause for moral concern?”

“The goal of this controversy,” the editor explained, “is to assist our readership (economists, political scientists, theologians, moral philosophers, ethicists) in developing a more informed understanding of the issues at stake in the current state of the GMO debate, addressing concerns of fact, morality, and policy.” The plan had been to publish two rounds of back-and-forth between us.

Taleb was invited to participate because he and several colleagues had earlier published, at hisfooledbyrandomness website, a very anti-GMO working paper, “The Precautionary Principle (with Application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms.” In that paper, Taleb and his colleagues claimed that “GMOs represent a public risk of global harm,” suggesting that GMOs could result in global “ecocide” and even perhaps “the extinction of human beings or all life on the planet.” Taleb and another colleague were afforded the opportunity to express their alarm in The New York Times, where they declared that “the risk of GMOs is more severe than those of finance.” Human extinction is certainly worse than even a global financial meltdown. The upshot is that Taleb wants “prescribe severe limits on GMOs.”

After Taleb had agreed to contribute to the journal’s GMO debate, the managing editor contacted me and asked if I would like to participate. Citing my “previous scholarly and popular work and experience,” he asked me to write the first essay in the debate series. I duly submitted my essay, in which I debunk the many claims made by Taleb and his colleagues about the dangers allegedly posed by modern biotech crops. I conclude that it was fallacious arguments against developing and growing modern biotech crops that are cause for great moral concern.

I waited for Taleb’s response. It never arrived. The editor told me last week that Taleb, for reasons unclear, had withdrawn from the debate.

But since my essay responds pretty directly to the claims made in Taleb’s anti-GMO working paper, let’s go ahead and debate anyway.

Do GMOs Present Cause for Moral Concern?

Banning biotech crops under the pretence of implementing a “non-naive” version of the precautionary principle would be a great moral wrong. Such a ban would deny access to the significant known benefits that modern biotechnology is already providing to human beings and the natural world, all based on wholly unjustified assertions that these crops one day will somehow produce catastrophic “ruin.”

First, let’s review the extensive benefits offered by the current versions of biotech crops. Next, let’s evaluate what recent research has found with regard to the human health and ecological safety concerns associated with modern biotech crops. We’ll end by considering the argument that the absence of evidence of harm is not evidence of absence of an inevitable GMO doom.

So far, biotech crops have chiefly been enhanced to resist pests and herbicide applications, although other traits—including resistance to disease, drought, and salt—are now being made available to farmers too. Pest resistance has generally been instilled by adding versions of a gene from the soil microbe Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for a crystal protein that kills insect pests when it is activated in their alkaline guts. Bt has been used widely in organic farming. Decades of research have shown that it is safe for people and other vertebrates to eat. Herbicide resistance has been conferred on most modern crops by adding a gene for the EPSPS protein obtained from the soil microbe Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4. Again, research has shown that the amount of the EPSPS protein regularly consumed by people is safe to eat.

In 2014, a group of Italian biologists did a comprehensive review of the last 10 years of research on biotech crops that encompassed 1,783 different scientific studies. These studies dealt with such concerns as the crops’ impacts on natural biodiversity, the possibility that they’ll exchange genes with wild relatives, and their effects on the health of people and other animals. In the review, the biologists concluded that “the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops.”

So most scientific evidence finds that biotech crops are safe for people and the environment. What then are the benefits? In a 2014 meta-analysis of 147 studies, a team of German researchers report that the global adoption of genetically modified crops has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent. They conclude that there is “robust evidence of GM crop benefits for farmers in developed and developing countries.” Therefore it is no surprise that farmers around the world have (when regulators permit it) embraced these enhanced crop varieties. The global extent of biotech crops has increased more than 100-fold from 4.2 million acres in 1996 to about 450 million acres in 2014. Eighteen million farmers in 28 countries planted them in 2014.

