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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lagos to ban smoking in public places

FasholaThe Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, on Monday said the state government would ban smoking in public places.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria that the provisions of the new traffic laws had prohibited people from drinking or smoking while driving in the state.

Ipaye said though the new law was aimed at reducing road carnage, it was also part of the government’s plans to ban smoking in public places.
 He said, “It is an offence to smoke while driving, smoking is totally prohibited for drivers; obviously it is not just for safety reasons it is also for health reasons because we are moving towards banning smoking in all public places.
 “It is an offence to drive drunk; if you’ve been taking drugs, this law provides for blood test to determine whether you have ingested drugs which are inconsistent with your ability to drive.
 “So, this law makes it an offence to drive without a driver’s licence, without proper plate numbers. It is an offence to use the phone while you are driving except you have hands-free set so you don’t need to put the set to your ear.’’
Ipaye said the government decided to “criminalise” traffic offences and sanction offenders, as part of the strategy to bring the chaotic traffic situation within the metropolis under control.
 He said, “We are keeping the roads in good repairs, but still, we have problems, and that problem is made worse by commercial motorcycles, by cart pushers, by even people rearing cattle.
 “There seem all of a sudden to be no rules; people just disobey the traffic lights.”
 Meanwhile, lawyers in the state have reacted to the new Parks and Garden Law.
The law made it mandatory for landlords to beautify the perimeter of their properties or face punishment.
The lawyers described the new law as an attempt to impoverish Lagosians.
A legal practitioner, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, said the law was obnoxious and oppressive.
He said  government did not have the right to punish landlords for not beautifying their property.
Another lawyer, Mr Ogedi Ogu, said the law was against natural justice, equity and good conscience

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reps to engage Jonathan over unsigned bills on resumption

Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives

The leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled plans to engage President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to assent to pending bills passed by the National Assembly.
The unsigned bills have over the past four months caused sour relations between the executive and the legislature. The lawmakers have threatened to invoke relevant sections of the constitution to veto the president on resumption.
Some of the bills not assented to are National Assembly Service Bill 2011; Harmonised Retirement Age of Professors of Tertiary Institutions Bill, 2011; Chartered Institute of Capital Registrars Bill 2011; Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria Bill 2001; Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Bill, 2011; Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2011; Discrimination against Persons Living with HIV and AIDS (Prohibition) Act 2011; National Bio-safety Management Agency Bill 2011; National Agriculture Seed Council Bill 2011; Federal Capital Territory Appropriation Bill 2011; State of the Nation Address Bill 2011.
Others include River Basins Development Authorities (Amendment) Bill 2011; Nigerian Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (Establishment) Bill 2011; Federal Capital Territory Water Board Bill, 2011; Air Force Institute of Technology of Nigeria Bill 2011 and National Tobacco (Control) Bill 2011.
Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, gave the assurance while addressing the executives of the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology led by John Onuorah. They solicited the intervention of the House on the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Bill 2011 passed on June 1, 2011.
Ihedioha, who allayed fears over the annulment of the bills passed by the National Assembly, said “the National Assembly has done its responsibility. We are on recess, so when we reconvene we will find out the status of this bill and take it from there.
“Obviously, the import of the Nigerian Council of Food and Technology bill cannot be over emphasised and as our elders have enumerated, the necessity for this bill to become law is obviously to address some of our challenges today in the country, particularly wealth creation and job creation which is very key and fundamental to our national stability.”
“We will look at it and I’m sure when we look at it, we will get back to you and if there is any other lobby that we need, we would do it, we want to engage the executive appropriately to ensure that if there are any misunderstanding with regards to the status of this bill, we will try and provide the necessary explanation by facilitating it.”
Speaking earlier, Onuorah explained that the executive bill when signed into law would regulate the training and practice of the profession of food science and technology.
He noted that the bill enjoyed overwhelming support during the debate on the floor of the House and Senate as well as various stakeholders from   NAFDAC, SON, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Association of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE), Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN), the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), many universities and polytechnics, the National Planning Commission, among others, during the public hearing.
He said, “It is important for the president to give assent to this executive bill for the following reasons: the issues of food safety and food security have become too complex and complicated for the untrained and therefore require professional skills for proper management.”

Apart from classical issues of food hygiene and sanitation, there is the increasing global concern on the impact of additives, veterinary drug residues, pesticides and other agrochemicals, microbial mutations and radiation contamination on food safety. There are frequent national and global alerts on threats to the food supply chain to the extent that several deaths are recorded periodically on account of accidental and/or deliberate contamination of food. Therefore, we require well trained food professionals to mitigate these problems.
“There is need to properly regulate the practice of the profession that deals with the post-harvest issues of food in the same manner as the practice of pharmacy is regulated for drugs. In this way, an agency like NAFDAC that uses professional pharmacists to regulate drug products will also use professional food scientists and technologists to regulate food products.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Multi-billion naira tobacco industry comes under fire

With 20 billion sticks of cigarette valued at N200bn being consumed annually in Nigeria, the tobacco industry is sure a money spinner. However, this may not be for long as anti-tobacco groups mount pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the National Tobacco Control Bill into law. ADEDEJI ADEMIGBUJI reports. 

