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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gombe files N591 billion suit against tobacco companies

By Auwal Ahmad,

THE Gombe State government has dragged five tobacco companies before the Gombe State High Court on charges that they have been targeting minors with their products in the state in the last 20 years with a view to making them addicts.
In the suit before a high court judge, Abdul Hamed Yusuf, the state government is demanding N591 billion from British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Ltd, International Tobacco Limited, British America Tobacco Plc, British America Tobacco (Investment) Ltd, and Philip Morris International.
It is one of several class action suits filed by some states and the Federal Government against tobacco companies operating in the country.
Gombe is asking for N10.1 billion as special damages for negligence, N521 billion as anticipatory damages for future expenses, N50 billion as punitive damage for wrongful conducts and N10 billion as restitution and disgorgement of profit for unjust enrichment.
The case has been adjourned to July 2, 2009 to allow the plaintiff serve all the parties in the suit.
Counsel to the state government, Babatunde Irukera, had prayed the court to grant him four weeks to allow his clients conclude the process of service on all defendants.
Irukera said: "The plaintiff is diligently pursuing service to all the defendants with the help of the ministry. We would, however, pray for an additional four weeks in order to conclude service to all the parties."
The four defendants present in court raised no objections to the application. But the fourth defendant asked the court to be allowed to file a written application on preliminary objections, a request rejected by Yusuf because all the defendants have not been served and not fully represented in court.
Speaking with The Guardian at the court premises, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi of the Environmental Rights Action/Friend of the Earth Nigeria said they were in court to show support for the Gombe State government in the case.
His words: "We are very much in support of this suit. Over the years, we have seen that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted, so there is need for strict control of the manufacturing and sale of cigarettes in this country."
Also, Co-ordinator, Coalition Against Tobacco (CAT), Toyosi Onaolapo, upbraided the tobacco companies for alleged targeting young Nigerians to make cigarette addicts out of them.

SOURCE: Guardian News

Gombe files N591bn suit against tobacco companies
By - Ishola Michael

Gombe State government has dragged five tobacco companies before the Gombe State High Court on the allegation that they have been targeting and addicting minors in the state for the past 20 years.
In the suit filed before Justice Abdul Hamed Yusuf, the state government is demanding the sum of N591 billion from British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Ltd, International Tobacco Limited, British America Tobacco Plc, British America Tobacco (Investment) Ltd, and Philip Morris International in a suit number GM/177/208.
The suit is one of the several suits filed by several states and the Federal Government against tobacco manufacturers operating in the country.
Gombe is asking for N10.1 billion as special damages for negligence, N521 billion as anticipatory damages for future expenses, N50 billion as punitive damage for wrongful conducts and N10 billion as restitution and disgorgement of profit for unjust enrichment.

SOURCE: Nigeria Tribune

Gombe State government has dragged five tobacco companies before the state High Court, on the allegation that they have been targeting and addicting minors in the state for the past 20 years.
Sitting before Justice Abdul Hamed Yusuf, the state government is demanding N591 billion from British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Ltd, International Tobacco Limited, British America Tobacco PLC, British America Tobacco (Investment) Ltd, and Philip Morris International, in suit number GM/177/208. The suit is one of several class action suits filed by several states and the Federal Government against tobacco manufacturers operating in the country.
Gombe is asking for N10.1 billion as special damages for negligence, N521 billion as anticipatory damages for future expenses, N50 billion as punitive damage for wrongful conducts and N10 billion as restitution and disgorgement of profit for unjust enrichment.
Speaking to newsmen at the court premises, Akinbode Oluwafemi of the Environmental Rights Action/Friend of the Earth Nigeria, said they were in court to reiterate support for Gombe State government in the case.“We are very much in support of this suit. Over the years, we have seen that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted, so there is need for strict control of manufacturing and sale of cigarettes in this country," he added.
Also speaking, Coordinator, Coalition Against Tobacco (CAT), Toyosi Onaolapo, berated the tobacco companies for deliberately targeting young people, in order to make them addictive.