Future Benefits

Ideological opposition to biotech crops is actually killing people and harming the natural world. Consider the case of Golden Rice, in which non-profit Swiss researchers used genetic engineering to boost the production of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene. Researchers estimate that vitamin A deficiency is responsible for 1.9 to 2.8 million preventable deaths annually, mostly of children under five years old and women. Some 125 million children under age five suffer from vitamin A deficiency, of which 250,000 to 500,000 go blind each year. Half of these children die within a year of becoming blind. Vitamin A deficiency also weakens immune responses, greatly increasing the risk of severe illness. According to one 2014 estimate, the 10-year delay in getting Golden Rice to poor farming families has resulted in the loss of 1.4 million life-years in India alone.

Meanwhile, biotech crops increase yields. Increased yields mean that farmers can grow more food, feed, and fibre on less acreage, thus sparing more land for nature. Biotech crops are partially responsible for the imminent arrival of peak farmland. If global crop yields had remained stuck at 1960 levels, farmers around the world would have needed about 3 billion more hectares to grow enough food for the world’s current population. That’s about the size of the USA, Canada, and China combined.

Instead, the amount of land farmed for crops increased from 1,371 million hectares in 1961 to 1,533 million hectares in 2009. In other words, the amount of land ploughed increased by only about 10 percent as yields have tripled. Recent research estimates that continued agricultural intensification, including the further deployment of genetically enhanced crops, could return 150 million hectares of land to nature by 2060. The amount of farmland restored to nature could rise to as much as 400 million hectares if ethanol subsidies were eliminated.

In addition, shifting wood and pulp production to plantations of faster-growing genetically enhanced trees would help speed the trend toward restoring natural forests and thus aid in the protection of many endangered species. In addition, plant breeders are making strides toward dramatically lowering the amount of nitrogen that fertilizer crops need, strengthening disease resistance, incorporating salt and drought tolerance, and boosting photosynthetic efficiency. Much progress is being made using molecular techniques that enable researchers to rapidly identify and crossbreed crop plants that express promising traits like drought tolerance, disease resistance, or higher yields.

The advent of the fantastically versatile CRISPR genome-editing technology gives plant breeders “molecular scissors” that can cut and paste genetic information, producing stable and heritable genomic changes quickly and easily without introducing foreign DNA. Heretofore, once plant breeders had identified a useful gene—say, one for disease resistance—in a landrace, it would take years of crossbreeding to transfer it to a high-yielding cultivar of the same crop species. With CRISPR, if breeders identify a natural gene variant conferring natural fungus resistance in a less productive landrace, they can simply edit the corresponding gene variant to match in the more productive strain, thus conferring the same natural fungus resistance on it. Using CRISPR means that plant breeders can dramatically speed up the process of getting useful genes into high-yielding crop varieties.

Given these clear health and environmental benefits, why do Taleb and his colleagues so fear modern biotech crops that they want to “prescribe severe limits on GMOs”?

Biotech Crops and the Alleged Risk of Human Extinction

Taleb and his colleagues want to impose their supposedly non-naive version of the precautionary principle to forestall activities when “consequences can involve total irreversible ruin, such as the extinction of human beings or all life on the planet.” And GMOs, they feel, could result in “irreversible environmental and health damage” or cause “an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be planet-wide.” They Biotech crops, they claim, pose a systemic risk of global ecocide.

is a trivially true statement that if some activity will eventually lead to total ruin, then total ruin, even if it takes a long time, will eventually follow that activity. Taleb and his colleagues just assume that producing and growing modern biotech crops is such an activity, then trivially predict a GMO apocalypse. There is a lot of hand-waving about the dangers of global connectivity and dose response relationships that may be relevant to the workings of financial markets, but they provide no justification for their assumption of biotech disaster. Unwarranted dire assumptions in; unjustified devastating consequences out.

