The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on all relevant stakeholders to take stronger actions against tobacco industry in Nigeria, for what it tagged its unnecessary interference in tobacco control policies, and unlawfully embarked on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in clear contravention of Nigerian laws.
The group made this call recently at a press briefing, held to unveil the Nigeria Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report 2021, in Lagos.
According to the Executive Director, CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, “the tobacco industry in Nigeria has consistently interfered unnecessarily in tobacco control policies and unlawfully embarked on corporate social responsibility activities in clear contravention of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
“In the index report survey supervised by Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) at the School of Global Studies in Thammasat University, the higher points a nation scores indicates heightened tobacco industry interference.
“A scoring system (0 – 5) is used where the higher score indicates the stronger tobacco industry interference. The indicators are 20.”
He said in 2020, Nigeria obtained 49 points, but unfortunately, the outcome of this year’s survey was 53, which indicated that the tobacco industry was intensifying its subversive actions despite Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation.
While further breaking down the findings in the report, Oluwafemi said, the tobacco industry still participates in policy development in Nigeria.
According to him, “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 Organization of Nigeria (SON) to their meetings where supposed classified resolutions on standards are discussed, and agreements are reached.
“The industry still engages in so-called CSR activities in various sectors in Nigeria. Many of such engagements are in the public domain and are even celebrated in the media and on social media, especially on Facebook and twitter.
In 2021, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) even partnered with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) – a federal government youth scheme to supposedly empower young agriculture entrepreneurs financially.
“To qualify for the scheme, applicants must be young Nigerians with a viable agri-business model, and they must demonstrate strong passion for agriculture.”
He said there was evidence of unnecessary interaction between the tobacco industry and Nigerian government, most especially in the agriculture sector.
He likewise revealed that the industry was also part of some committees set up by the government which makes interactions with public officials plausible.
“The Federal government fixed June 23, 2021, as the take-off date for the policy on Pictorial Health Warnings on tobacco products packs in Nigeria.
“Disturbingly, after the supposed June 23 take-off date, there has been no sign that the policy is in force, no official communication from the government that the policy has taken off or extension granted to the tobacco companies, yet no sanction for defaulting tobacco companies.”
Stating the group’s demands, Oluwafemi demanded for full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
He also asked the government to provide information of its dealings, interactions, economic incentives, and benefits that the Tobacco industry receives from it.
“Reject non-binding agreements with the tobacco industry. Governments are often disadvantaged when they agree to cooperate with the tobacco industry. There should be no collaboration between governments and the tobacco industry.”
He likewise asked for the De-normalization of the CSR activities of the tobacco industry. “Governments must reject CSR activities as these are a form of tobacco promotion.”