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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Tobacco industry interfering in Nigerian govt policies, report reveals

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have launched the 2020 tobacco industry interference index report for Nigeria. 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 this influence.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Health Minister

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 (MDAs) and the tobacco industry. It also evaluated 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. Nigeria also has policies and laws that clearly provide for transparency and accountability on dealings with the tobacco industry. The National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 provide for transparency and probity while dealing with the industry.

The survey established that the Nigerian government has fallen short of several critical standards of transparency and probity. The tobacco industry in Nigeria has also been found to interfere unnecessarily in tobacco control policies and to unlawfully embark on corporate social responsibilities in clear contravention of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.

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. Methodology of the report is based on the Tobacco Industry Interference Index initiated by the South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the 20 questions are based on Article 5.3 recommendations. A scoring system (0 – 5) is used where the higher score indicates the stronger tobacco industry interference.

In response to the report, 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: “Fifteen years have lapsed since Nigeria signed the WHO-FCTC and Article 5.3 of the treaty is binding on Nigeria. It is disheartening that despite having a five-year old tobacco control law, Nigeria still records a lot of infringement on the law and the treaty. This is not good for public health in the country.”

Oluwafemi stressed that the interest of the tobacco industry is always for profit and widely at variance with public health and safety, adding that, for as long as the industry continues to interfere in policies, the more public health and safety will be the casualty.

Programme Coordinator of NTCA, Olu’Seun Esan, noted that the report reveals that the industry still embarks on CSR activities partnering with government at all levels including ministries to mark world observances.

He said that it was 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 further advertising and promoting its products.

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

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