The tobacco industry has been described as one of the most profitable in the world. According to a global industry analyst, Euromonitor International, the global cigarette market is valued at $611bn. To market their products, tobacco companies use their enormous wealth and influence both locally, regionally and globally to protect their investment. A stakeholder’s report made available to National Mirror by the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), affirmed that BAT is the world’s second largest quoted tobacco group by market share with brands sold in more the 180 markets, and sales estimated at 708 billion cigarettes globally in 2010. This enormous output according to Euromonitor International is estimated to translate into a gross turnover of 4.84 billion euros for the tobacco giant in 2010. However, the tobacco company’s revenues may come under pressure in Nigeria if President Goodluck Jonathan bows to pressure to sign the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), which has been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With increasing litigations against cigarette manufacturers, the bill is expected to enforce compliance with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria is a signatory to.
The bill was drafted by the former Minister of Health, Late Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
Senator Olorunimbe Mamora later sponsored and presented the bill to the Senate in 2008. It passed the second reading in February 2009 and a Public Hearing was conducted on it on July 20 and 21, 2009.
According to The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) shadow report, “After manipulations by BATN to stop the presentation of the bill to the Senate, the Senate Committee on Health eventually sent the bill back to the plenary in January 2011 and it was eventually passed into law on March 15, 2011.
The House of Representatives also passed the Senate version of the bill on May 31, 2011.
Some of the provisions in the bill are consistent with the key provisions of the FCTC and when the bill is eventually signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would have successfully domesticated the FCTC in Nigeria.”
The bills when signed into law will punish anyone who promotes, advertises or smoke cigarette in public places among others.
Promotion of tobacco in bars will also attract huge punishment, such as imprisonment with an option of fine. Nigeria is part of the over 40 African countries that have signed the FCTC which forms a basis for NTCB.
As a result, antitobacco advocates insist that the country is obligated to adopt and implement effective legislation aimed at reducing tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure.
The threat to tobacco industry came as a result of the rate at which consumption pattern continues to increase with the attendant health risks associated with smokers even though the revenues continue to sky rocket, and the industry continues to boom.
With the number of smoker declining in developed countries in the past two decades due to increased awareness about the dangers of smoking and stricter tobacco control measures including high-taxes on tobacco products, big tobacco multinationals have since turned their attention to Asia and Africa with high populations and lax tobacco control measures.
According to a document titled Tobacco Industry Profile – Africa Intended Uses of Report, made available to National Mirror “BAT’s regional structure was reorganised in January 2011 to increase efficiency across the company.
The regional restructuring merged the Africa and Middle East region with Eastern Europe markets.
Currently, BAT’s African operations are organised into four different areas.” One of the regional structures, includes Nigeria.
“West Africa area includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mauritania and Sierra Leone.
Nigeria is the major operational centre for the area with two factories in Ibadan and Zaria and area offices in Lagos,” stated the report adding that, “in 2011, the region accounted for seven per cent of global cigarette sales by volume.
The number of cigarettes sold in …Africa has increased by six per cent over the past five years, from 384 billion cigarettes in 2007 to 408 billion sticks in 2011.”
The report stated further that, “in Sub- Saharan Africa, overall cigarette volume has remained level and only increased by 0.3 per cent in the last five years.
However, at least 26 countries in the region experienced a five per cent or more increase in cigarette volume over the last five years.
The top cigarette consuming countries are South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, consuming 47 per cent of the region’s cigarette retail volume in 2011.”
In order to meet regional demand, BATN invested $70m in the Ibadan factory in addition to the earlier $150m investment which was as stated in the Park Lane MoU to generate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country, generating thousands of direct and indirect employment in addition to paying taxes to the Nigerian government.
The actual growth of tobacco industry was 5.4 per cent between 2007 and 2011 while it is expected to rise to 6.2 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
National Mirror gathered that Nigeria produced 15.4 billion cigarettes in 2010 and imported 5.3 billion. An estimated 0.1 billion was exported while 20.3 billion was consumed locally.
The Executive Director of ERA, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi calculated while speaking with National Mirror that with the 20.3 billion pieces of cigarette consumed at an average price of N10 per stick, the total industry revenue stood at N200bn in 2010.
Beyond Nigeria, market analysts anticipate that a shift in demographics will continue to contribute to the overall smoking population increase in Africa.
By 2016, Euromonitor International predicts that there will be 91 million more adults in the region and that cigarette sales will grow by 11 per cent over the next five years.
Meanwhile, multinational companies like BAT, Philip Morris International (PMI), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Imperial Tobacco Group (Imperial Tobacco) are increasing their dominance within Africa.
These four multinational companies increased their market share in the Middle East and Africa region by over 100 per cent in the last 10 years -- from 31 per cent in 2002 to 64 per cent in 2011. In 2006, African countries consumed an estimated 250 billion cigarettes, accounting for approximately four per cent of the total cigarettes consumed globally that year.
It was also revealed that Africa has a number of regional free trade blocs aimed at increasing economic development between members According to reports, the top cigarette consuming countries are South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, consuming 47 per cent of the region’s cigarette retail volume in 2011.
But if the bill is finally signed into law, the tobacco firms, especially BATN, which is a major investor in the industry, is expected to lose its huge revenue and investment but this is not a certainty.
Apart from BATN who dominates the market, JTI, (JTA) investment will also be threatened. JTI is the fourth largest tobacco company in the world and controls 10 percent of the global cigarette market.
It is the fifth largest in Africa and the Middle East in terms of retail sales volume. JTI sells cigarettes in 20 different African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Algeria and Morocco and is actively expanding its presence in Africa through acquisitions. BATN has devised many strategies to foster a working relationship with host communities’ ad stakeholders through partnership and lobby.
The firm invested heavily on Corporate Sustainability Projects through the BATN Foundation.
Established 10 years ago, the Managing Director of BATN, Mrs. Beverley Spencer-Obatoyinbo, said in a statement to National Mirror, “The BATNF supports agricultural development and the reduction of poverty in Nigeria by providing sustainable means for communities to be self-reliant.”
But Akinbode believed otherwise. He said the Corporate Social Responsibility spree by the tobacco firm was a mere cajole and trick to kill more Nigerians with tobacco products.
As President Jonathan continues to delay the signing of the bill into law, the founder of ERA/FoEN, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey said, “After the overwhelming support the bill received in the Senate and House of Representatives, it is sad that till date, it has not been signed by the president.
The intervention of the health minister is a singular action that generations of Nigerians will not forget.
Giving Nigerians this gift as we mark the 2012 World No Tobacco Day will be remarkable,” But an industry source told National Mirror that the delay in signing the bill into law is not unconnected with the effects such move would have on the nation’s GDP.
With the huge revenue the tobacco industry is contributing to the national product output, the source maintained that the president’s is taking his time to consider so many factors before he would sign the bill such that the articulation of FDI policy would not be undermined.
National Mirror further gathered from a BATN source that if eventually the bill is signed, the tobacco giant would look for other options to boost its sales in a way that will not violate the provisions of the bill.
But he added that the firm is committed to ensuring the development of the communities where it operates.
BATN said it embarks on continual sustainable agricultural development that entrenches modern farming techniques among farmers.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Anti-tobacco groups task media on control bill

