By Daniels Nwokike
Abuja-The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) have said that Tobacco Industries are working tirelessly to undermine and frustrate the implementation of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act since its passage into law in 2015.
Speaking to newsmen in a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, the Deputy Director of ERA/FoEN, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, who also represented the CSOs working on Tobacco Control in Nigeria, said that these Tobacco Industries are strategizing seriously on subverting this policy by coercing government officials to advocate on their behalf, interfering in policy making through trade committees and third parties, aggressive lobbying and bribing of policymakers also known as unpaliamentary lobbying.
Akinbode said, “We have noticed a suspicious amendment bill in the national assembly. A bill that has not been implemented, suddenly there is an attempt to amend the bill. They want to whittle down the authority of the ministry of health to act as the implementing agency for tobacco control policy in Nigeria which is an attempt by the industries to distract and the government on the other hand needs to do the needful”.
He also said that these Industries have engaged some officials to act as moles for them in different ministries of government that have anything to do with tobacco control policy citing the leaking of a confidential document relating to the implementing guidelines for the NTC Act at the Ministry of justice.
Furthermore, the Deputy Director said that smuggling of official documents to non-government actors: individuals, corporations etc carry a heavy weight with the law. “Worse is when such information is used to subvert the will of Nigerians who have overwhelmingly demanded measures to reduce tobacco addiction as enshrined in the provisions of the NTC Act” he said.
He admonished the Nigerian government, particularly the ministry of Health to remain unintimidated as it works on resolutions for the effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act and to fast track its guidelines and regulations.
Also speaking,the West African Sub-Regional Coordinator of Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids, Hilda Ochefu,said that statistical report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which was carried out over a period of 10 years (2005 – 2015) shows that Nigeria and Africa as a whole is not doing very well statistically.
She noted that while numbers of smokers are reducing in other parts of the world where tobacco control acts are implemented, it is soaring in Africa with the numbers increasing as much as 3.4% in west Africa, 4.6% in North Africa and 12.6% in Central Africa; While the numbers decreased by as much as 7.1% in Northern Europe and 6.8% in Latin America.