The Nigerian Government on Tuesday in Abuja, inaugurated the National Bioethics Committee(NBC) to safeguard the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of citizens.
The rationale for the establishment of a National Bioethics Committee is hinged on the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and human rights.
The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), Dr Adeleke Mamora said that science and technology now included arts, education and 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 the diversity of values at different places and times.
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 the government, parliaments and other governmental bodies on bioethical challenges and issues raised by the progress in healthcare, biology and 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, the 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.
Mr Adamu 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 and 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 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 guiding policymakers.
He said that it was also to stimulate 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.