ANTI-TOBACCO campaign groups have urged the Nigerian media to intensify efforts at ensuring that the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) becomes law and promote public health in the country.
The campaign group under the aegis of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and Environmental Right Activists/ Friend of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) noted that the media had a duty to hold public officials accountable to the health of Nigerians and expose the rising incidence of “tobacco-related diseases, disabilities and deaths.”
The international advocacy group, CTFK, expressed concern that despite the central role that Nigeria occupies in the tobacco-control campaign in Africa, several “profit-based forces” had prevailed against the passage of the NTCB into law.
Director of CTFK programmes in Africa, Joshua Kyallo said in Lagos at a roundtable meeting with the media that tobacco-related sickness was already an epidemic around the world and six million people die from tobacco-related diseases yearly.
“In the couple of years to come, eight million people will die every year from these tobacco-related diseases. Eighty per cent of these will come from the less developed economies; most of them possibly from Africa,” he said.
Noting that there are other continents where tobacco-related illnesses are much higher than is the case in Africa, Kyallo therefore said that Africa has one unique opportunity on epidemic prevention.
His words: “We have an opportunity to act now and prevent it from becoming an epidemic. Our fear is if this becomes another epidemic we do not have the resources for all the work we have to do to deal with it.
“We see the passage of the NTCB will make a huge difference to the lives and the economy of this country and Nigeria can become a real model in Africa in tobacco-control and we are hoping that all of us can act together.”
The activist said further that it was rather disappointing that very few of the 41 African countries (Nigeria inclusive) that were signatory to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 had till date not domesticated its provisions.
He stressed that it was, however, imperative for all, especially the media, to come together on awareness creation among the populace, on the harmful nature of tobacco use.


Monday, July 23, 2012

In Lagos: Smoking Drivers To Pay N20,000

By the time Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, finally signs into law the new bill that will repeal and re-enact the road traffic law and make provisions for road traffic and vehicle inspection in the state, motorists and commercial motorcyclists, popularly called “Okada” including bullion van drivers, might be in for a very tough time with law enforcement agencies in the state.
The Lagos State House of Assembly, last Thursday, July 12, passed the bill , ready for Fashola’s assent.
The bill which emanated from the executive arm, is aimed at regulating vehicular movement and to impose strict sanctions and enforcement on any erring vehicle operator in the state.

1.Riding a motor-cycle against traffic
2. Riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks
(Penalty) 1st time offender –  N20,000.00 subsequent offender N30,000.00 or the riders motor-cycle will be impounded
3.One way driving
(Penalty) 3year jail term after psychiatric  examination
4. Smoking while driving
(Penalty) N20,000.00 fine Any driver in Lagos State caught smoking while driving will now be made to pay N20,000 as fine in the new traffic law recently passed by the state House of Assembly.)
5. Failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout
(Penalty) N20,000.00 fine
6. Disobeying traffic control
(Penalty) N20,000.00
7.Violation of route by commercial   vehicles
(Penalty) N20,000.00 fine.
8. Riding motor-cycle without crash helmet for rider and passenger
(Penalty) N20,000: 00 or 3years imprisonment or both.
9. Under aged person, under 18yrs old  riding a motorcycle
(Penalty) N20,000.00.
10. Driving without valid driver’s license.
(Penalty) Vehicle to be impounded.
11. Learner driver without permit
(Penalty) N20,000.00
12. driving with fake number plate
(Penalty) 1st offender N20,000.00 and 6 month  imprisonment or both.