SOURCE: Thisday Newspaper Tradingmarket

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NGO rejects Oyo gov‘s threats over BATN

By Agency Reporters
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Non-Governmental Organisation, Journalists for Health and Environment, has rejected threats by the Oyo State Governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, to oppose any attempt to close down British-American Tobacco Nigeria through the anti-tobacco bill currently before the National Assembly.

Tribunal commences trial of Amosun’s petition against Daniel
The Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abeokuta, on Wednesday, commenced the trial of the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in the April 2007 election in Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, against the declaration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the poll.
At the preliminary hearing of the case on Monday, the Justice Suleiman Ambrusa-led panel granted the prayer of the Independent National Electoral Commission to remove the names of the fourth to 259th witnesses from the petition.
The affected witnesses, according to INEC’s counsel, Mr. Oluyele Delano, who were electoral officers, were expected to be joined individually. Ambrusa had promised that the case would be given accelerated hearing from Monday to Thursday.
PDP chieftain criticises Obi over Aguata erosion site collapse
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra State, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, has blamed the recent partial collapse of the Umuchiama-Ekwuluobia erosion control project on lapses by the state government.
Obiogbolu said in Onitsha on Wednesday that the project had been doomed to fail from the outset, as due consideration was not given to the specialised nature of the job. He said the job called for expertise in its execution.
The site is a key environmental project of the Anambra State Government to check the increasing menace of gully erosion in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.
NLF tackles Nigerian mission, UK over May 29 symposium
The Nigeria Liberty Forum has accused the British government and the Nigerian High Commission in London of planning to stop its May 29 symposium titled, ”State of the Nigerian Nation.”
The symposium, which is scheduled for Friday at the London Metropolitan University, London is expected to be addressed by the former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; former member of the House of Representatives, Prof. Sola Adeyeye; and Jean Lambert of the British Green Party.
The NLF said in a statement sent by email that the Nigerian mission held a meeting with officials of the LMU on Tuesday to try and convince them to cancel the booking for the event. It alleged that the move failed because it was able to meet the deadline for the payment of a high fee for the use of its facilities for the programme.
The NLF is a Nigerian pressure group, which organised the picketing of President Umaru Yar‘Adua last year in London and his predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in March.

Group chides Alao-Akala over BATN

A Non Governmental Organisation, Journalists Action on Tobacco and Health (JATH) yesterday chided Oyo State Governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala over his statement that his administration would resist the closure of British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN).
The Oyo State governor had said that the tobacco company was contributing to the economy of his state and that he would frustrate moves to close down the company.
JATH, in a statement signed by its Programme Manager, Mr. Yinka Olugbade, said that Alao-Akala’s statement shows that he was not well-informed by his advisers.
According to the group, "what the governor is interpreting as moves to close down BAT is the National Tobacco Control bill sponsored by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, which has passed the second reading at the National Assembly, which has nothing to do with the closure of BATN."
The group said that Governor Alao-Akala ought to have found out the real intent of the bill before attempting to shoot it down.
"This bill is all about properly regulating the activities of tobacco companies operating in Nigeria and not only BATN. The bill seeks to prohibit sale of cigarette to underage. It seeks to make it an offence to sell cigarettes in pieces. It seeks to make tobacco companies put graphic warnings telling people of harmful effects of tobacco smoking in order for them to make informed decision about whether to smoke or not. It also seeks to ensure that tobacco products are not readily available because of its cheap prices," said JATH.
The group described as unfortunate that Alao-Akala has allowed himself to be used by BATN as part of its propaganda to escape regulation.
The group faults Alao-Akala’s claim that BATN has contributed to job creation all over the country, arguing that more people have lost their lives as a result of smoking of cigarette.
The group said "BATN has only employed about 1,000. Countless others have died directly or indirectly through cigarette consumption. So, Governor Alao-Akala should find ought his facts before commenting. That he made the comment after embarking on a facility tour of BATN also shows that he was out on a mischief mission. He should go and get a copy of the bill and read before making comments."

Child's Slavery in BAT's Farm

A new form of child labour is slowly emerging in Oyo state tobacco growing communities’
-Nigerian Compass investigation reveals.

