FG to develop Geographical Indications for nation’s Intellectual Property policy, laws

The Federal Government  is to develop a Geographical Indications (GI), System for the country, as part of ongoing efforts to review the nation’s Intellectual Property policy and laws.

Amb. Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment made this known on Thursday in a statement after a GI capacity building workshop in Abuja.

The workshop with the theme “Understanding policy support for GIs in Nigeria” was organised as part of efforts between the Federal Government and the European Union to build capacity for the evolution of GI Sui Generis system for Nigeria.

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, she said, could be attributable to natural or human factors such as soil, climate, local expertise and traditions of a people in a geographical location.

Katagum noted that poor knowledge of GIs and the absence of specific legal framework on the GIs render the unique products more vulnerable to misappropriation.

“This is a starting conversation towards the creation of a legal framework to provide legal protection to Nigerian  GIs 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  GIs Legislation and Policy into Nigeria’s Industrial Property and agricultural landscape.

“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).

“This includes the identification of unique products with cultural heritage through GIs; this will enable the country to benefit maximally from the implementation of the AfCFTA,” Katagum said.

Katagum added that her Ministry was fully committed to forward the legislative aspect of the process to the National Assembly as quickly as possible to get things right.

The statement also quoted the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, noted that the Geographical Indications system would assist government in commercialising the production of food culture and other aspects of our culture.

Nanono who was represented by Mrs Sugra Mahmood, Deputy Director, Irrigation, Agriculture and Crop Development, said the application of GIs would enable the value chain actors to benefit.

He noted that GIs can be catalytic in reviving the rural economy as we have seen in the case of some products that have been properly branded such as Ofada Rice, Kilishi, Dudu Osun, and so on.

“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.

“The administration is also ready to exploit GIs and strengthen the resilience of the economy so as to provide a decent livelihood for all Nigerians.

“We are ready to collaborate with the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, and its partners to enable our people and nation to benefit maximally from our GIs,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Sand Kalu, Executive Director, Africa International Trade and Commerce Research (AITCR) said the workshop was one in a series of programmes designed to facilitate the development of Nigeria’s GI system.

Kalu noted that subsequent programmes would focus on individual stakeholder groups, including governors, legislators, and Trade Associations of products with GI potential.

Prof. Jummai Audi, Chairman, Nigeria Law Reform Commission pledged the support of the Commission towards facilitating the legislative aspect of the process for the development of GTs system for Nigeria.

Other collaborating stakeholders for the event include the European Union Intellectual Property Office, Africa Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation (AfrIPI) project, the African International Trade and Commerce Research (AITCR) and the IP First Group of Nigeria. (NAN)