Stakeholders’ react
ACCORDING to Nurudeen Owodunni, a motorist; “for me, I support the decision of the state government. This is because Nigerians especially motorists need laws like this to abide by the traffic law of the state. The havoc created by one way driving is more than the benefit that it may bring to those engaging in it.
It causes accidents and it is the genesis of traffic in Lagos state. But the aspect of the law that states jail term for anyone who drives against traffic is cruel. If the government is bent on going ahead with the law, they should also not spare officers of the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies in the state.
Mr. Gbenga Adebayo “For me it is good because it will bring sanity to Lagos roads. They should arrest and impound any vehicles caught driving against the traffic in the state.
A commercial driver, Mr. Samuel Anthony, “the government should not think of introducing such law because those who drive against the traffic do not do it out of proportion but because they are frustrated with the level of traffic in the state caused by bad roads.
Whenever it rains in Lagos, larger percent of roads in the state will not be motor able. Before the rain, some of these roads are in poor condition. And when it rains, the some sections of the road are totally out of use because it is either water-logged or damaged by the flood.
Mr. Ishaq Jato, “Before the law can be effective, there is need for the government to provide certain things. First, the state government needs to revitalise the water and rail transport system to serve as alternative means of transportation in the state.
Mr Andrew Oke, an Okada rider, said: “Lagos state is looking for a way to ban us the Okada that is why they are coming out with this stringent law. It is unnecessary and anti people. If a ban is placed on Okada operation, movement within the congested city of Lagos will be hampered while many will be thrown into unemployment market. We are not armed robbers. After all, many of the Okada riders are unemployed graduates.”

     SOURCE 1
     SOURCE 2

Thursday, July 19, 2012

‘Tobacco will kill one billion people this century’

Director, Africa Programs of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CFTK), Mr. Joshua Kyallo, has disclosed that no fewer than than one billion people will be killed globally by tobacco in the 21st century. 
Kyallo stated this in Lagos at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) media chat. 
He said Tobacco use was the number one cause of preventable deaths around the world and that it killed 100 million people worldwide in the 20th century. 
According to Kyallo, “every year, tobacco kills more than five million people worldwide and majority started smoking as children. If current trends continue, it will kill one billion people in the 21st century. The tobacco industry’s insidious and even illegal practices are directly responsible for this evil. 
“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll around the world. We advocate public policies proven to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from second-hand smoke. 
“The fight has being brought to Africa and Nigeria. Factually, all our development sector ranging from health, economy to education is suffering here in Africa but now we have the opportunity to support the tobacco control bill in Nigeria and rescue our future.” 
Kyallo urged President Goodluck Jonathan “to assent to the Tobacco Control Bill that has been lying on his desk since last year.” 
He added: “Truly, they argue that the tobacco industry provides employment but this is not a sufficient point for the industry not to be regulated because Tobacco kills, causes diseases and disabilities.” 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Round-table: Media and Tobacco Control Policies in Nigeria

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ERAFoEN laments Dantong’s death

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described the killing of Gyang Dantong, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, as a great loss to public health.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the death of the Senator was wicked, condemnable and a sad reference on how security has degenerated in the country.
“Senator Datong’s murder, along with others, is shocking and very sad indeed. It is another illustration of how our dear Nigeria is sliding dangerously,” said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
According to ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Dantong would be remembered for his contributions to the upliftment of public health, particularly tobacco control.
“ERA/FoEN has worked closely with Senator Dangtong for over eight years since his days as a member of the House of Representative.
“He was a perfect gentleman who cannot hurt a fly. He was a dependable ally during the debates on the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), which was passed by the Sixth Assembly.
ERA/FoEN also called on government to take drastic actions to arrest the deplorable security situation across the country, saying the killing of a serving Senator is an indicaton that “government is not on top of the situation.”


Monday, July 9, 2012

Dantong’s death great loss to public health, says ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described the killing of Senator Gyang Dantong, chair of the Senate Committee on Health as a great loss to public health.
Dantong, Honorable Gyang Fulani, the Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly and several others were shot by unknown gunmen during the burial of people killed during a recent violence in Jos. The incident took place at Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the death of the Senator was wicked, condemnable and a sad reference on how security has degenerated in the country.
"Senator Datong's murder along with others is shocking and very sad indeed. It is another illustration of how our dear Nigeria is sliding dangerously," said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
According to ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Senator Dantong will be remembered for his contributions to the upliftment of public health, particularly tobacco control.
"ERA/FoEN has worked closely with Senator Dangtong for over eight years since his days as a member of the House of Representative. He was a perfect gentleman who cannot hurt a fly. He was a dependable ally during the debates the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) which was passed by the Sixth Assembly.
Oluwafemi added: “while we pray to God to give his family the fortitude to bear this great loss. We urge the federal government to commence immediate investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death and bring perpetrators to Justice.”
ERA/FoEN also called on government to take drastic actions to arrest the deplorable security situation across the country, saying the killing of a serving Senator is indicative of the fact that “government is not on top of the situation.”

