CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

$110m fine: Publicise BATN’s offences, CAPPA urges FG

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to publicise the “crimes” British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) and its subsidiaries committed that made them so willing to cough up $110 million rather than face prosecution.

CAPPA said Nigerians deserved to know how and the extent to which their health had been affected as well as the laws that the BATN and subsidiaries violated for which they incurred such an unprecedented fine.

The FCCPC had in a statement released on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, slammed the historic penalty on the tobacco industry firms over serial violation of the nation’s laws including the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015.

The statement disclosed that the Commission on August 28, 2020, opened an active investigation of BATN and its affiliates for which it “gathered, received and procured substantial evidence from forensic analysis of electronic communication and other information/data.”

CAPPA described the fine and other associated actions in the Consent Order as a milestone in the quest to make corporations accountable for their flagrant violations of the nation’s laws and statutes.

CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi applauded the FCPC, “for this precedent-setting action. We have consistently advocated that BAT and their ilk should be made to pay for their disregard for our laws and the promotion of an addictive, cancer-causing product to our youths and our people.

“To us, this action sends strong warnings to other tobacco companies in Nigeria and other corporations behind products that compromise public health that justice may be slow in coming, but it will surely catch up.”

CAPPA, however, expressed sadness that with the Consent Order, BAT and its officials have evaded criminal prosecution while details of their infractions are buried in opaque legalese.

“Nigerians need to know the full details of BAT crimes that made it willingly agree to dole out $110 million rather than face prosecution. No amount of fine can atone for actions that compromise public health and undermine the economies of nations. This is a slap on the wrist.

“We, nonetheless, see this fine as a welcome step, in the right direction but we reiterate our call for the comprehensive probe of what BATN benefited from the Export Expansion Grant with a view to recouping such funds to our national purse.”

CAPPA also frowned at the section of the Consent Order that allows BAT to conduct a so-called tobacco control advocacy, saying it contradicts Section 38 of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.

The group emphasised that Section 38 of the NTC Act was unambiguous, on who handles education, communication, training, and awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco products.

It stated: “A person or entity working on behalf of or furthering the interest of the tobacco industry shall not be involved in any manner in youth, public education, or other initiatives to tobacco control or public health, including and funding of such activities.

“Since this is a fine, at best the funding for advocacy should be administered through the Federal Ministry of Health and not through systems and structures with affiliations to BAT.”

Source: The Nation

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