By Seun Akioye

The day starts before cockcrow in Pa Adebisi Amusan’s household. Being the oldest and most prosperous tobacco farmer in Irawo Owode tobacco farming community in Oyo state, such early rising is hardly surprising. Nowadays, the old man hardly visits his vast expanse of tobacco plantation, according to him, he has paid his dues over the years and should sit back and enjoy. He scarcely remembers his age but remembered the first time tobacco was introduced to the community in commercial quantity (around 1939). However, the arduous task of overseeing the vast tobacco fields rests squarely on the shoulders of his grandchildren and other kids living under his tutelage.
At seven in the morning children in that household as well as many others in the village are awake. There is only one item on the agenda for each day and that is to report to the tobacco farms at seven to terminate in another twelve hours. Naturally the horde of children who doubled as tobacco farmers would meet somewhere along the way. In their midst and to also coordinate this crowd is Fatai Amusan. He is twenty years old and the most experienced farmer of the children.
“ This is how we work everyday. BAT (British American Tobacco), does not want us to leave the farm they want us to work here from 7:am to 7 :pm. That is strategic to come before the sun comes up and leave after it sets. Anytime some of their officials are here and they met nobody, there is always a complaint.” Fatai said when Nigerian Compass visited the tobacco farm.

Unlike other food crops, tobacco farming is no mean task; it involves endless weeding and painstaking application of skill and manpower for the leaves will survive. In the morning, the children are hard at work, either applying the necessary fertilizers or insecticide to the plants in the nursery or busy weeding and transplanting the plants from the nursery to the field. Another difficult aspect is the seemingly endless trip to the stream a few meters from the plantation. This is done by children under the age of ten years old who are too young to weed. One of the kids explained the process involved in the early stages of planting. “This is the most sensitive time and it requires a lot of efforts. What we do now will determine the quality of the leaves at the end and if the leaves are not of good quality, then you will never be able to pay your debts.”
Indeed it has become a common trend for tobacco farmers in the developing world to be highly indebted to the tobacco company. Amusan explained how his parent debts to BAT turned him into a farmer. “When BAT official come, they want to know if you are ready to start the business. Then they make available a form of loan for the seeds, the fertilizer and every other thing that you need. Sometimes we would have amassed about N250,000 debts even before we began to plant.”
This is the beginning of the cycle of poverty often experienced by tobacco farmers in the developing countries. Nigerian Compass gathered that determination of the prices of tobacco leaves does not come from the farmers but from BAT. “After each harvest, we will take the leaves to Ago Are where BAT has their warehouse and the officials would weigh what you have brought according to the quality of the leaves. Whatever you have will be deducted from the debts you have acquired and many times the balance would have to be paid through the next harvest” Amusan explained. But it is curious though that while the prices paid for the leaves always depreciate the prices of seedlings and other supplies from BAT always appreciates. “ our fathers have talked to the officials about this matter of low prices for the leaves, but BAT always tell them that things will improve soon” one of the kids said.
Instructively, trapped in an endless cycle with the debts , the farmers have no choice but to enlist the services of their children and none is excluded. “ I pay my children who work for me” Pa Amusan said. When asked how much the children earn on the tobacco fields, he looked up and pointed at an 11 year old “like this one, I can pay her N100.00 per day. It depends on how big they are , because that would tell how much they can work.”

But the children explained that the money is never the motivation for the work. “ Many of the boys you see on these farms are only helping their parents because many of them are old and cannot do the farm work alone. “ how will our parents feed us if they cannot pay their debts on the tobacco leaves and make money. Everybody has to sacrifice and that is why we have decided to help.”
It was a huge sacrifice. School work suffered. In a farming community that cannot boast of the best facilities for conducive learning, the children would have to split their time between the tobacco farms and the school. Some of the kids insist that they still attend the local school and have not dropped out completely. “We still go to school here. What we do is that we come here in the morning before school and return here after school.”
The challenge of the task the children face is telling. At the beginning of most planting season, they have to go in search of fertile land since most of the farming lands are barren. Every search takes them further away from the village. When a suitable land is found then the cultivation starts. After a successful transplant the bigger task of weeding and fumigation will start. “At that stage, it is most critical part. We have to continually weed the leaves; we cannot afford to be lazy about it because BAT will be angry. A mistake at this point will be costly. In fact they asked us to treat the leaves like a child. It is our first born.” Amusan said.
BAT has a long history of encouraging child labour on many of its farms in the developing world. In Malawi, for instance which is reputed as one of the poorest countries in the world has one of the biggest tobacco farming estates in African, child slavery is an everyday phenomenon. According to a study by the Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) based at the University of California, a minimum of 78,000 children are working on full or part term basis in the tobacco fields. According to a survey by CTCRE, 45% of the chid workers are between 10-14 years of age and 55% are 7-9 years old. It also said tobacco companies have received nearly $40 million in revenues over a period of four years from using unpaid child labourers.

