The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has advised the Nigerian government to de-normalize so-called socially responsible activities of the tobacco industry and prohibit unnecessary interactions between public officials and the industry to avoid a conflict of interest.
These demands formed part of recommendations by the organisation at the media presentation of the Nigeria Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report 2021, which forms part of the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index – a global survey of how public health policies are protected from the tobacco industry’s efforts and activities, and what governments must do to push back the industry influence.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, while briefing the media, said that, like the rest of the globe, the tobacco industry in Nigeria has consistently interfered 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.
Giving a breakdown of the findings contained in the report, Oluwafemi explained that the tobacco industry still participates in policy development in Nigeria and enjoys consistent invitations from different agencies to their meetings where supposed classified resolutions on standards are discussed, and agreements are reached.
He expressed reservations about tobacco industry corporate social responsibility engagements, citing the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) partnership with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) – a federal government youth scheme to supposedly empower young agriculture entrepreneurs financially as a scheme that should be considered an anomaly as the Foundation uses the opportunity to promote its name.
He also revealed that unnecessary interaction between the tobacco industry and government is particularly more noticeable in the agriculture sector and in some committees set up by government which makes interactions with public officials plausible.
Taking a cue from this, CAPPA Programmes Director, Philip Jakpor, listed several states that had robust relationship partnerships with the tobacco industry in the implementation of their FADAMA schemes. They include Benue, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Ogun and Osun states, among others.
Jakpor revealed that the Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority (LSADA) has a long history of partnership with the BATNF.
He pointed out that though the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 provide for transparency and accountability in government dealings with the tobacco industry, some states and federal government officials still hold meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry without publicly divulging the details.
The Index Report listed recommendations on how to forestall the industry’s plans to compromise public officials and institutions. They include full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019, public information on dealings, interactions, economic incentives, and benefits that the Tobacco industry receives from government, and rejection of non-binding agreements with the tobacco industry.
- Need for synergy between the federal and states government in putting in place processes for full disclosure of minutes and proceedings of meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry should be institutionalised.
- The Ministries, departments, and agencies of government should consistently update their websites and other information platforms for easy information dissemination and transparency. Awareness among civil servants about the need to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
- Government officials in relevant ministries, departments and agencies must be made to sign conflict-of-interest forms periodically to remind them of commitments or obligations that may compromise their office and operations.
The Tobacco Industry Interference Index was initiated by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) as a regional report. 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.
A scoring system (0 – 5) is used where the higher score indicates the stronger tobacco industry interference. In 2020 Nigeria obtained 49 points but scored 53 in 2021, indicating that the tobacco industry is intensifying its subversive actions despite Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation.