From: Kazeem Biriowo, Abuja
The Director-General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba says only safe and certified Genetically Modified trees will be allowed for the activities of the Great Green Wall project in the 11 Northern States of Nigeria.
Ebegba disclosed this on Friday in an interview at the side line of event to commemorate 2019 World Environment Day, organised by Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja.
The GGW project was initiated by the former administration of Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to plant wall of trees across 11 northern states in Nigeria as a way of combating desert encroachment and restoration of rural livelihoods.
His word: “Should there be any genetically modified tree, we will carry out any risk assessments and confirm them safe and if we confirm them safe, we have no reason for them not be used in the area of the great green wall activities.”
“We now have trees that are genetically modified and these are tress that can survive in the critical time like dry regions and some of them can survive in areas prone to flood”.
“So when the trees are coming on board, you know the impacts of these trees is intended to reduce something like a carbon dioxide and also to mop up some emissions in the environment that may likely to cause serious health hazards.” He added.
Ebegba however emphasised that the agency only regulates the sector adding that NBMA did not subscribe for GM use and cannot be seen recommending GMO in any form.
On the World Environment Day celebration, Ebegba described it as very key to the agency’s position in the area environmental protection.
Speaking further, Ebegba said environmental pollution is a critical one and as such has been linked to some ailments like cancer and respiratory diseases.
“In the area of biosafety, we are happy that we are also part of this because biosafety is to ensure we have better environment and to ensure production in the area of modern biosafety. It is to ensure we don’t also produce substances that can cause environmental pollution”. He reiterated.
On plastic pollution, the DG warned of immediate moves to ban the product stressing that it could cause job loss among other socio-economic activities tied to it.
“The issue of banning plastic, you will agree with me that a lot of economic activities bothered on the use of plastic and before you agreed on a particular policy, you must look at the socio-economic implication.
“It will be huge. How many factories or companies do we have in this country? He enquired.
However, he recommended recycle of the plastics so that it can be properly controlled and managed.
“The Ministry of Environment has not made categorical statement on the ban of plastic but one of the minister’s has said Nigeria is subscribing to plastic recycling.
“We should all be looking at the way of recycling the plastics, not the total ban. Although, the environment is very important, scientific endeavours can really resolve the issue of plastic management.” He said.