Memoir: Senator Daylop Dantong (1957-2012)

A major tragedy struck the tobacco control community this Sunday July 8th, 2012 with the killing of Senator Daylop Dantong, the Chair of the Senate Committee of Health. Senator Dantong it was learnt was killed during the burial of people killed during the July 7th, 2012 violence in Jos.

I have worked with Senator Dangtong for over eight years since his days as a member of the House of Representative.
He was Deputy to Senator Iyabo and was a key champion of the National Tobacco Control Bill which was was later passed by the Sixth National Assembly.
With the endless wait for Presidential assent of the National Tobacco Control Bill, Senator Dantong had initiated consultation with ERA/FoEN about how to fast track the re-passage of the Bill.
I always recall how Senator Dantong held my hands after the Public Hearing battle, saying “this was a good battle, Bode keep fighting., keep fighting.”
During our last meeting (attended by Zanelle) Senator Dantong spoke with me about the spate of insecurity in his home state and how prominent citizens can no longer visit.
I believe his last visit must have been to sympatise with the families of those killed during the violence and to again seek solution to crisis on the Plateau.
On friday, two of our staff. Seun Akioye and Philip Jakpor were at the national assembly to attend a meeting initiated by him to discuss the re-passage of the bill. Though he was not at the meeting because he had to rush home for this funeral, he spoke with them on phone again pledging his commitment to the bill. As a matter of fact, we just sent a letter to his office to request a meeting with the team coming to discuss the bill next week.

Senator Dantong has been our strong pillar and one of the few we could count on.

This is a great loss to Nigeria and the tobacco control community.  - Akinbode Oluwafemi

Senator Gyang Dalyop Dantong was born March 2, 1957. He attended the University of Jos where he bagged the MBBS degree to become a medical practitioner and also got the MPH from the University of Ghana, Legon.
Prior to his foray into politics, he was the Medical Director, Vom Christian Hospital. The late Senator Dantong was elected member, House of Representatives in the 5th Assembly (2003-2007). He was elected into the Senate in 2007 to represent Plateau North Senatorial District during the 6th Assembly (2007-2011). He was returned to the Senate in 2011.
Senator Dantong was made the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health.
He was also a member of the Senate Committees on Aviation and Solid Minerals as well as the newly created Committee on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
Late Senator Dantong was  calm and easy going, just as he was so passionate about how to improve the health situation in Nigeria.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Campaign Against Tobacco Smoking

THIS year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) held recently has again brought to the fore the necessity to seriously address long-standing issue of smoking and its health implications in Nigeria. Over the years, tobacco smoking has been associated with grave health problems well-known to the tobacco companies as well as many consumers of the product, who suffer the deleterious consequences.

But business considerations on the part of the companies on the one hand; and addiction, coupled with ignorance on the part of most consumers, particularly in the developing world, on the other hand, threaten the anti tobacco smoking campaign and render it a herculean task. Worse still is the confirmed fact that non-smokers are exposed to even more critical health problems from passive smoking, all of which should spur the authorities to increase their effort to protect the citizens from preventable death.

Due of its alarming public health effects, tobacco smoking has been banned in many places in the developed world. Interestingly, the United States and many European countries are at the forefront of the fight against tobacco smoking. It would appear that the tobacco companies are consequently shifting ground and targeting poor African countries with teeming youthful population.

These issues formed the plank in this year’s anti-tobacco day. The World Health Organization (WHO) used the occasion to reiterate the dangers of tobacco smoking and the efforts being made to protect populations around the world. WHO’s estimate that tobacco smoking would kill more than eight million people annually by 2030 is frightening, showing that the battle against tobacco is far from being won. And this is attributable to the aggressive marketing strategy of tobacco manufacturers.

Assertive adverts displayed on any available media space portray false satisfaction to smokers. The caution on tobacco packs that cigarette smoking can kill or is injurious to health does not seem to restrain the addicts, and is often inconspicuously displayed. Millions are dying silently every year from tobacco related health problems. It has been found that tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Sadly, there is no reliable statistics on the deaths or illnesses caused by tobacco smoking in Nigeria to enable the health authorities take full control measures.

WHO has reportedly released a technical brief based on the 2008 guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to help guide countries on ways to combat “tobacco industry interference” in the anti-tobacco campaign.  According to the organisation’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, “In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been in the forefront of the war against tobacco”.

She noted that the industry is now stepping out of shadow into court rooms, thereby making it imperative for a united effort to support governments that have the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens. Unfortunately, corruption is a potent factor that would hinder some governments. Corrupt government officials who should engage the tobacco companies may be compromised thereby defeating the effort of government.

The tobacco industry is a big mafia made up of rich multinational operators with the capacity to fight back against perceived blackmail of their products using all manner of tactics to achieve their aim. This resistance poses a serious challenge against governments and the anti tobacco campaign, which are nevertheless urged to resist the antics of the tobacco companies. In the words of Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, “national leaders should resist these tactics and use the full force of the Convention to protect the hard-won gains to safeguard people’s health from the scourge of tobacco”.

It is worrisome that multinational tobacco companies that were finding it increasingly difficult to operate in the developed world are relocating to Africa and other developing regions of the world, cashing in on the apparently weak and corrupt governments, and the good market prospects they found in the teeming youthful population, which are obvious targets.

