The Federal Government has declared its commitment to developing a Geographical Indications (GI) unique System for Nigeria as part of ongoing efforts to review the nation’s Intellectual Property policy and laws.
This was disclosed by the Minister of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, at a Geographical Indications (GI) capacity building workshop in Abuja on Thursday.
The workshop with the theme “Understanding policy support for Geographical Indications (GIs) in Nigeria” was organised as part of a series of collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and the European Union to build the required capacity for the evolution of a GI unique system for Nigeria.
Other collaborating stakeholders for the event include the European Union Intellectual Property Office funded Africa Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation (AfrIPI) project, the African International Trade and Commerce Research (AITCR) and the IP First Group of Nigeria.
The minister said, “Poor knowledge of Geographical Indications (GIs) and the absence of specific legal framework on the GIs renders our unique products more vulnerable to misappropriation.
“This event, therefore, is a welcome development, as a starting conversation, towards the creation of a legal framework to provide legal protection to Nigerian Geographical Indications, which will in turn boost exports and promote economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in Nigeria.
“It is therefore gladdening that the workshop is specifically designed to train Public Sector and Policy Makers in Nigeria, with a view to examining the possibilities of adopting Geographical Indications (GIs) Legislation and Policy into Nigeria’s Industrial Property and agricultural landscape.”
Geographical Indications identify products by their place of origin, where the place of origin confers some unique qualities, reputation and characteristic on the product, be it agricultural or non-agricultural products. Such unique qualities could be attributable to natural or human factors such as soil, climate, local expertise and traditions of a people in a geographical location.
The Minister further noted that “It is imperative to also highlight the coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Agreement, which puts a responsibility on decision makers, to begin the discourse of updating Industrial Property legislation (where necessary), including the identification of unique products with cultural heritage through Geographical Indications (GIs). This would enable the country to benefit maximally from the implementation of the AfCFTA.”
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Sabo Nanono, noted that the Geographical Indications system “can assist us in commercialising the production of our food culture and other aspects of our culture thus enabling the value chain actors to benefit.”
Represented at the occasion by Mrs. Sugra Mahmood, the Deputy Director, Irrigation, Agriculture and Crop Development, the Minister noted that “GIs can be catalytic in reviving the rural economy as we have seen it happen in the case of some products that have been properly branded such as Ofada Rice, Kilishi, Dudu Osun, etc.
“The current administration stands ready to partner with all the relevant stakeholders, both local and foreign, in its bid to preserve the natural and bio-cultural diversity endowment in the country and also exploit it to strengthen the resilience of the economy, so as to provide a decent livelihood for all Nigerians. My Ministry is therefore ready to collaborate with Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, AfrIPI, AITCR, IP First and other partners to enable our people and nation to benefit maximally from our GIs,” he said.
Mr. Sand Mba Kalu, the Executive Director of the Africa International Trade and Commerce Research (AITCR) noted that the workshop was one in a series of programmes designed to facilitate the development of Nigeria’s GI system. He also noted that subsequent programmes would focus on individual stakeholder groups, including governors, legislators, and Trade Associations of products with GI potential.
Earlier, Ambassador Katagum, in responding to questions during a media chat at the event, noted that her Ministry was fully committed to getting the legislative aspect of the process before the National Assembly “as quickly as possible.”
Prof. Jummai A. M. Audi, Chair of the Nigeria Law Reform Commission pledged the support of the Commission towards facilitating the legislative aspect of the process for the development of Geographical Indications Sui Generis system for Nigeria.