How tobacco industry is interfering in Nigerian govt policies

By Valentine Amanze

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have raised the alarm that the tobacco industry was still interfering in Nigerian policies.

They raised the alarm, launching the 2020 tobacco industry interference index report for Nigeria.

A survey carried by the two groups revealed that the Nigerian government fell short of some several critical standards of transparency and probity.

According to them, the tobacco industry in Nigeria was interfering unnecessarily in tobacco control policies and unlawfully embarking on corporate social responsibilities in clear contravention of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.

They pointed out that overall, Nigeria scored 49 in the survey which was supervised by Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) at the School of Global Studies in Thammasat University.

They explained that the methodology of the report was based on the Tobacco Industry Interference Index initiated by the South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the 20 questions were based on Article 5.3 recommendations.

“A scoring system (0 – 5) is used where the higher score indicates the stronger tobacco industry interference,” the groups stated.

On the report, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, called on the Nigerian government to put in place global standards, probity, and transparency in all its dealings with the tobacco industry.

After presenting the report of the survey to the Minister of State for Health; Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, Akinbode said, “15 years have lapsed since Nigeria signed the WHO FCTC and Article 5.3 of the treaty. It is binding on Nigeria. It is disheartening that despite having a five- year-old tobacco control law, Nigeria still records a lot of infringements on the law and the treaty. This is not good for public health in the country.”

Oluwafemi pointed out that the interest of the tobacco industry was always for profit and widely at variance with public health and safety, adding that for as long as the industry continued to interfere in policies, the more public health and safety would be the casualty.

Also, the Programme Coordinator of NTCA, Olu’Seun Esan, said that the report revealed that the industry still embarked on CSR activities, partnering with government at all levels including ministries to mark World observances.

He lamented that it was very wrong and should be discouraged, adding that government must put in place significant taxes in line with the WHO recommendation and the taxes should be used to support public health rather than permitting the industry to embark on CSR further and thereby advertising and promoting its harmful products.

He added that the report of the findings after it was launched on Friday, September 11, 2020 in Abuja had been shared with several stakeholders across the country including the Federal Ministry of Health.

The report of the survey forms part of the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index - a global survey of how public health policies are protected from the industry’s subversive efforts - and how governments have pushed back against the influence.

The survey took a cursory look at the tobacco industry’s participation in policy development, the tobacco industry’s corporate social responsibility activities as well as benefits to the industry from government policies.

The survey also assessed unnecessary interactions between the government ministries, Department and Agencies and the tobacco industry, while evaluating transparency in dealing with the tobacco industry by the government, conflict of interest and preventive measures.

Nigeria being a signatory and a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FTCT) has some obligations on these topical issues while dealing with and administering the activities of the tobacco industry.

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