The Federal Ministry of Justice has affirmed its support and collaboration with the stakeholders towards the birthing of a reliable legal instrument for Geographical Indication.

The Justice minister, Abubakar Malami who was represented by Director, Legal Drafting, Barr. Ifunanya Nwajagu, pledged the support at the just concluded National Conference on creating Legal and Institutional Frameworks for Geographical Indications in Nigeria.

“To be or not to be, depends on a carefully grafted legal and institutional frameworks that meets the needs of today while guaranteeing the future and bearing in mind, global and continental trends in the fields of geographical indications.

“The legal framework will set out the roles and procedures for the actualization of the benefits of geographical indications so that they shall be recognized and protected locally in order to be recognized internationally too. The establishment of a legal framework for the Gls in Nigeria is very imperative, likewise the ratification and domestication of the relevant international treaties/ conventions and protocols,” he said.

Malami regretted that despite diverse products, Nigeria has not benefitted from international recognition due them.

“It is worthy of mention that we currently have varieties of unique agricultural and natural products that qualify as geographical indications such as “sokoto goats’ skin”, “Ijebu garri”, “skin hide of Kano”, “Kilishi”, “Yaji” (dry pepper), “Ose Nsukka” (Yellow pepper), “Aso Oke, “Adire”, “Ofada Rice”, “fura” and many more. Yet, none of these have benefitted from any comprehensive registration, international recognition and commercialization.

“Therefore, for Nigeria to avail itself of the opportunities in and benefits of its Geographic Indications, our efforts must begin at home, with the establishment of an appropriate legal framework, supported by robust efforts to promote the Geographic Indications in formalizing the traditional knowledge and techniques employed by originating geographic regions, standardizing methods of production, and actively driving recognition for Geographic Indications in international trade.

“The Federal Ministry of Justice is aware of treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a party including the recent African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the need to provide legislation that promotes trade and investment while meeting the needs of the people.

“The Federal Ministry of Justice awaits the drafting instructions from the organizers of this conference, as a team of drafters are available to review the Bill in line with our current precedent for Executive Bill for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council,” he further stated.

Speaking as a panelist, Mr. Aminu Waklek, Senior Assistant Registrar, Trade Marks Registry, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment says consensus is key to arrive at quality of products as well as determining who is qualified to be a member of the Patent rights Association.

He said there must be cohesion among the different patent right groups in order to promote export of their products.

Also in her submissions, Prof. Adejoke Oyewunmi, a Professor of intellectual property at the University of Lagos says the functions of the GIs must be clearly stated on the Draft law for GIs.

She also called for collaborations between Nigeria and other countries especially with the coming of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to promote Geographical Indications in Nigeria.