First, as University of Milan researcher Giovanni Tagliabue has pointed out, Taleb and his colleagues lump modern biotech crops and the technologies used to produce them into a “nonsensical GMO pseudo-category.” Tagliabue argues that it is “theoretically and practically impossible to precisely specify the supposed common denominator” for crops modified using many disparate techniques for resistance to disease, drought, salt, herbicides, or pests or for agronomic characteristics such better fertilizer response, reductions in allergens or carcinogens, improved fruit quality, and so forth.

Despite the lack of an adequate definition of what they fear, Taleb and company assert that the precautionary principle applies to GMOs “because their risk is systemic. There are two aspects of systemic risk, the widespread impact on the ecosystem and the widespread impact on health.” They more or less repeat themselves by additionally claiming that “the systemic global impacts of GMOs arise from a combination of (1) engineered genetic modifications, (2) monoculture—the use of single crops over large areas.” Evidently the alleged systemic risk to ecosystems stems from their assertion that “GMOs have the propensity to spread uncontrollably, and thus their risks cannot be localized.” With regard to purported health risks posed by GMOs, they claim that “foods derived from GMOs are not tested in humans before they are marketed.” Another odd claim is that “biologists and agronomists are adopting top down engineering strategies and taking global systemic risks in introducing organisms into the wild.”

Let’s take these one by one.

Do modern biotech crops have a propensity to spread uncontrollably? No. No knowledgeable person worries that modern cultivars of corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, wheat, potatoes, and so forth will invade and take over forests, prairies and wetlands. The fact is that artificial selection for characteristics that increase yields and make harvest easier have made crops unfit to compete in the wild. “No GMO plant, or any other vegetable for that matter, is capable of spreading uncontrollably across the planet,” notes Tagliabue.

Over the centuries of domestication, farmers and crop breeders made vast changes in crops by unknowingly targeting genomic regions containing both structural and regulatory genes. Farmers were selecting novel and improved strains generated by chance mutation and variation. Conceptually, it’s the same process today, just using better and less random methods.

Perhaps by “spread uncontrollably” they are expressing badly articulated worries that genes from biotech crops will somehow invade and devastate the natural world? It is well established that over the centuries domesticated crops have regularly exchanged genes with their wild relatives. Such hybridizations can have deleterious ecological effects such as increasing weediness or reducing evolutionary fitness. Genes from biotech crops have also been out-crossed into wild relatives, but their effects are similar to those that occur when conventional cultivars and wild relatives exchange genes.  Producing hardier weeds or occasionally causing a rare plant species to go extinct does not amount to anything like global ecocide.

What about monoculture? In a sense, agriculture is monoculture. After all, it was invented thousands of years ago when farmers figured out that they could get more food by segregating plants that they wanted to grow (crops) into fields that excluded competing plants that they didn’t want (weeds). It is true that large swathes of arable land are devoted to growing crops like wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and potatoes. But monoculture is not particular to biotechnology and does not mean genetic homogeneity. For example, a 2010 survey of just U.S. seed catalogues reported that farmers had more the 7,000, 3,800 and 100 different varieties of corn, soybean, and cotton seeds respectively available to them. In addition, crop breeders using either conventional or modern biotech methods have successfully maintained the overall genetic diversity of the cultivars they release to farmers.

What about the claim that foods made from biotech crops are not tested in people? In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for overseeing the safety of foods. The agency states, “Foods from GE [genetically engineered] plants must meet the same food safety requirements as foods derived from traditionally bred plants.” Except for pharmaceuticals, potentially toxic substances are not generally tested in people. Even in that case, pharmaceutical regulators have arguably proven to be far too cautious when assessing the safety of new drugs.

To ascertain the safety of non-drug substances, researchers use standard tests in animals and human cells. Companies that want to sell new biotech crop varieties must submit safety-testing results to the FDA. The agency will not approve the new cultivar until it is satisfied that it safe for humans to eat. As usual, Taleb and company deploy their inapt rhetorical strategy and simply assert that the tests the FDA relies upon are inadequate. Never mind that for nearly 20 years human beings and livestock have eaten trillions of servings of food and feed made from biotech crops with no scientifically discernible harm.

