As the House of Representatives begins investigation into the unauthorised importation of genetically modified maize into the country by Walcot, a seed company, it has been confirmed that the cargo worth over $10 million and impounded by the Nigeria Customs Service at the Apapa Wharf is to be returned to the country of import, Argentina.
The repatriation followed the discovery that the company failed to adhere to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act 2015 which states that: “Any person, institution or body who wishes to import, export, transit or otherwise carry out a contained field trial, multi-locational trial or commercial release of genetically modified organism shall apply to the Director General of the Agency not less than 270 days to the date of import, export, transit or the commencement of such activity.”
Recall that the NBMA had alerted Nigerians in September this year of tons of genetically modified (GM) maize imported into the country without necessary approvals.
The Director General/CEO, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, said that the agency got notice of the importation through an intelligence report and set in motion machineries to track the importers and bring them to book.
“The NBMA got an intelligence report on the importation of GM maize into the country. We have no application from anyone on this and we are not aware of any move to bring in this maize,” he said.
The importer of the impounded GM maize which came from Argentina and is about 90 metric tons, Walcot, did not comply with the provisions of the NBMA Act.
When contacted, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) confirmed that such an import was made at the Apapa Port in Lagos. The Public Relation Officer in Abuja, Mr Joseph Attah said:
“Yes, I can confirm that there is such import at Apapa. Customs drew the attention of the NBMA to it. They came and took samples and we await the findings of the agency.”
On whether the consignment would be returned to Argentina based on the expected findings, Attah said it is not in the Service position to speculate.