How children became tobacco slaves in Malawi is instructive. The tobacco business is run like an estate. A rich landowner gets the deal from BAT and allocates land to tenant farmers to cultivate tobacco. The landowner provides seedlings and other logistics in loan which is deduced from the price of the leaves after harvest. More often, these tenant farmers have no profits after each harvest and in order to be able to achieve the basic necessity of life, children are dragged into the tobacco farms as unpaid labour.
Though the child labour situation in Nigeria is not yet up to the level of Malawi, there are disturbing scenarios to suggest Nigeria may not be too far from that brink. According to Amusa, the children are largely responsible for the farming of tobacco plants to the last stage of curing and packaging. When Nigerian Compass visited the farm the children were excited to show off their expertise at tobacco farming. Going through the rows of tender, young tobacco plants they explained how the leaves survive the initial weeks. “Come and look at this. We just reset this, we transplanted it from that point to this place which is the second planting place. Now, there is no evidence that it will survive, but after we have removed the shade and expose it to sun for two days ,then it will take root.”
After harvest, the children are also responsible for curing the leaves before they are sold to the tobacco company “ This is the barn where we cure. We lit the fire through that furnace and after about five minutes the heat becomes unbearable. It is not advisable to stay in this barn for more than five minutes but most times we have to do that.” Amusa explained.
Children are put at a particular risk because growing tobacco exposes them to damaging problems like pesticide exposure to nicotine poisoning. But are the children aware of the great danger they are exposed to farming tobacco leaves and the ultimate harm the end product causes. All replied in the negative. Also when asked if they knew that cigarettes were made from tobacco leaves Amusa replied. “That was our concern, but when we mentioned it to BAT we were told that was not true. BAT said there are over 100 products which were good for human consumption that the leaves are used for. BAT said they don’t produce cigarettes. But when you look at a dried tobacco leaf, you will see that it resembles what you normally see in cigarettes. We are very confused.”
BAT chairman, Jan du Plessis said the company is tackling child labour problems. “We work with farmers through our leaf growing programmes to try and eliminate child labour, we have established the pioneering Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco growing Foundation in partnership with the International Tobacco Growers Association and the trades Unions in our sector.”
BAT also listed on its website “We are committed to the principles of protecting children from child labour exploitation, believing that their development- as well as that of their communities and countries- is best served through education, not child labour. We do not employ children in our operations.”
Managing Director of BAT Nigeria Nick Hales also once said at a conference “We insist that none of our farmers uses child labour at all. We actually held a conference on that in Abuja recently- if any farmer does use child labour, then he is no longer our farmer. We are a responsible company.
When contacted the Head of communication BAT Nigeria Aliyu Maaji, in an email response directed the reporter to his old interview in the media, preferring not to give any response. But Hales assertion fell flat when contrasted with the reality in the tobacco growing communities. Child labour is rampant and BAT officials knew about it. “ The officials always come here in the planting season, even the big man in the office, when we make mistake, they shout on us and threaten us. They do not want us to be lazy at all in the farm.” One of the child farmers said.
BAT has a long standing links to Nigeria. Its business presence dates back to around 1911. Its ties became closer when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian government to establish a $150 million cigarette manufacturing factory in Ibadan Oyo state.
The company enjoyed a period of prosperity until civil society groups began to campaign against its practices of marketing and targeting young people. In 2007, the Lagos state government and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FOE) in an unprecedented move instituted a cost recovery suit against the tobacco industry. The state was asking for reliefs mandating the company from marketing, advertising or selling tobacco products to youths. The state also want a ban on cigarette sales within 1000 metre radius of any school , hospital, playground, religious houses or anywhere that young people frequent. It also wants the company to pay punitive damages in excess of two billion naira.
Lagos state said it has received the result of a survey of eleven hospitals in the Lagos metropolis which indicates that at least two persons die each day from a tobacco related disease in Lagos hospital. The state also said in the year 2000 alone, there were 9527 reported cases of a tobacco related disease and the state has spent N216,000 every month on these diseases.’
Other states were to follow, Oyo, Kano, Gombe, and the Federal Government have all instituted different cost recovery suits all totalling about ten trillion naira. A year into the legal tussle however, none of the cases is yet to come to trial. BAbatunde Irukera is one of the lead counsels for the plaintiffs. He told Nigerian Compass “ As expected, the tobacco companies have hired the best lawyers around to defend them. They have come up with all manners of preliminary objections based on technicalities. Their ploy is to prevent the cases from getting to trial and waste as much time on it as possible. But we are undaunted, we knew tobacco industry will play this card, it is a well known ploy of the industry and we are in it. I can assure you that the cases will get to trials and then we will nail them.”
The tobacco industry has been succefully tried in the USA leading to one of the largest settlements in history. A $368.5 billion to be paid over 25 years, was that the incentive? Irukera said “ We have evidences from BAT documents that shows clear target ting of young people in Nigeria. There are places where references were made to ways of targeting young people. We believe and have evidences that the tobacco industry is targeting our young people, children between the age of 8 and 9 and if they can be stooped and made to pay for their errors in one part of the world why can’t they be stooped here as well, after all they are all children.”
Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN) said the pauperization of tobacco farmers by BAT is largely responsible for the emerging trend of child labour on the tobacco farms. “ BAT must abide by its own code of conduct and eliminate all forms of abuse not only on the tobacco farms but also change its marketing strategy of targeting Nigerian children in the hope of recruiting them as lifelong cigarette smokers.”