In Nigeria, the big tobacco manufacturers are mounting resistance against any move to discourage the smoking habit. One such company, the other day, rejected the accusations of “industry interference” in public health policy making, as charged by WHO and anti-tobacco campaigners promoting the “World No Tobacco Day”. It has consistently defended what it perceives as “its right to engage transparently on issues affecting its legitimate business selling a legal, highly regulated product that mainly adults choose to use”. Surely this resistance is tantamount to waging a silent war on the citizenry.

There is need for more public enlightenment on the dangers of tobacco smoking. Government should use media adverts, radio and TV jingles, as well as bill boards to discourage people from smoking. People should be told that nicotine is a poison and its addiction is dangerous to health and could lead to early death. They should be educated that the life style portrayed in tobacco adverts is false and leads to no benefits.

Finally, government should curb the activities of the tobacco companies. No responsible government would sit back and allow the unrestrained production and sale of products that are injurious to the populace. The Federal Government should resist the flooding of the Nigerian market with tobacco products that were banned in other countries.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tobacco smoke exposes children to chronic respiratory diseases – Study

Tobacco smoke exposes children to chronic respiratory diseases – Study

As the World Health Organisation celebrates the World No Tobacco Day, MAUREEN AZUH examines a study that focuses on the hazards of exposing children to tobacco smoke
 On Thursday, May 31, the World Health Organisation celebrated the World No Tobacco Day with the theme ‘Tobacco Industry Interference’. The campaign focused on the need to expose and counter the perceived tobacco industry’s attempt to undermine WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — WHO FCTC — because of the danger they pose to public health.
According to reports by WHO, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people yearly, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. The reports indicate that unless a drastic action is taken, it will kill up to eight million people by 2030 and 40 million people — who also suffer from tuberculosis — by 2020 of which more than 80 per cent  will live in low- and middle-income countries.
But beyond WHO’s report and campaign, researchers in their bid to find a lasting solution to tobacco-related diseases say children exposed to tobacco smoke may face long-term respiratory problems. In a report by the American Thoracic Society, published online on May 20, 2012,  it was found that there are potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke – ETS – especially among children whose parents smoke.
The study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona, US indicates that the health risks persist beyond childhood, and are independent of whether or not the individuals involved end up becoming smokers in life.  The researchers posit that exposure to parental smoking increases the risk of the persistence of respiratory symptoms from childhood into adulthood independent of personal smoking.
Research specialist at the university, Juliana Pugmire, says “persistent respiratory illness in childhood and young adulthood could indicate an increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and lung function deficits in later life.”
Pugmire notes that earlier studies established a link between parental smoking and childhood respiratory illness, but the current one seeks to demonstrate whether these effects persist into adulthood.
 “A handful of studies examined whether children exposed to parental smoking had asthma that developed or persisted in adulthood but most did not find an association. We examined asthma as well as other respiratory symptoms and found that exposure to parental smoking had the strongest association with cough and chronic cough that persisted into adult life. Exposure to parental smoking also had effects, although weaker, on persistent wheezing and asthma in adulthood,” she says.
The researchers drew data from the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease, a large, population-based, prospective study initiated in 1972 that enrolled 3,805 individuals from 1,655 households in the Tucson area,  in an effort to assess prevalence rates and risk factors of respiratory and other chronic diseases.
Participants were asked to complete questionnaires that were issued every two years until 1996. But for the present study, the researchers used data from 371 individuals who were enrolled in the TESAOD as children.
Pugmire and her colleagues looked at the reported prevalence of active asthma, wheeze, cough and chronic cough, which was defined as a persistent cough that had occurred for three consecutive months. They divided the data into four categories: never, which included individuals who had not reported that symptom during childhood or adulthood; incident, which included individuals who had never reported the symptom in childhood, but had reported at least one incident in adulthood; remittent, including participants who reported at least one incident in childhood and none in adulthood; and persistent, which included individuals who had at least one report of a symptom during both childhood and adulthood.
With the data, the researchers determined that 52.3 per cent of children included in the current study were exposed to ETS between birth and 15 years. After adjustments for sex, age, years of follow-up and personal smoking status, the researchers found that ETS exposure in childhood was significantly associated with several persistent respiratory symptoms, including persistent wheeze, cough and chronic cough.
Pugmire states that persistent wheezing from childhood into adult life has been shown to be associated with lung function deficits. Chronic bronchitis – defined as chronic cough and phlegm – is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease development later in life.
“The persistence of symptoms like chronic cough and wheeze into young adulthood may indicate a susceptibility to lung function deficits and chronic respiratory illness with age,” she adds.
Perhaps in a likely search for a lasting solution to the menace of tobacco smoking, yet another study says anti-Tobacco television adverts may help adults to stop smoking. The study published in the online journal, American Journal of Public Health, in April, finds that though some adverts may be more effective than others, all anti-tobacco television advertising help reduce adult smoking.
The study looked at the relationship between adults’ smoking behaviours and their exposure to adverts sponsored by states; private foundations; tobacco companies themselves or by pharmaceutical companies marketing smoking-cessation products. The researchers  analysed variables such as smoking status, intentions to quit smoking, attempts to quit in the past year, and average daily cigarette consumption. The report says they found that in markets with higher exposure to state-sponsored media campaigns, “smoking is less, and intentions to quit are higher.”
The researchers, however, say an unexpected finding of the study was that adults who were in areas with more adverts for pharmaceutical cessation products were less likely to make an attempt to quit.
Meanwhile,  as WHO and other countries move to fully meet their obligations and counter tobacco industry’s efforts to undermine the treaty,  the World No Tobacco Day 2012 – according to WHO – educated policy-makers and the general public about the tobacco industry’s nefarious and harmful tactics, as well as reinforce health warnings of tobacco.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Battling tobacco trading

