Is Nigeria to Kill Another Environmentalist?
In this article, the context of the Government of Nigeria (GON) and its agencies killing a truth-seeking environmentalist are twofold. (a) Physical as in murder, execution, assassination or driving one to suicide. Or (b) psychological as in breaking one’s spirit, discrediting one’s name, ruining one’s career; being a victim of government-sponsored attack dogs. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a major Nigerian environmentalist, suffered such a fate. It would not be paranoia or scaremongering to have serious concerns that the GON is after yet another environmentalist, Rev Nnimmo Bassey. The question is to what extent, considering the beginnings of similar trends and actions in the past. “Discredit him then kill him” is an old tactic. We should take the matter seriously.
When I read an article with intent written and published to smear Nnimmo Bassey as guilty of “misleading” the public and “unpatriotic” activism just for pecuniary sake, it was revolting. It was a most shocking evolution of blamocracy happening within the current GON (http://www.environewsnigeria.com/biotech-agencies-nirec-report-unpatriotic-activism/). Yes, Nigeria is now replete with Blamocrats, within and without government, that purposefully attacks any critic of government. Well, regardless of the necessity of critique or the failure of the GON to live up to its duties and commitments.
Nevertheless, Nnimmo Bassey wrote a befitting rebuttal to the attacking article (http://nigeriancurrent.com/2017/03/20/biotechnology-scientists-experts-government-agencies-and-patriotism-by-nnimmo-bassey/) but much concern for his safety and future had already on the minds of many people. Moreover, the easy to evoke chill of his buddy, Saro-Wiwa’s execution, has not thawed in the minds of millions around the globe.
Hence, a smear is an attempt to damage a person with falsehoods is emerging. A criticism expresses disapproval about an entity or person based on real or imagined failures or mistakes. They are not the same thing. The basis for the smear brewing against Bassey is that he was the primary architect of the National Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) Report. Furthermore, he did not mince words about the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).
The interesting part is that the scientific contents of the NIREC Report were not up for discussion by the author. He adopted a non-scientific non-rational discourse instead. Reason: anyone who reads the NIREC Report would see the committee comprises noted high calibre thinkers. The issues raised were fact-driven and relevant to Nigeria’s interest. The method adopted was evidence-based, and the report was of impeccable reference.
NIREC’s Report is an evidence-based investigation into claims and counterclaims concerning the implications of introducing GMOs into Nigeria using appropriate scientific method. They then tested the scientific findings for compatibility with religious beliefs and the national interest. We can within reason narrow the theme of the Report down to 10 crucial questions and rational recommendations for them.
The questions are; (1) Do GM crops increase crop yield? (2) Do GM crops reduce pesticide use? (3) What are the effects of GM crops on human health? (4) What are the benefits of GM bio-fortification for our otherwise natural crops? (5) What are the long-term effects of GM crops on the environment? And the way forward? (6) What deficiencies did they identify in the current Biosafety Act 2015? (7) What deficiencies did they identify in the National Health Act 2014? (8) Are there concerns about ways to distribute GM crops to IDPs by NGOs? (9) Which are the GM crops now sold or cultivated in Nigeria? (10) What are the religious, socio-cultural and national interest implications of the use of GM crops?
Nonetheless, a summary of the evidence-based answers was that GMO did not increase crop yield. GMOs did not reduce pesticide use. The eradication of pests did not occur, but swaps them by introducing GMOs. GMOs carry serious potential health risks, and the future of the environment in the long-term was uncertain about imposing GMOs. The Biosafety Act of 2015 and the Health Act 2014 require significant revision to eliminate deficiencies in them. In addition, areas where people buy and sell GMOs should be on the map.
Consequently, the Council arrived at all these recommendations at with adherence to the provisions and expectations of a well-defined religious (Christian and Islamic) and broad-based national interest concerns. Thus, more research into GMOs is an unnegotiable requirement. Then, we can take the claims of the advantages of GMOs with seriousness.
What is so unpatriotic, venal or self-serving about the NIREC Report and its alleged architect Nnimmo Bassey, considering these the salience of the questions and recommendations as presented? If the contents of the NIREC Report are unsound in scientific or moral senses, would a rebuttal(s) based on cogent scientific evidence to the contrary not be the rational professional response?
The concerns about biosafety and GMOs are global. More and more nations are resisting or banning GMOs. But Nigeria is once again shaping as the willing “toilet of the world”. Before expressing any indignation, do not forget Nigeria is Number One in oil pollution. It is also top in gas flaring, desktop computer dumping and the growth rate in tobacco smoking in the world with growing generous help from foreign large corporations.
Furthermore, members of NIREC complained that members of NABDA and NBMA appeared to be uninterested in the focus of biosafety in Nigeria or lacked the capacity to be so, saying they have not met the expectations as development agencies for biosafety in Nigeria. It also cited the agencies’ conflicts of interest regarding GMO companies. Many can understand that suggesting that scientists are corrupt is something they do not take lightly. Even with proof. We can speculate this smear attack on Nnimmo Bassey might have been the “Revenge of the Scientists”. Others have seen it as something far more serious and dreading an unsafe future for Nnimmo Bassey in Nigeria.
On a positive note, the great assurance is that Nnimmo Bassey is no stranger to threats resulting from his stoic and fearless approach to fighting environmental issues in Nigeria and all around the world with effectiveness. The threat would with certainty not perturb him personally. Still, diverse people’s voice much concern for him and his safety.
The GON and its agencies must know millions are watching.