In the months to come, faced with litigation and campaigns by anti tobacco activists whose mould seem to swell by the day, BAT may have to submit to stringent public health control in its marketing and distribution of its product. That shouldn’t be a problem however to the multinational company as long as business is allowed to go on. Meanwhile at the tobacco farms more children will end up on the farms for the paltry sum they will get out of a day’s work. To Pa Amusan, he is only “empowering the kids.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Advocates demand FG probe BATN

Anti Tobacco advocates wants government to probe the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) over alleged targeting of young people during the promotion of PALL MALL cigarette.

By Seun Akioye

There are many questions waiting to be answered by the largest tobacco company Nigeria, British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN). Is it true that the company is currently engaged in an all night dance party promotional campaign for one of its brands Pall Mall? Is it correct that the campaign is being organised all over the six geo- political zones of Nigeria? Is it also correct that underage people were invited to such parties and free cigarettes were given out? Is it also true that such underage people were mandated to light a cigarette before gaining entrance into the party venue?

For Akinbode Oluwafemi and the organisation he represents Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FOEN) which has been in the forefront of campaigns to regulate the activities of the tobacco giant in Nigeria, the answer to the above questions is in the affirmative. The group had asked the Federal Government in a press release to probe what it calls ‘secret smoking parties’ organised by BATN to promote its Pall Mall cigarette. It also alleged that the campaign was aimed at luring minors into smoking in a bid to make them lifelong smokers.
This will not be the first time the tobacco giants will come under fire from different sections of the society. Last year, four state governments instituted legal actions against the company and four others for luring young Nigerians into smoking thorough deceptive advertising and incomplete information regarding the true nature of its products. The Federal government has since joined the suits bringing the total claims to about N10 trillion. The company has also been linked to the use of child labour on its farms a claim which the industry has refused to deny.
But the latest allegations from ERA/FOEN appear to be very grave indeed. According to Oluwafemi, the company had staged dance parties in Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin, Ibadan and at Gateway Hotel Abeokuta. He said the company had breached its own rules of not marketing to young people. “It is outrageous that BAT is still conducting itself in such irresponsible manner just weeks after a BBC documentary revealed how the corporation has been marketing cigarettes to young people across Africa and how it has used parties and concerts to lure people into smoking” Oluwafemi said.
Over the years, BATN has repeatedly denied marketing cigarette to young people. The company launched its 18+ programme in 2004 which it claimed was aimed at discouraging persons under the age of 18 from smoking. BAT’s regulations also clearly disallows targeting or marketing of cigarettes to minors. A statement of purpose on youth smoking from the company says “We believe that the choice to smoke should only be for informed adults”. Information gathered from the company’s website says in 2007, the company reported “running or supporting 75 youth smoking prevention programmes, more than 60 per cent of them focused on preventing under age access at the point of sale”.