  • ERA/FoEN wants tobacco bill signed

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), which in July, 2009, had its   public hearing conducted by the senate and attracted more than 40 civil society groups, including groups from the tobacco industry who were against the bill; still awaits the assent of the president. However, the bill takes a forefront in improving the health of the general public. The bill which repeals the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990 CAP. T16 Laws of the Federation is aimed at domesticating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The keys highlights of the bill are prohibition of smoking in public places; to include restaurant and bar, public transportation, schools, hospitals etc. A ban on all forms of direct and indirect advertising, prohibition of sales of cigarette 1000-meter radius of areas designated as non-smoking, mass awareness about the danger of smoking as well as the formation of committee that will guide government on the issue of tobacco control in the country.

It prohibits all forms of tobacco advertisement, sponsorships and promotions, endorsements or testimonials, sales promotions. Prohibition of the sale of tobacco products 1,000 meter radius places designated as non smoking and empowers government to use litigation to recoup liabilities related to tobacco consumption. 

Spreading Tobacco scourge
Even as tobacco death toll soars beyond 6 million, big tobacco industries have stepped up its efforts to prevent tobacco control laws from taking effect. Highly visible examples include lawsuits by Phillip Morris International and its competitors against countries like Austrialia, Norway and Uruguay for implementing strong tobacco control laws.

“Big Tobacco is very publicly bullying countries in hopes they will cave, their neighbours will cave, and treaty implementation will cave,” said Kelle Louaillier, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability International.

World Health Assembly resolution on transparency in tobacco control process, citing the findings of the Committee of Experts on Tobacco Industry Documents, states that “the tobacco industry has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of governments and WHO in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic.”

For example, in an attempt to halt the adoption of pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco, the industry recently adopted the novel tactic of suing countries under bilateral investment treaties, claiming that the warnings impinge the companies' attempts to use their legally-registered brands.

Meanwhile, the industry's attempts to undermine the treaty continue on other fronts, particularly with regard to countries' attempts to ban smoking in enclosed public places and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.  Tobacco advertising and promotions are everywhere. 

Despite the ban on smoking in public places, there are still promotions of cigarette smoking in clubs, parties, rural areas and sharing of gifts.  

For instance, the British American Tobacco of Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) aimed at  improving the quality of life of citizens in rural and urban areas of Nigeria through sustainable poverty alleviation, agricultural development,  potable water, environmental protection and vocational skills acquisition  are ways to get into the heart of the masses which will inturn promote cigarette smoking. 

BAT is also involved with sport sponsoring, especially football which is popular in Nigeria. FIFA's decision to prohibit tobacco ads in sports grounds and on the players shirts was only for the World cup. 

However, an odd thing is the simultaneous presence of advertising for Marlboro while nobody holds a distributing license for Marlboro in Nigeria.   

The Environment Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) states that Tobacco industry interference is to weaken law to ensure they never get enacted and to undermine those laws.

“Even though the law didn't specify the public places but they have been moving around to kiosks, hotels, advertise with sharing umbrellas, commissioning of borehole. Tobacco company should be held responsible for both the environmental, economic, health and social cost,” said Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director, Corporate Accountability and Administration.

He referred to the Tobacco companies humanitarian gestures as being against the health of the ublic. “These gestures are not strictly humanitarian gestures; most companies act for the benefit of mankind but Tobacco Company is acting against the benefit of mankind.”
He also revealed that, “Tobacco companies don't pay taxes, they actually rake the taxes from smokers. So, when they pay N1billion tax,  it means that they have sold close toN100 billion cigarettes.”

Director, People against Drug Dependence and Ignorance, Mr.Eze Eluchie adds “One of BAT's most recent and successful promotion is named Experience Hollywood: they organize film showings and with your ticket you are given a pack of cigarettes. I tried to attend one  such event with a camera but they refused to let me in with the camera.” 

Health threats
Tobacco use most commonly leads to diseases affecting the heart, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer, particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer. Overall life expectancy is also reduced in regular smokers, with estimates ranging from 10_17.9 years fewer than nonsmokers.

Eluchi said 13,700 people die as a result of cigarette having 35% aid of cancer and approximately 5 million people die of cigarette everyday.

The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke and may kill up to 8 million people by 2030 if nothing drastic is done, of which more than 80per cent live in low- and middle-income countries.

Among male smokers, the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is 17.2per cent; among female smokers, the risk is 11.6per cent. This risk is significantly lower in nonsmokers: 1.3per cent in men and 1.4per cent in women. 

The WHO/FCTC on tobacco control is to raise awareness about the addictives and harmful nature of tobacco products and industry interference with Parties' tobacco policies. Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco products and transparency of those interactions that occur and require information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.