Taleb and his colleagues claim that “human experience over generations has chosen the biological organisms that are relatively safe for consumption.” But that is simply not true. For nearly a century now, plant breeders have been massively rearranging the genomes of crop plants by blasting them with radiation or exposing them to caustic chemicals. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Mutant Varieties Database lists over 3,200 officially released mutant varieties from 214 different plant species grown in more than 60 countries throughout the world. Over 1,000 of the listed mutants are cultivars of major staple crops that farmers plant on tens of millions of hectares. If these varieties are safe for people and the environment (and they are), then it stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point to believe that the comparatively minor changes made using more precise modern biotechnological techniques could result in planet-wide devastation and human extinction.

Finding no smoking gun, Taleb and his colleagues must hyperbolically conjure one and liken growing biotech crops to playing Russian roulette. They have it backwards. By pushing to ban biotech crops, Taleb and company are demanding that poor people continue to spin those metaphoric cylinders whose chambers are already fully loaded with real disease, hunger, and back-breaking labor. Modern biotechnology can empty a few of those chambers, and thus reduce the chances that when the trigger is pulled disaster will ensue.

“For [genetically modified] crops to be part of the solution, biosafety assessments should not be overly politically-driven or a burdensome impedance to delivering this technology broadly,” the ecologist Peter Raven has cogently argued. “Biosafety scientists and policy makers need to recognize the undeniable truth that inappropriate actions resulting in indecision also have negative consequences. It is no longer acceptable to delay the use of any strategy that is safe and will help us achieve the ability to feed the world’s people.” Fallacious arguments against developing and growing modern biotech crops are cause for great moral concern.

Rule of Law: Why ECOWAS Must Apply The Gambia Experience on Nigeria

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Dasuki

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

There is no doubt that the fundamental rights of all Nigerian citizens are guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the country, which provisions the President of the Federal Republic, Muhammadu Buhari swore to uphold.

Described and seen as a disciplinarian; one who was believed to have impressive qualities of leadership paraphernalia, President Buhari has rather failed to portray that particular quality of leading Nigerians in accordance with the rule of law. This is especially as it relates to contravention of court orders in issues of fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.

In these matters, especially that affects former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, Buhari has subsumed himself to be, not only the President that he was elected to be, but also the head of the judiciary that he is not. This is so much that most judges’ rulings, especially those in which cases he has vested interest, are subject to Buhari’s assent – like laws passed by the National Assembly.

Mr. President’s fight against corruption is regarded by both national and international communities as ‘incomplete’ without committed respect for the rule of law. The rule of law is a veritable ingredient of democratic rule without which it is not coherent. The theory of coherentism in democracy is such that the practical leadership qualities should be seen to cohere with the principles of democracy, the leading pilar of which is the rule of law.

Vendetta?


Shouldn’t Buhari’s failure to be bound by the orders of four courts, including that of the ECOWAS confirm Nigerians apprehensions that he is out to take a revenge against the former NSA who was alleged to have held him captive during the Abacha coup? Does Mr. President believe in our judiciary, which swore him to office? Why did Buhari take Dasuki to court in which he did not believe? Should we amend Nigeria’s constitution so that the President could, as well, be the judge in our courts? What has the President against Dasuki that the courts would grant him bail but he would overrule the courts, including the ECOWAS court? These are fundamental questions that should address issues of fundamental rights that are being abused by the President. 

The Kanu example

If the gravity of alleged offenses upon which one is standing trial in court is what should determine whether he be granted bail or not, Nnamdi Kanu is a good basis for Dasuki to be released on bail. One of the five sustained charges against Kanu, the court having struck out six, is treasonable felony – a declaration of war against the state. Nigerian constitution describes treason as a gross offense punishable by death. 

If Kanu could be granted bail and be released by Buhari, why should Dasuki whose alleged offense is less in gravity be denied to enjoy bail granted to him by four courts of competent jurisdiction? Is it because no one is making noise in favour of Dasuki as many did in favour of Kanu?

