Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
THE Friends of the Earth Africa, has lamented that the recent commercialisation of Bt Cotton in the country, a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) product, by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), despite a pending suit at a Federal High Court, Abuja was not a victory but a breach of law and order.
The group said both agencies, NBMA and NABDA are defendants in the pending suit filed by the Registered Trustees of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and 16 other Civil Society Organisations in the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja Judicial Division, September 13th 2017, suit No FHC/ABJ/C5/846/2017.
Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, Coordinator of Food Sovereignty Program, in a statement issued in Abuja, noted that such action was also a pointed disregard of the interest of Nigerians and their right to be consulted and respected.
According to her, “this adds a new dimension to the suspicion that disregard for judicial processes is taking a worrisome turn in current situation of things in Nigeria and if we have surrendered our sovereignty to corporate interests.”
In the suit, the Plaintiffs, HOMEF and 16 others, sought amongst other reliefs, a declaration that NBMA, the 1st Defendant in this case did not comply with the provisions of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act in granting the permits to the 3rdDefendant, Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited and NABDA the 4th Defendant in this case; for the purpose of commercial release of Bt Cotton (Mon 15985) and confined field trial with (1) NK603 and (2) MON89034 x NK603 maize in Nigeria.
The plaintiffs also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd defendant and 4th defendant by themselves, their agents, servants, workmen or otherwise or whatsoever from carrying out any activity or further activities pursuant to the permits granted by the 1st defendant.
The Plaintiffs considered the permits granted by NBMA to Monsanto and NABDA in breach of and a threat to the Fundamental Human Rights of the Plaintiffs as well as the general public as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended in 2011.
They also want an order revoking the permits granted by the 1st Defendant to the 3rd and 4th Defendants/Respondents. The Plaintiffs opined that the issuance of the said permits on the 1st of May 2016 which happened to be a public holiday being Sunday and Workers’ Day is illegal, null and void.
Orovwuje stated: “While the court is yet to deliver her judgement on the case, the defendants, NBMA, NABDA and Monsanto in defiance to the ongoing court process has gone ahead on Thursday, July 26, 2018 to register and release some Genetically Modified (GM) products and the Bt cotton – one of the subjects of litigation, into the Nigerian environment.
“The newly released and registered products amongst others include two transgenic hybrid cotton: MRC 7377 BG11 and MRC 7361 BG1.1 They were developed by Mahyco Nigeria. Mahyco is another name for Monsanto and MRC 7377 BG11 and MRC 7361 BG11 refer to the same Bt Cotton (Mon 15985) that is the subject of litigation. This information is displayed on the webpage of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- Biotech Applications (ISAAA).”
She said that the Diretor General of NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, whose Agency is named in this suit and an agency that is supposed to be unbiased and ensuring a thorough regulation of these products stated in the light of this development that he has severally said that the country is ripe for commercialization of Genetically Modified (GM) products.
“This singular action speaks volumes. If these Agencies can show this brazen disregard for due process, if they can show this level of contempt for an ongoing court case over a matter of such grave importance, how do Nigerians trust them with their food, crops and livestock?” Orovwuje queried.