Babatunde Irukera one of the lead lawyers in the litigation disagreed with the position of BAT on informed choice. “How many smokers do you know who pick up the habit as adults. They do only when they are young and cannot make choices. And what is worse is that to remain lifelong smokers the tobacco companies have engineered the ingredients of the product to include nicotine which is an addiction agent. So you pick up the habit when you are young and before you know it you are addicted. That is where the two Ps’ come in. Physiology and Psychology. The psychology is when you are young and you think smoking is cool based on their advertising projections. So they make young impressionable people smokers by PSYCHOLOGY but you keep them in the habit based on Physiology which is the delivery of nicotine that keeps them dependent on it.”
Oluwafemi insisted that the company was never sincere in its fight against youth smoking. “What we have is a company that lies and cannot be trusted. BAT initiated the 18+ campaign and goes on air to say it does not market to young people but it is now organizing dancing competition for the same youths to win free packs of cigarettes it just does not add up.”
He described the latest marketing promotion as appalling “BAT secretly gave out invitations to young people in secondary and tertiary institutions for a secret smoking party. Our investigation reveals that you are mandated to light a stick of cigarette which will be given to you at the entrance. The invitation they gave out did not indicate it is a smoker’s only party and in fact it was termed EXPERIENCE FRESHNESS.”
Nigerian Compass learnt that the concert was attended by minors especially females who were given free entry into the all night event which featured music from prominent Nigerian artists. It was also gathered that cigarettes were freely given out during the rave and free drinks were supplied to the first few guests. Checks also revealed that there were no checks on age limit at the point of entry.
More worrisome however is the fact that BATN did not stop the promotion after it was first reported and last Wednesday the company held another dance party at Option club on Toyin street in Ikeja Lagos, a situation described by the anti tobacco advocates as provocative. Toyosi Onaolapo who is the coordinator of Coalition Against Tobacco (CAT), told Nigerian Compass “If we expect to reason with the tobacco industry we are merely wasting our time, that is why litigation is the only way to force regulations on these companies. It is now quite clear that BAT is unrepentant about marketing to young people in Nigeria and the presence of the company in Nigeria is doing more harm than good.”
Oluwafemi said “BATN has declared a no going back policy on addicting our youths. The company cannot do this in Europe or America but it can break all moral ethics in Nigeria. We demand an end to this sham and asked the Federal Government to investigate this company.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) equally frowns against marketing or targeting of young people by tobacco industry anywhere in the world. Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which is a global document for regulating tobacco use ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind of tobacco products. There are however more grim statistics from the global health body. If the tobacco industry continues to market to young people and addict more smokers, “a lifetime of tobacco use would result in the deaths of 250 million children and young people alive today, most of them from developing countries.”
BATN has been elusive since the story broke. Efforts by the Nigerian Compass to get the company to speak on the issue have proved abortive. BATN communications manager Aliyu Maa’ji did not respond either to email inquiries or reply voice messages. But sources close to the company insisted that the company has not in any way breached its own rules and is committed to preventing young people from smoking.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Alao-Akala vows to resist closing down of BATN

Sola Adeyemo, Ibadan
Monday, 25 May 2009

GOVERNOR Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State says his administration will frustrate the moves being made in some quarters to close down the Ibadan-based... British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) company, considering the economic benefits of the multi-billion dollar firm.

