The anti-tobacco groups ask National Assembly to pass tobacco control bill.
Some anti-tobacco advocacy groups have described Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi’s recent commissioning of the British American Tobacco Nigeria, BATN, Recreation Center in Ibadan as disgraceful and a disappointing setback to Nigeria’s campaigns to reduce deaths caused by tobacco products in the country.
The Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, CISLAC, stated that it was “extremely shocking” that Governor Ajimobi could describe a company that manufactured lethal products on its own doorsteps as an example of investment with economic benefits to the citizens of Oyo State and Nigeria.
While speaking at the opening ceremony of BATN’s fitness and wellness centre at the company’s premises along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, the governor commended the company’s huge investment in Nigeria.
“I would like to point out that the manufacturing of tobacco has been challenged by environmentalists all over the world but what you can do to counter some of these challenges is to also ensure provision of social services,” Mr. Ajimobi had said at the ceremony hosted by Keith Gretton, BATN’s Managing Director.
“What are you doing generally about environmental and infrastructural support to the state? Have you, for instance, helped in rehabilitating the roads around you and clear the miscreants close to you?” the Governor asked the tobacco company.
In a statement on Tuesday, ERA/FoEN and CISLAC described the relationship between the Oyo State government and BATN as “absurd.”
“We find it worrisome that the governor is asking BATN to show aspects of its operations that promote life at a time when global statistics and researches by organisations like the World Health Organisation, WHO – available to all governments around the world – clearly indicates that tobacco kills 5.4 million people annually and will kill another 8 million people annually by the year 2020,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director Corporate Accountability and Administration of ERA/FoEN.
Mr. Oluwafemi accused the tobacco company of trying to ingratiate itself with public officials and, therefore, contravening Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which expressly discouraged such as it is used to push “deceptive so-called CSR agenda.”
“These so called CSR or health projects are fraudulent in conception and implementation. They simply reflect the adoption of the old mafia-style ritual where the kingpin who orders the execution of another is usually the first to offer condolences and support for the bereaved family,” he said.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said that Mr. Ajimobi’s visit to a company that produced deadly products that are marketed throughout the African continent from Oyo State was a big let-down to anti-tobacco efforts.
“The pat on the back that Governor Ajimobi has given to BATN after its visit to the Governor’s Lagos state counterpart two months ago leaves much to be imagined,” he said.
“These developments reinforce our demand that the National Assembly fast-tracks the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) which addresses such ingratiation that BATN is blatantly engaging in”.
Mr. Rafsanjani also demanded the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders to ensure that the NTCB was quickly passed into law to stem the gale of deaths that BATN was determined to continue unleashing on Nigerians.
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