Oluwafemi urged prioritizing the health of the people above the commercial investment interests of the tobacco industry. “We want the presidency to hearken to the call from the global and local communities. He has the window of signing because the constitution is clear. The world is watching. We've not confirmed from the president if he has received the bill and no information yet if he is not going to sign for public health, nothing is too much.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Senate Vs Jonathan: Now The War Drum Beats

President Goodluck Jonathan last week stoked the fire when he accused the National Assembly of tearing budget bills to shreds. The National Assembly has returned the fire asking Jonathan to sit up. UCHENNA AWOM, in this diary, suggests that the war drum beat, after all,may be sounding fast and aloud.
These are heated times in Nigeria’s socio-political environment. It is a period that could alter the once chubby relationships and can also bring out the best in institutions. That being the case, is the once rosy romance between the National Assembly and the Presidency going awry? Indications to this emerged last week during the democracy day celebrations.
President Goodluck Jonathan first stoked the fire at the Democracy Day symposium last week Monday, the President accused lawmakers of “tearing” the budget bill and of acting against the manifesto of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). By inference, he implied that the National Assembly frustrates the implementation of the budgets.
Though Jonathan was said to have squared up with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, over the bills that have stayed for a long time in the President’s in-tray at that occasion, but his vociferous approach to the issue underscores the emerging gulf between both institutions. In that case, it was potent enough to ignite a caustic response from the parliament no matter how uncoordinated. The response did come and of course it has elicited several interpretations ranging from some that suggests ‘no-love-lost’ between both arms.
First, Tambuwal pointedly said at the occasion that Jonathan was shirking his constitutional responsibility by sitting on many bills passed by the National Assembly.
His remark was seen as a forerunner to a planned coordinated response by the National Assembly.
So, it was not surprising when the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, took on President Goodluck Jonathan last Wednesday over his failure to assent to some bills passed by the National Assembly.
He also claimed that the President “distorted facts” when he said on Monday that the lawmakers tore up the budget proposal sent to them; thereby, making it difficult for the executive to implement it.
“A number of bills that would have changed a lot of things for this country have not been signed”, Ekweremadu said using the opening of a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology on a bill to set up an erosion control commission to hit back at the Presidency.
“So, my advice to the executive is to dialogue with the legislature in matters like these and find a common ground instead of shifting blames”, he added.
Continuing, Ekweremadu warned, “We expressed our displeasure over some of the bills which we have sent to the Presidency for assent since last year that have not received presidential assent. And in response, the president said that it is because we are creating agencies. We will continue to create agencies if it is important, because that is why we are here.
“So, we have to do our job. Most of those bills have nothing to do with agencies. I remember we have the State of the Nation Address Bill, it has nothing to do with any agency and it has not been signed. We have the National Health Bill. It has nothing to do with an agency. It has not been signed. We have the Air Force Institute of Technology Bill and Tobacco Bills.
“If institutions are to be created, they will definitely be created. So any person who thinks that the creation of institutions should stop is wasting his time. It would not stop because the society itself is dynamic”.
On the budget bill, Ekweremadu declared, “I also believe that the issue which he (Jonathan) also raised regarding the Appropriation Bill was also a distortion of facts. The president said that we tore the Appropriation Bill into pieces which made it impossible for implementation. Certainly, that is not so.
“I am aware that the 2012 Appropriation Bill was returned to the executive substantially the same way they brought it. So, we are challenging them to ensure that the 2012 Appropriation Act is fully implemented.
“They have been complaining that they could not implement the budget because of the inputs of the National Assembly.
“So, this year, we said we are not making any input, we are going to give you the bill the way you brought it as a challenge to ensure that it is implemented. So, we expect them to implement it 100 per cent because that is their own vision.
“Of course, he also made reference to a point where they wanted to go to court to challenge the role of the National Assembly in altering Appropriation Bills. Well, that will be a welcome development.
“So we want to suggest that the executive should please take that step of going to the Supreme Court or any court they wish to look at the constitutionality of our role in terms of appropriation for this country. We will be happy to see the outcome, and of course, we will obey whatever the court says.
“But we believe the National Assembly has the ultimate say when it comes to the appropriation of funds because that is what the constitution says. If the Supreme Court or any other court says otherwise, we would succumb to it and do exactly what the court says.
“Some of these things I think are things we should be able to discuss with the executive. There is need for closer collaboration between the parliament and the executive because if we are close to each other, we can always discuss, we can always dialogue. But if we are far in between, of course, we will be shouting at each other because for you to hear me if we are far between, I have to raise my voice. So, I don’t think that is good for democracy”.
The spat is perhaps the first open show of tacit disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Though there had been instances where the Presidency and the House of Representatives disagree openly, but such altercations have never exceeded the boundaries of both chambers. In most of such cases it was the Senate that mediates. But the situations have changed and there is unanimity of purpose, defence and response in the National Assembly.
The implication is that we may again witness a situation of serial overriding of a seeming presidential veto of any of the bills lying in the President’s in-tray. Doing this, which was last witnessed in the first session of the National Assembly when they overruled ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s veto on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) Bill, will reinvent the national parliament as peopled by serious minded individuals who are ready at all times to check the excesses of the executive.
For now, the beat goes on and the chicken is coming home to roost.