Group says inclusion of British/American tobacco in export scheme is 'fraudulent'

British American Tobacco
British American Tobacco

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Senate to extend the probe of utilization of Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme in the agriculture sector to the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN).

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the demand for an extension of the investigations to BATN is based on a conviction that the criteria for the inclusion of BATN in the EEG scheme was fraudulent and must be immediately reviewed to save the nation from subsidizing the production and marketing of killer products.

The EEG is a cash inducement designed to assist Nigerian firms expand the volume and value of their exports, diversify export markets and become more competitive in the international market.

“We believe BATN was favoured unduly and Nigerians now demand to know the truth,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability & Administration.

“If the expansion grant was conceived as an incentive to assist Nigerian firms expand the volume and value of their exports, then the summoned ministers must explain to the Senate and Nigerians how a company whose products opened the pathway for the harvest of deaths the nation is reaping today was certified worthy of the grants in the first place,” Mr. Oluwafemi added.

The Senate Committee on Investments, last Thursday, invited Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, and her Trade and Investments counterpart, Olusegun Aganga over EEG grants disbursed in the agricultural sector. 

Nenadi Usman, the Chairman of the committee, issued the summons at an interactive session with members of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria who had petitioned the committee over several charges they were allegedly made to pay in respect to export of their commodities by the Nigeria Customs Service.

“While we commend the Senate for this move, we are demanding that the EEG investigations be far-reaching enough to torchlight the parameters for inclusion of BATN in the scheme because we are convinced that a company that manufactures products that kills its consumers does not qualify to be listed as a beneficiary of the scheme,” noted Mr. Oluwafemi. 

While calling on the present administration to demonstrate commitment to the “wellness of Nigerians” by signing the National Tobacco Control Bill into law; the group further asked the government to withdraw the “generous” tax holidays and other incentives offered BATN.

“We have said it time and again that through this scheme the Nigerian people continue to subsidize BATN even at the cost of their health and lives. The inclusion of the company in the scheme is totally unacceptable and must be reviewed immediately,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“Our position remains clear and unchanged: BATN should be removed from the list of companies benefiting from EEG and made to forfeit previous funding under the scheme,” he added.