Nigeria: Fostering better relationships

By Opuah Abiekwen

May 2, 2017

In Nigeria, as in many nations, the recent March for Science was aimed at fostering better relationships between the scientific community and the public, which will influence better policy decisions relating to scientific innovations.

Both participants and speakers sought to remind the public of the vital role science has played in human development, from healthcare interventions in cases like polio and cholera, though the green revolution in agriculture, to innovations in engineering. The public also was reminded of the importance of trusting scientific principles, which are universally practiced and accepted.

Among those addressing the crowd were Belema Wakama, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology. She stated that we live in the age of science, and the lives of everyone depend on scientific inventions and innovations. She added that the March for Science provided an opportunity for science supporters and scientists to take a stand and highlight the numerous benefits of science to Nigeria and Nigerians.

Ernest Aubee, head of the agriculture division of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in Abuja, noted that science is real, science is life and science is a catalyst that can ensure that we improve agriculture, infrastructure and health. He further informed participants of the role ECOWAS is playing in order to ensure safe adoption of biotechnology in agriculture, stating that ECOWAS currently has a biotechnology action plan in its 15 member states. This action plan calls for more research into biotechnology so that people have the correct information to make the right decisions.

Professor Lucy Ogbadu, director general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, said she was delighted to be among the passionate people who came out to raise their voices for what they believe, especially in this era of a growing anti-science movement with no respect to borders. She admonished participants to use the opportunity to join voices to amplify available science-based solutions, like biotechnology, that the nation can adopt, especially to ensure food security.

Dr. Rose Gidado, country coordinator for the Nigeria chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa and chief organizer of the March, also added her voice to the event. She emphasized that the March was aimed at informing the public so it could make evidence-based decisions in the adoption of useful technologies, especially biotechnology, to address agriculture challenges like climate change, increased incidence of pest and diseases, desert encroachment, etc.

A representative of the National Orientation Agency said the need for educating the masses about scientific development could not be overemphasized, since science is always innovating and developing new inventions. He assured participants of the agency s readiness to partner with other relevant bodies to build greater public awareness about science and its innovations.

As one scientist noted, in explaining why he was at the March: It is not a matter of being a scientist or not, as no one stays in seclusion from scientific innovations in society. So once we are humans, once we live in society, we should be involved.

The event ended with sharing scientific materials and hosting a media press conference at the National Biotechnology Development Agency.