One year after the House of Representatives concurred with the National Tobacco Control Bill after it was passed by the Upper House, the bill appears to be missing.
At a Stakeholders’ round table on the implementation of the bill organized by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Monday, in Lagos, Olorunnimbe Mamora, a former senator who sponsored the bill in 2009, told participants that “no one knows where the bill is now”.
“We must track it from the National Assembly, also ask the office of the Attorney-General, and even the presidency,” Mr. Mamora, who represented Lagos East constituency in the 6th Assembly, said.
“This is one of the reasons why we continue to hammer on transparency in governance.”
“It is not a favour being done to the people. We need to know what is happening because we passed the bill in the National Assembly… It cannot just disappear.”
The National Tobacco Control Bill, passed by the Senate on March 15, 2011, and concurred by the Lower House on May 31, 2011 (World No Tobacco Day), requires the assent of the president before it becomes law.
“We are in a funny country,” Mr. Mamora continued.
“There are things I don’t understand in this country and this is one of such things. What is happening to that bill?
“We are not sure whether the bill has been presented to the president or not. It’s like the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and confusion,” Mr. Mamora said.
In July, 2009, a public hearing on the bill conducted by the senate attracted more than 40 civil society groups, including groups from the tobacco industry who were against the bill.
“There were seen and unseen forces who did not want the bill to be passed. But unfortunately, the bill has crossed the Red Sea and could not return to Egypt,” Mr. Mamora said.
Highlights of the bill includes prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to persons under the age of 18; ban of promotion of tobacco or tobacco products in any form; display of the word ‘WARNING’ in capital letters on every package containing tobacco product, amongst others.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Director of Corporate Accountability and Administration ERA/FoEN, said that the bill is “actually not missing.”
“I think for now, even if the president doesn’t have the bill, the president can request for the bill and sign it,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.
“We know that there are so many undercurrents that are happening and he [the president] needs to stand firm and resist the tobacco industry,” he added.
Mr. Oluwafemi further stated that the position of the Nigeria Constitution is “very clear on this matter.”
“In the event of the president not signing the bill, he should send it back to Parliament with reasons why he’s not signing.
“Now the Parliament has the option of either revising the bill andresending it or they can veto, they can vote again on the bill and the bill becomes law,” he said.