April 13, 2022

Nigerian node seeks N135mn pilot fund to sequence genomes of endangered species


Prof. Julian O. Osuji, Head, BioNet Research Group, University of Port Harcourt; Co-Chair AfricaBP and Chair, Genomics for Conservation of Endangered and Endemic Species (Grand Challenge).


By Godfrey Bivebere & Providence Ayanfeoluwa

Following a call on the public and private sectors to invest in AfricaBP to secure and conserve Nigeria’s biodiversity, Nigerian Node is currently seeking a pilot fund of N135 million required in the first three years to cover the sequencing of about 80 endangered species found in Nigeria.

In a statement signed by Head, BioNet Research Group, University of Port Harcourt/Co-Chair AfricaBP and Chair, Genomics for Conservation of Endangered and Endemic Species (Grand Challenge), Prof. Julian Osuji, said that Nigeria’s rich biodiversity has been neglected over the years, with most species becoming endangered and red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN.

He said AfricaBP aspires to sequence genomes of 105,000 species (including plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms) in 10 years, with an approximate cost of US$100 million per year; and has commenced its pilot project aimed at sequencing 2000 species in 3 years.

Osuji stated: “There is an urgent need to deploy, in Nigeria, biodiversity genomics for the conservation of species including wildlife, orphaned crops, medicinal herbs, and industrially resourceful raw materials-yielding species. Failure to keep to strategic civil and industrial development plans that are sustainable has become a major threat to the survival of the critical Nigerian biodiversity.

“This project, if funded, will be tagged with an identity desired by the financier just like the Nelson Mandela Animal Conservation of Nature and Wangari Maathai Plant sequencing projects. There is also the Aroid Genome Sequencing Project domiciled in the University of Port Harcourt in the Nigerian Node.

“This project would require about N30 million as enabling fund. Other genome sequencing projects that require funds include Nigeria’s Mangrove Genome Sequencing Project and Medicinal Plants Genome Sequencing project. Several other sequencing projects can be funded to support the Nigerian or West African Nodes of AfricaBP.

“Public and Private Sectors in Nigeria have a huge role to play in driving the AfricaBP Nigeria initiative. For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Tertiary Education Fund (Tetfund), Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Bank of Industry (BOI), and other capable public sector bodies or establishments in Nigeria can take advantage of sponsoring these projects to make indelible contributions to the conservation of Nigerian biodiversity, add value to life and immortalize their identities.

“Private establishments and Foundations in Nigeria such as Dangote Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, President Obasanjo Otta Farms, Innoson Motors, Oil producing companies such as Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Shell Nigeria Exploration Company (SNEPCO), Mobil Producing Nigeria, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Heirs Holding Oil & Gas Limited, Sterling Oil Explorations & Energy Production Company, SEEPCO Limited, Conoil, Oando plc, and others could invest in this project as a way of contributing to biodiversity conservation in Nigeria and as a means of giving back to their operational environment.

“Survival pressure faced by organisms worldwide poses a cause for concern. Understanding and cataloguing species’ genomic information can result in huge beneficial ramifications across several spheres of life including food security, biodiversity conservation, biomedicine, industrial product development and services, and climate change control.

“Thus, there is a global push to generate genomic datasets that will be crucial for the conservation of animals, plants, and other species on earth. On this basis, a team of African scientists in 2019 initiated a research network known as “Digital Innovations in Africa for Sustainable Agri-Environment and Conservation (DAISEA),” the statement said.