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Corruption: Nigeria’s Tobacco Bill Suffers Setback

By Ugochukwu Chimeziri
Strong indications emerging show that the tentacles of corruption may have been keeping too close to the process of getting the Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Bill 2009 enacted.
A source close to the Senate who spoke to HotNews Nigeria on the condition of anonymity said that following Mr. David Mark’s, (Senate President) directive for the Senate Committee on Health handling
the tobacco issue to fast track issues to facilitate the Bill’s
enactment before money changes hand. The source added that following
that directive from the apex power in the Senate, the tobacco industry
led by the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) swam into action
intensified lobbying efforts. According to the Source, the Chairman of
the Committee has been pretending to be too busy to settle down for the
tobacco bill business and since the Committee cannot sit, it would be
very difficult to make any presentation to the Senate.
“I tell you that the committee Chairman can hardly call for any meeting and so if the meeting has not held we cannot make any submission to the
Senate,” the source said.
The NTCB made the second reading in the House and a public hearing in July 2009 where the Bill had an overwhelming support by the public but up
till now, the Bill that was expected should have been passed in 2009 is
now kept in the cooler with the current administration rolling off.
In his speech as part of the activity marking the 10th international week of Resistance Against Tobacco Transnational, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns and
Administration, Environmental Rights Action (ERA) said the international
week of resistance aims to build a momentum in the run-up to the World
Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
(FCTC) meeting in Uruguay in November for a unified and collaborative
action to stop the tobacco industry from derailing the FCTC’s lifesaving
measures.
Although the FCTC came into force in 2005 with over 170 countries representing about 90 per cent of the world’s population ratifying it, domesticating the
treaty has been a serious challenge to some countries including Nigeria due to the influences of the tobacco industry.
“…the single greatest obstacle to the treaty’s success is tobacco industry interferences in public health policy, a practice that Article 5.3 of
the treaty effectively forbids,” he said.
Oluwafemi said at the press conference which held in Lagos that in solidarity with other allies and non governmental organizations across the globe, ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria is taking part to
expose some of the tobacco industry tactics to undermine the
domestication in Africa in particular and world.
He also said that ERA/FoEN has also released a report from the tobacco industry watchdog-Corporate Accountability International which has
vividly shown documented evidences of persistent efforts by the tobacco
industry to obstruct the FCTC on the African continent.
The report which is entitled ‘Protecting Against Tobacco Industry Interference’ was intended to keep governments alert and make them
anticipate the thwart attempts by vested commercial interests of the
tobacco industry to undermine the implementation of the tobacco control
policies.
In the meantime, smoking rate among the Nigerian youths has been on the rise.
“A survey conducted in 2001 shows that 9.1 per cent of Nigerian youths smoke cigarette. The figure by another survey conducted in 2008 has
jumped to between 17 and 27 per cent. Infact, a recent survey in four
local governments of Adamawa state put smoking rate among youths at 33.9
per cent. While smoking rate has been on the increase the senate has
been foot-dragging in passing the NTCB.”
He therefore warned of the importance of governments to insulate their public health policies without any contribution from the tobacco
industry.
Bemoaning Nigeria’s recent situation in the tobacco fight, the ERA’s director said that it was very unfortunate that while Nigeria was among the very few nations that signed the FCTC in 2004 with ratification in 2005, the nation is still foot-dragging total
domestication of the treaty.
He also lamented on the new system the BATN has developed through which the tobacco giant has been exploring in catching youths into tobacco
consumption.
“…in the last two months, BATN has held several secret smoking parties targeted at new smokers. Two of such parties held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island, both in Lagos. The company has marshaled out plans of holding more such parties from November in the upcoming yuletide,” he said.
In the meantime, the report has revealed avenues adopted by the tobacco industry in fighting down oppositions to include lawsuits, revolving
doors, influence purchasing, and other industry tactics. Some of the
tactics include lobbying political decision makers, drafting
legislations for their regulation, self regulations, partnering with
government on health matters, demanding of a seat at the table where
tobacco policies are being formulated, promotion of their products
through corporate social responsibility amongst others.
ERA/FoEN therefore strongly calls on the Senate of the federal republic of Nigeria to immediately yield to the voice of Nigerians and promptly
conclude work on the National Tobacco Control Bill.

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