The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has stated that tobacco industry interference remains a major challenge to effective tobacco control in Nigeria and Africa.
CAPPA warned that big tobacco companies were constantly interfering with governments’ health policies thereby endangering regulatory efforts in clear contravention of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, and the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019.
The Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, made the disclosure on Thursday at the unveiling of the report on the industry’s interference strategies titled “Nigeria Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021”.
Oluwafemi said that the report, which was initiated by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliances (SEATCA), formed part of the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index.
“It’s a survey of how public health policies are protected from the tobacco industry’s subversive efforts and activities and what the government must do to push back the industry’s influence,” Oluwafemi noted.
Findings of the report, according to CAPPA boss, showed that the tobacco industry was participating in policy development, CSR activities as well as unnecessary interactions, for instance being part of committees set up by governments.
He said in flouting the relevant Act and Regulations, states and federal government officials interact with the tobacco industry without making the details of the meetings public.
According to him “ the tobacco industry still participates in policy development in Nigeria. The tobacco industry was invited and participated in the meetings organised by the federal government, including a Public hearing towards the passage of the National Tobacco Control Regulation 2019.
“The tobacco industry enjoys consistent invitations from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)to their meetings where supposed classified resolutions on standards are discussed and agreements are reached”.
On the claims of helping the local industry, Oluwafemi said: “It is political.
He said “There are no warehouses and no large-scale tobacco farmers. Our investigation revealed that they import leaves from 12 countries, including Senegal.”
In his contribution, Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, said the tobacco industry was partnering with virtually every state government in the country.
According to him “If they are doing anything with the government, whether CSR or otherwise, there’s no way such a government can hold them accountable,”.
CAPPA recommended for full implementation of the Act (2015) and Regulation (2019), and publication of dealings, interactions, economic incentives, and benefits the industry receives from the government.
Also, non-binding agreements with the tobacco industry must be rejected as governments are often at a disadvantage.
Furthermore, CAPPA advocated synergy between federal and state governments to institutionalise full disclosure of minutes and proceedings of meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry.
According to CAPPA “Ministries, departments and agencies of government should consistently update their websites and other information platforms.
“Government officials should be made to sign conflict-of-interest forms periodically. There’s nothing normal about the tobacco industry, therefore their socially-responsible activities should be de-normalised as they are a form of tobacco promotion.”
Source: Nigerian Tribune