By Cecilia Ologunagba/Sunkami Onifade
Abuja – The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology says it is working with stakeholders in the sector to address ethical issues in the application of science and technology in the country.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Bitrus Nabusu, said this at the opening of the 2-day stakeholders’ meeting for the harmonisation of the National Bioethics Committee Framework and Policy Documents.
The meeting was organised by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in collaboration with the Nigeria National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM-UNESCO).
Bioethics relates to ethical issues emerging from advances in sciences and technology. It is the moral discernment from policies and practices in the fields of sciences and technology.
Nabusu, represented by Mr Abayomi Oguntunde, Director, Bio-resources Technology in the ministry said there was need to come up with policies on bioethics because of advancement in science and technology.
“The environment is changing rapidly, people are also changing fast, technology is advancing faster than we can imagine; new scientific innovations are coming up promising us heaven on earth.
“We must not forget that advancement comes with its own challenges.
“Life, as we all know, is full of risks everyday with the hope that the risk we take will yield good results and not break us.
“Bioethics, therefore, is here to mediate between changes in the society, scientific innovations and societal concerns,’’ he said.
According to him, bioethics is the application of moral principles (ethics) to life.
The permanent Secretary said the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights was adopted by acclamation on Oct. 19, 2005 at UNESCO’s General Conference.
He said the declaration affirmed that ethical issues raised by the rapid advances in science and their technology applications should be examined.
Nabusu said it should be examined with due respect to the dignity of human person and universal respect for, and observances of, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The primary aim of the declaration is to provide a universal framework of principles and procedures to guide member states (to which Nigeria belongs to).
“It will also guide member states in formulation of their legislations, policies or other instruments in the field of bioethics,’’ he said.
In her remarks, Dr Chitu Princewill, a deputy director, NABDA said Nigeria had remained observer in international bioethics committee meeting due to lack of a National Bioethics Committee.
Princewill said the NATCOM- UNESCO which was the Nigerian clearing house for Bioethics in 2009 chose the NABDA as the Focal Point for Bioethics in Nigeria.
“Also, to ensure the establishment of the Nigerian National Bioethics Committee, since then the NABDA has been working towards achieving the mandate.
“The Federal Government as part of its drive to ensure that right thing is done in Nigeria allocated some funds to the establishment of the Committee,’’ She said.
According to her, the National Bioethics Committee Framework is all encompassing and will continue to expand as changes occur in the society.
“It will expand and with advances in science and technology, therefore it cannot be restricted to one particular issue.
“The framework will attend to all issues posing challenge to life, dignity and freedom of persons as it affects us as a nation and also proffer advice on how best to tackle these issues.’’
In addition, Princewill said the main objective of the committee was to act as an advisory body to the President and policy makers.
She said that the stakeholders meeting to kick start the establishment of the National Bioethics Committee had been established since 2009.
The official, however, urged the stakeholders to deliberate on producing a National Bioethics Framework and a National Bioethics Policy to enhance the establishment of the National Bioethics Committee.
Also speaking, Mr Ngandeu Hugue, Programme Specialist for Social and Human Sciences UNESCO said the agency was looking forward to the recommendations from the meeting.
Hague said the agency would provide support for the committee when inaugurated.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 2-day meeting is expected to produce inputs from six technical sessions; health, agriculture, environment, society, education as well as defence and security.