Group urges President Jonathan to sign Tobacco Bill

As governments and public health advocates plan towards this year’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31st, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has sent a strong appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to use this year’s commemoration to sign the recently passed National Tobacco Control Bill into law.

In a statement issued on Monday in Lagos and signed by Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s Director, Corporate Accountability & Administration, the group urged President Jonathan to sign the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) to celebrate the global event.

The NTCB, sponsored by Olorunimbe Mamora, was passed by the sixth session of the National Assembly on May 31, 2011. It seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of tobacco products in Nigeria.

“Countries all over the world have made specific and strategic efforts to combat the dangers of smoking especially among the youths by putting laws in place to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“The enactment of national laws and the domestication of the World Health’s Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are singular efforts in this direction,” he added.

“Nigeria has made giant strides in fulfilling our international obligations by attempting to domesticate the FCTC through the National Tobacco Control Bill, but we are afraid these gains that we have worked for as civil society organizations, legislators and the Ministry of Health will be reversed if the President does not sign this bill to commemorate this year’s World No Tobacco Day.”

The theme of this year’s event ‘Preventing Industry Interference in Tobacco Control policies’ is instructive because Nigerians are worried that the bill which was passed with overwhelming public support is yet to be signed into law by the President, the group noted.

“This is a bill that would have direct impact on Nigerians. It is the dividend of democracy for Nigerians,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

The group also called on the President to ensure that Nigeria does not renege on its international commitments to the FCTC, “as this could damage the country’s international reputation” while it can do “irreparable damage” in the country’s public health.

“We call on President Jonathan to demand today for the National Tobacco Control Bill.

“The President cannot allow the tobacco industry to influence and derail his transformation agenda by providing qualitative healthcare for Nigerians.

The whole world is waiting for Nigeria; the African continent is awaiting our leadership. The President should provide this leadership,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

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