While on a facility tour of the firm on Friday, the governor said closing it down would amount to a disservice to the nation.
Even though controversy continues to trail the bill being sponsored at the National Assembly to stop the production, sale and advertisement of tobacco products due to their negative effects on youths, Alao-Akala said the firm had helped to create wealth for both urban and rural dwellers in the state as part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The Deputy Minority Leader at the Senate and sponsor of the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, had alleged that while BATN had provided jobs for less than 1,000 Nigerians, it was responsible for the death and ill-health of thousands.
The bill, which has passed the second reading, makes it an offence to sell or market tobacco products to persons under the age of 18 and seeks to impose a fine not exceeding N50,000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding six months, or both, on violators.
Defending the firm, Alao-Akala urged the tobacco firm not to relent in its laudable efforts, assuring its management of his administration’s readiness to fight for it at the National Assembly and at other higher levels.
He said: “I am now well informed about your operations and corporate social responsibilities, first to your host communities and to 34 other states in the country where you have touched lives and created jobs for the people.
“Your projects in rural communities have helped in no small way in reducing the rural-urban drift among the population, with the attendant increase in crimes in urban cities.”
Pledging to utilise all human and other resources at his administration’s disposal to resist any law that seeks to hinder the smooth operations of the company, the governor added: “We will let the Federal Government, legislators and the whole world know what you are doing for our people.
“The company has spread its operations to the entire country, paying billions of naira as taxes and excise duties.
“BATN has made major impacts in the areas of employment generation, opening up of rural communities for wealth creation, skill acquisition and payment of taxes to the government.
“Closing the factory down will be a great loss to Oyo State.”
Alao-Akala opposes moves to shut down tobacco firm::::Guardian Newspaper, Monday, May 25, 2009 -pg 5

Friday, May 15, 2009

‘13m Nigerians’re Smokers’

From Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo,

Osun State, Nigeria: The average rate of active smokers in Nigeria was yesterday put at 13 million , while adult smoking rate was put at 17 percent.
Speaking at the sensitisation meeting for members of Osun State House of Assembly on Osun State proposed Smoke Free Bill, the State Commissioner for Health,Lanre Afolabi, noted that since half smokers die of tobacco related diseases, it also showed that over 6.5 million Nigerians are on death row due to tobacco addiction.
The commissioner stressed that it was alarming that in 2003 the overall prevalence of tobacco for youths in Nigeria was 18.1 percent and for senior executive 13.9 percent. He also gave the figure of the rapidly growing annual average rate of tobacco use in Africa and developing countries as 4.7 percent compared with the 3.4 percent of other countries.

He pointed out that in 2006 , the data recorded was 9.527 tobacco related causes in 26 state owned health facilities, and within the same period. The commissioner said the bill was set to protect the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption in the state.

While speaking on the Bill, the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Adejare Bello, said the Bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the control of the use of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke, in order to protect the health of the individual. He described tobacco smoking as a major risk factor for about 44 different kind of diseases, saying there are over 4,000 carcinogens in tobacco smoking.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Re: Tobacco lobbyist and the National Tobacco Bill

In the May 11, 2009 edition of your esteemed newspaper, Mr. Moses Adeoja’s reaction to Mr. Philip Jakpor’s story was published.
Observers and readers of events unfolding in relation to the National Tobacco Control Bill and Tobacco companies operating in Nigeria need no further clarification, as the truth and facts of the matter are crystal clear. Tobacco giants like BAT have for years hidden the truth about their product from the consumers and the general public.

The main issue is that BAT was delisted from the Ghanian Stock Exchange, how it came to be is definitely irrelevant. The issue of health should never be compromised: health is wealth. Whether BAT still operates in Ghana is also not relevant. This fact should be clear to all health conscious individuals, including Mr. Moses who claims to live in Ghana but wrote from Garki, Abuja, that Tobacco Kills. No matter how you want to look at this issue, Tobacco is a worsening epidemic which should be immediately controlled or better still stopped and this is what the National Tobacco Control Bill isset to achieve.

Akinola Tosin is a public health advocate and wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hard Times Await Tobacco Smokers In Osun

Worried by the danger inherent in the smokng of tobacco, the Nigeria Tobacco Situation Analysis (NTSA) and Nigeria Heart Foundation (NHF) are proposing to present a bill to Osun State House of Assembly to ban smoking in public places across the state.
The drafting of the bill titled, "Osun State Prohibition of Smoking in Public Place Bill 2009" is at advanced stage, according to the groups.