ECOWAS’ intervention

 

The Economic Countries of West African States (ECOWAS) of which Nigeria is a member, recently made giant moves in the African sub-region to ensure the providence of the rule of law in the Gambia. The body’s assertiveness made defeated former Gambian dictator flee the country to allow the will of the people prevail. That was a first good step taken to check the excesses of African leaders, especially those of the sub-region, who feel they could, at will, hold on to power even where they lost in free and fair elections.

 

Aside from ensuring that winners in elections take over power from those who lost out, ECOWAS has a duty to ensure that rule of law, which is the backbone of any sustainable democracy, takes precedence no matter who is involved.  

It is no longer news that former National Security Adviser (NSA) to former president Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki has remained incarcerated on the allegedly misappropriating funds given to his office by the Central Bank of Nigeria, among others, since after Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari. It is not also news that the Federal government of Nigeria and Dasuki have been in courts over the allegations. 

In September, 2015 a Federal High Court in Abuja presided by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, granted bail to Dasuki on self-recognition after he pleaded not guilty to a one count charge of illegal possession of firearms. It was argued that the offense was bailable based on section 158 (1) (2) (3) of the new Administration of Justice Act and Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution. He was to deposit his international passport with the Court, as a measure to ensure he does not jump bail.

It is to be believed that no matter the enormity of any offence committed by any individual, once the Courts pronounce him fit to enjoy bail, so shall it be. Bail is a fundamental right of all Nigerians as guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution. Though charged with illegal possession of firearms at the Federal High Court and money laundering offences at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, notwithstanding the gravity of the charges, Col. Dasuki was admitted to bail by three trial courts. And, having fulfilled the bail conditions on December 29 and the Kuje prison authorities, having released Dasuki, the Department of State Security immediately rearrested him. 

In December, 2015 a High Court in Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja presided by Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf also granted bail to Dasuki and four others standing trial for money laundering. The third bail was granted by Justice Peter Affem of FCT High Court. Conditions of all bails were met by Dasuki.

Compelled by the circumstances of his denial to bail, Dasuki approach ECOWAS Court to secure the enforcement of his human rights to personal liberty guaranteed by article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Although the federal government challenged the competence of the ECOWAS Court to hear and determine the suit, the preliminary objection was dismissed. It held that the detention of Dasuki without a court order was not justifiable under the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. As a consequence, the court ordered Dasuki’s release and damages to him to the tune of N15 million as reparation for infringing his human rights. 

The ECOWAS Court through Justice Friday Chijioike Nwoke ordered immediate release of Dasuki from detention, holding that the Federal government had violated both national and international laws on the right of persons and citizens to freedom of liberty. It imposed a fine of N15,000,000 against Nigeria as compensatory damages to Dasuki for the deprivation of his freedom to liberty and the deprivation of his properties. Justice Nwoke held that even if the applicant had committed a crime the law still had it that due process of the law must be observed in his trial. 

ECOWAS COURT JUDGEMENT: 

“Having perused the case before us, we have come to the conclusion that the re-arrest and detention of the applicant after he had been granted bail by three courts since last year make mockery of the rule of law. Executive arm should not interfere with the judiciary. “Even if the applicant has committed crimes of whatever nature, the principle of innocence must be respected and the fact that he has been charged to court does not disentitled him to freedom of liberty… Court must rise to their responsibilities and prevent executive lawlessness. It is the applicant today; it could be anybody tomorrow. There is no legal basis for the re-arrest of the applicant other than to circumvent the bails granted by courts. We have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the purported search warrant claimed to have been obtained by the Nigerian government was an afterthought aimed at perverting the cost of justice because the so-called search warrant was not certified and to worsen the case the defendant claimed that it could not serve the same search warrant on the applicant. For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who commits crimes must be put on trial before an appropriate court but in doing so, the state must respect local and international laws in the prosecution of such persons.”

