On 14-16 December 2021, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Geneva Branch/Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Implementation Support Unit and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office (UNOCT) co-organized a virtual training on Biological Preparedness and Response for Nigeria. The training, which gathered 85 participants from 28 entities, was organized in close collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser, the National Authority on Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions of Nigeria and the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York.
The joint training, which was the first of its kind, was held within the framework of the new 20 courses of UNCCT’s Programme on Preventing and Responding to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) terrorism and UNODA’s National Preparedness Programme (NPP) for Nigeria, funded by the European Union Council Decision 2019/97 in support of the BWC. Amongst others, NPP’s are designed to strengthen a country’s capacity for detecting, reporting and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases or biological weapons attacks, including in the areas of preparedness, response, and crisis management and mitigation.
This three-day training provided the participants with a framework by which biological awareness and security countermeasures may be implemented by law enforcement, government authorities and industry partners. The representatives learnt about biological threat agents and symptoms, their identification, testing and screening, biological material vulnerabilities, challenges in investigating bioterrorism, sample collection and analysis, multi-agency integration and incident command, as well as biosafety and biosecurity standards.
The training also introduced the BWC, its history, provisions, significance, highlighted available resources to facilitate States Parties’ implementation of the Convention, and outlined the ways in which the Convention addresses assistance, response and preparedness. A separate session was dedicated to the strengthening of national policy, legislation and regulations.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Stefan Tressing, Deputy Head, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division of the European External Action Service, commended Nigeria for its active interest and engagement in the BWC in general, and in the National Preparedness Programme in particular. He also underlined the crucial importance of the BWC in countering biological threats.
Mr. Aminu Lawwal, Director of Policy and Strategy at the Office of the National Security Adviser of Nigeria highlighted that “This is the fourth time we are partnering with the UNOCT this year and all previous Workshops have had high participation, engagement and interactions. We thank you for this collaboration and also welcome the new partners as there is still much work to be done.”
In his closing remarks Mr. Jehangir Khan, Director of UNCCT, concluded by saying that “(…) in spite of our common efforts, there is still much to be done in countering bioterrorism threat. UNCCT remains committed to strengthening bio-preparedness and bio-response to protect our people and be resilient towards rapidly evolving threats”.