Nigeria govt inaugurates National Bioethics Committee

The Federal Government of Nigeria has inaugurated the National Bioethics Committee(NBC) to safeguard the dignity, rights, safety and wellbeing of citizens.

The rationale for the establishment of a National Bioethics Committee is hinged on the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and human rights.

Dr Adeleke Mamora, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), said that science and technology now included arts, education, social sciences in all nexus that required ancient use of the sector for its development.

Said that with the advancement in science and technology, countries became confronted with several challenges concerning diversity of values at different place and time.

Mamora said capacities on ethical aspects in both human and environmental aspects became necessary to ensure the building of ethical grounds for policies for the smooth running of society.

“It is therefore important to note that no matter the level of development of a country, there is a need to establish the NBC, and strengthen it to deliver informed, acceptable and adaptable policies,’’ he said.

The minister said the committee would advise government, parliaments and other governmental bodies on bioethical challenges and issues raised by the progress in healthcare, biology, biomedical sciences among others.

Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said the quest to establish the NBC began 14 years ago.

He said this was when the first Bioethics Stakeholders meeting was organised in collaboration with UNESCO in Abuja, at the expression of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Mustapha said the objective of the meeting was for UNESCO to provide the government with the required information for the establishment of the NBC.

“In May 2022, the National Bioethics Framework and Policy Documents were approved by the Federal Executive Council with the directive that NABDA should commence the implementation of the policy, hence the establishment of the NBC.

“Prior to the approval of the policy documents by FEC, Nigeria has been a member state of UNESCO since 1960 and a signatory to the 2005 UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and human rights,’’ he said.

Mustapha said that Nigeria was experiencing numerous moral problems, which became imperative to establish ethical standards to guide policy decision making geared towards the attainment of the SDGs.

He said the NBC would promote ethical values of discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self-reliance, patriotism, good clinical and ethical research practices

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu said other purposes of the committee include assisting healthcare providers, hospital administrators, patients, families and the government.

He said the committee would serve as a mechanism to develop, recommend, and review broad decisions, standards, processes and procedures related to bioethical issues.

The minister said that the challenge of bioethics for government, health, bioethical institutions, citizens and stakeholders was to create value with the outcome of scientific research without violating existing moral ethical rules.

“This is a major challenge for a sector that generated more than 640 billion dollars in 2020 globally,’’ he said.

Adamu advised that Nigeria should utilise this opportunity to anticipate and identify challenges in order to mitigate them timely.

Dr Dimitri Sanga, Director, UNESCO Regional Office for West-Sahel Africa, UNESCO Regional Office in Abuja, said the NBC remained a platform for providing guidance to policy makers

He said that it was also to stimulate the increased awareness and informed debate on crucial bioethical issues.

Sanga who was represented by Regina Prisco of the Education department, reminded the members of the committee that the task ahead was serious.

Dr Chitu Princewill, Deputy Director and Head, Bioethics Unit of the NABDA, said with the inauguration of the NBC, expectation was for things to be done right.

“If there are things Nigerians or the society were doing as a result of ignorance or absence of a watch dog, but with the NBC in place, people would have a rethink on wrong acts.

She cited the establishment of the EFCC as an example which made people to be cautious about public spending and other forms of corruption.

Chitu said the NBC looks holistically at Bioethics as applied to sectors such agriculture, health, environment, security, education among others.

Dr Olagunju Idowu, Secretary General of Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO to the NBC, spoke on “Role of the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO to the NBC.’’

The inauguration was organised by NABDA in collaboration with the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO.