ENVIRONMENTAL Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Wednesday tasked the Federal Government to expedite action on the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act (2015) and the NTC Regulations 2019 with special emphasis on the sale of tobacco to minors.
The rights group also sought the inauguration of the Tobacco Control Fund as recommended by the NTC Act which Part 3, Section 8 (1) stipulates that the fund, “shall consist of monies made available by the Federal Government from the annual budgetary allocation approved by the National Assembly…”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Executive Director, during his opening remark at a briefing in Abuja, advocated for synergy and intergovernmental agency collaboration in order to enforce the Act and its regulations.
He said it is important as it move is in conformity with the provisions of the NTC Act which limits and requires transparency of interactions between government and the tobacco industry.
“While the process lingered, we did not relent in making our views known to government that Nigerians should not be made to wait too long to join the global community in checking an industry determined to ensure a chokehold on the lungs of users of its products in our country.
“With the gazette, we do not feel it is yet time for celebrations.”
The tobacco control bill was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan, but implementation of the law has been difficult because the regulatory documents are yet to be fully approved by the lawmakers until last year.
The Eight Assembly also reflected position of the rights group where ERA/FoEN recorded that over 17,000 people are reportedly killed due to tobacco-caused ailments while over 370, 000 children and more than 4 million adults use tobacco daily.
“It is note-worthy that the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, has widened the areas where tobacco smoking is prohibited in Nigeria. This is in furtherance of the right of every person to a clean and healthy environment and the right to be protected from exposure to second-hand smoke. The areas that have now been designated as no-smoking areas are contained in the Second Schedule of the Act. The other areas that the law seeks to regulate are; the manufacture of Tobacco, packaging and labeling; advertisement and promotion; sale, as well as interaction between Government and the Tobacco industry,” Yakubu Dogara stated during the last assembly.
However, Oluwafemi pleaded with the government to be conscious of new approaches deployed by the tobacco companies since the Tobacco regulations Act was approved by the Eight National Assembly, last year and subsequently gazetted.
He cited instance of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) embarked upon as well as growing relationship with Presidency Office on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards supporting Goal 2, to end hunger in the country.
“We have written to government and the leadership of the institution to be circumspect about this dangerous proposal.
“With the gazetting of the regulations, we believe the industry will become more daring and creative hence, government at all levels must be wary and act with urgency.”