Issues in implementation of PVP Act and attendant huddles

As National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) commenced unveiling and  implementation of the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP), Nigeria is expected to make some billions of dollar annually, but how far can they go with the opposing forces, JOHN OBA reports.

The clamour for Nigeria to develop a Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP) was finally put to rest with its unveiling and implementation after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Bill few months ago. 

Nigeria was one of the few countries in Africa that didn’t have an intellectual property rights (IPRs) system for plant varieties despite its vibrant seeds industry and stakeholders lamentation of researchers losing their patent right. 

With the passage of the law, the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) commenced unveiling, implementation and sensitisation of stakeholders on the benefits of the Act and to clear the fear of the opposing voices of the Act of it positive intent.

PVP benefits

Speaking on Friday at one of such unveiling meetings in Abuja NASC Director General, Dr. Olusegun Ojo, said the importance of having a PVP law in place cannot be over emphasize, adding that Nigeria’s agricultural sector transformation is a significant reason why the country should pay attention to plant variety protection (PVP).

Dr Ojo said this move would incentivise national and multinational agribusiness investments in the country.

“We will begin to see on our farmer’s field superior yielding, stress-tolerant, disease-resistant, climate-smart and input efficient varieties which will be introduced by innovative breeders both from the public and the private sector in few years to come.

Ojo further said Nigeria would generate over N3 billion annually from the new Plant Variety Protection Law (PVP) and that it would also protect the intellectual property of seed breeders.

“From this innovation a lot income will be generated from the law even by breeders because it is actually an innovation that is going to bring a lot of revenue to breeders and farmers.

“We will be making N2 billion to N3 billion annually. A lot of companies that do not want to bring their genetics but an opportunity has presented itself. Guidelines are going to be implemented to fast track the scheme.

“It is an innovation we are bringing to the agricultural space in Nigeria. It what other countries have been enjoying. The important thing is that Nigeria has got a PVC law to assist our farmers get increase yield and food security in Nigeria,” he said.

The NASC boss added that Nigeria will begin to witness efficient land use and reduced food cost as a result of the increased productivity from cultivated hectares across the country.

He stressed, NASC has  already started doing what is necessary to ensure that Nigeria does not only have the PVP Law but to implement it for the impacts to be delivered to the farmers and the entire Nigerians.

According to him “NASC have commenced actions to set up a functional PVP office to receive and process applications for the granting of a Plant Variety Protection rights in Nigeria from anywhere in the world. We are also working to develop supporting regulations that will help implement the Act,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) CEO, Mrs Gloria Ekpo who represented him said as the country celebrate the achievement and discuss plans for implementation, it must act with a sense of urgency to strengthen partnerships for resilient seeds regulations through catalytic investments into the Seeds sector, tackle high-level insecurity for sustainable and inclusive seeds systems and agricultural transformation in Nigeria.

Need for research

Also, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono while giving a keynote address, pointed out that one of the key issues faced by the development of agriculture is innovation and research, explaining that all countries of the world that have succeeded in improving their agricultural production was done through innovation and research.

He said: “in spite of all the challenges, we have 135 seed companies in Nigeria, in one of our high-level meetings on economic sustainability, some people came with the idea that there is an emergency and we need to import seeds, and I said no. I told them we have enough seeds in this country, but the issue is access to getting seeds or information”.

Nanono added that it is very important that the PVP is diligently implemented, “we should engage all the stakeholders in this business,” he said.

According to Ekpo “There is no doubt that the implementation of the Plant Variety Protection Act will assist to better position Nigeria to feed her growing population and equally attract foreign investments into the Seed sub-sector as well as enjoy the gains of intra- and inter-border trade opportunities in seed trade and exports.

“Indeed, hunger has been on the rise for several years in Nigeria and with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, affordability, availability and accessibility to nutritious foods is increasingly becoming difficult for 52 million food-insecure Nigerians.

“It is our belief that plant breeders and farmers can offer solutions to these challenges of food insecurity. But, in order to succeed, they need the right tools and that requires us to reorient food systems so that the plant breeders and farmers are given opportunities to thrive, and to be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

“With increased incomes and profits among small-scale farmers and plant breeders, their businesses are invested back into local economies, where they create jobs and equitable growth. This is crucial for creating opportunities for rural youth and to live and thrive in their various communities.

“Furthermore, as we intentionally integrate digitisation into the seed-subsector processes, service delivery will be improved for small-scale farmers, interactive digital extension sessions and user-friendly mobile applications can be facilitated and strengthened with farmers on sustainable agronomic practices. This will further unlock competitiveness within the agri-food ecosystem with appropriate demand forecasts,” she added.

Opposition lawsuit

Though Nigeria has commenced unveiling and implementation of the Act, but there are many huddles for the promoter of the Act to cross, this is because there are still opposing voices calling for the amendment of the Act. This is even as the registered Trustees of Health of Mother Earth Foundation have filed a suit challenging a provision of the Plant Variety Protection Act 2021 for inconsistency with provisions in the Nigerian Constitution.

A statement signed by 53 different organisations and made available to journalists in Abuja on Sunday revealed that the originating summons with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/815/2021 is filed at the Federal High Court Abuja suing the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Plaintiff, represented by the Law firm, Chido Legal Consult in the originating summons signed by Reuben Chakku Esq., counsel in chambers, seeks a declaration that section 43(2) of the Plant Variety Protection Act 2021 is illegal, invalid, null and void and contrary to the letters and spirit of section 6 and section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2011).

Also, the suit seeks a declaration that the powers of the court to hear matters arising from the decision of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in administering provisions of the Plant Variety Protection Act 2021 is sacrosanct.

The plaintiff want an order deeming the said section 43(2) of the Plant Variety Protection Act 2021 as unconstitutional and unenforceable. In addition, they seek an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd defendants by themselves, their agents, servants, workmen or otherwise whatsoever from carrying out any activity or further activity pursuant to the section 43(2) of the Plant Variety Protection Act 2021.

The Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) DE. Nnimmo Bassey, noted that the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act will hitherto allow Nigeria join the International Union for the Protection New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

According to Bassey, UPOV is a patent driven system formulated without the participation of African countries and designed by countries where agriculture is a business rather than a way of life. He added that such countries have just a tiny fraction of their population involved in agriculture which is of the industrial type as opposed to what we have in Nigeria.

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