In spite of these courts orders for bail, it could be seen that president Buhari has treated these orders with contempt. Viewing that Buhari has always proclaimed his obedience to the rule of law, one only wonders whether within the rule of law, there are laws that are exceptional and therefore not worthy of his obedience as a President. 

It should be recalled that Buhari it was that spearheaded the operations of ECOWAS in the Gambia. Nigeria also intervened for the release of Niger Republic’s ex-President Tanja Mammadou in line with the order of the ECOWAS Court. Why then should Buhari not direct the DSS to comply with the Court order to release Dasuki on bail? 

Yet, at a resumed sitting on fire-arms charges, Justice Ahmed Rahmat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja in an amended charges, affirmed the bail granted to Dasuki in 2015. 

That Dasuki could not be allowed to enjoy bails admitted by Justices Adeniyi Ademola, Peter Affen, Husseini Baba-Yusuf of the FCT High Court and the ECOWAS Court, is an outright display of non-respect for the rule of law by the Federal government. 

Through a Presidential Media Chat in December 2015, it was to be known that President Muhammadu Buhari was behind Dasuki’s continued detention in spite of courts orders for his release on bail. 

This development therefore calls for ECOWAS’ intervention to enforce compliance by the Federal government to obey the rule of law. Like it started by ensuring the enthronement of democracy in The Gambia, ECOWAS should continue in the same light because rule of law, as it is, MUST be seen as the backbone of all democracies. Otherwise, we would be operating a ‘Militro-Democratic’ government.  

el-Kurebe, who coordinates the Media Forum for Development, writes in from Sokoto.



EFCC PRESS RELEASE: Sokoto AG Not Authorised to Take over EFCC’s Case – DPP

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Malami, Minister of Justice

Barely a week after a controversial ruling by Justice Idrissa Kolo of the Federal High Court sitting in Sokoto, which authorised the Attorney General (AG) of Sokoto State to take over the prosecution of the case of Mohammed Bello, a serving Commissioner in the state and former Permanent Secretary of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the administration of ex-governor Aliyu Wamakko, the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) of the Federation, has contradicted the fiat that was used by the AG to take over the prosecution of the case from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The defendants: Mohammed Bello, Abubakar Abdullahi Ahmed, Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited, Silver Spring Global Concept Limited and Sitex Multiservice Limited were charged with 43 counts of money laundering and forgery.

The charge followed an investigation, which uncovered money running into hundreds of millions diverted by the first and second defendants during the first defendant’s tenure as the Permanent Secretary for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs of Sokoto State. 

The alleged diversion was perpetrated through the 3rd to 5th defendants in the charge, which are said to be companies owned by the first and second defendants who used their relatives as directors of the companies. 

Three days after the ruling of Justice Kolo, the DPP in a letter dated May 5, 2017, noted that the only cases covered by the fiat are those that may be impossible for the office of Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, to prosecute.

Accoring to him, the powers of the AG under the fiat  “shall be for the prosecution of offences which may be practically impossible for the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute”.

The DPP categorically stated that the AG of the state was not empowered by the fiat to take over the case under reference.

“Since EFCC is a Federal Prosecuting Agency under the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , this case is not one that the Honourable Attorney General of Sokoto State is empowered to prosecute by virtue of the fiat. More so, the case is being diligently prosecuted by the Federal Agency”, the DPP added.

It would be recalled that on May 2, 2017, Justice Kolo gave a ruling on the fiat by the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, which purportedly allows the AG of the state to take over criminal cases being prosecuted by any agency of the government including the EFCC.

The reason given for the takeover of the case was to “serve the interest of justice, public interest and to make sure that the legal process is not abused”.

S. K. Atteh, counsel to the EFCC, had in his response strongly expressed fears on how a serving commissioner can diligently prosecute his fellow commissioner and be expected to serve the interest of justice and public good.
Wilson Uwujaren

Head Media & Publicity

8 May, 2017