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Showing posts with label SON. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SON. Show all posts

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, May 22, 2012

Intrigues stall passage of tobacco control bill

INTRIGUES among key officials of the Federal Ministries of Health, Trade and Investment, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and a tobacco-producing firm have been fingered in the non-passage of National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), a year after the National Assembly passed it.
The Guardian learnt that President Goodluck Jonathan, whose assent is required for the bill to become law, is yet to receive the document.
And ahead of the 2012 World No Tobacco Day holding this week, some activists have doubted government’s commitment to Nigerians’ right to a healthy environment. They claimed that Nigeria lags behind in the implementation of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
It was learnt that the bill had become a plaything between the ministries of Health and Trade and Investment.
In fact, the Federal Ministry of Health, which is named the chief implementation agency of the bill, is alleged to have failed in sending the bill to the President for assent.
There were also speculations that a tobacco manufacturing firm was arm-twisting some officials of SON and the Ministry of Trade and Investment to prevent the bill from being passed in its current form.
“The tobacco industry is in disagreement with two sections of the bill, which the operators want expunged. One of the sections is the non-inclusion of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in the membership of the National Tobacco Control Committee as provided in the bill.
“The SON is also in disagreement with some of the oversight functions it was allotted in the bill. SON wants to be the chief implementation agency for the bill,” a source said.
While waiting for clarity on the status of the bill, activists under the aegis of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), have urged the minister of health to initiate the processes towards the enforcement of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs sold in Nigeria.
The group noted that Nigeria was behind in the implementation of tobacco control measures, one of which is the enforcement of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs as obtained in five of the world’s eight largest countries.
Director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “Pictorial warnings have been proven as one of the most effective tools to tackling the glamourisation of tobacco products; effectively communicate the health impacts of smoking and help to reduce consumption and its associated hazards.
“We believe strongly that the health minister should commence all processes that would lead to the enforcement of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs. The first step is for the minister to work for the presidential assent of the National Tobacco Control Bill,” he said.


Friday, August 21, 2009

RE: Much Ado About Tobacco

This sort of 'syndicated dare-devil' journalism will only stripe you of your pedigree. If only you have been following the year’s long campaign to make you and your families have the choice of breathing free air devoid of the contaminations from tobacco smoking, you will not be risking your precious integrity to publish syndicated materials from this merchant of death.

I read with disdain and pitying your ignorance on the importance of putting in place a new tobacco control laws in Nigeria. Wondering why the need to cook up assumption with regards to the Senate Committee on Health’s recent public hearing on the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009. This is another media stunt well done and for the 'dough', simple. That's not ‘just’ at all. It is with the same ‘damning all, throwing cautions to the wind attitudes’ with which you penned your name on this story that these tobacco manufactures are targeting your little children. Their strategy is simple; caught them young, use baits, hunt for financially pressed media voices to propagate falsehood and you know the rest. They are out orchestrating a device targeted at your children and you are saying ‘much ado about tobacco’, what kind of a father’s heart have you got?
Secondly, you need to know that journalists all the world over are playing prominent roles in the promotion of tobacco control advocacy because the pursuit of truth is just. It is sad therefore that you suddenly silenced your journalism ethic of objectivity in the face of Naira and to the detriment of your nation. Or was it in foreign currency you were paid to push this through and knowing it would malign the hard earned credibility of very newspaper. You could have written to carefully examine the matter from its economic and health perspective as the Distinguished Senate President David Mark spoke so profoundly while declaring the public hearing opened. But this undeserving as an editorial material underscores the importance of all the efforts. In other word, the investment of time and money expended by the Senate, the Senate Health Committee to deem it fit to repeal an old law with a more proactive one and in order to address a very critical dilemma is unnecessary.

Writing in assumption without taking a trip to Oke Ogun and other tobacco growing farms to discover the truth is unacceptable. Have you compared it with a similar antecedent of our Cocoa production era and its impact on national life? Now bring it down to the reality, if this is the experiences of the tobacco farmers BAT and her accolades are spending mega billions to sing and dance in the media they are creating jobs for. If you have consulted with the body of research done by World Health Organization, American Cancer Society and several other global agencies most trusted on the subject, then one would think maybe, just maybe, the anti tobacco movement got it all wrong. Nigerians also deserve to know from you if there are benefits acquiring from smoking. Your essay is biased and greatly lacked in details to the detriment of the good of all mankind.

If this bill is not just, then the series of ‘evil-intended’ publications going about in the media, obviously sponsored by those who are threatened by the mere mentioning of the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009 and aimed at pitching two Nigerian patriot against the other to discredit the collective will and genuine intention to guarantee the rights of smokers and non-smokers in this country. Perhaps, if there exist ‘plenty noise about nothing’, it is the continuous fabrication of falsehood by your kind working for the Big Tobacco (Merchant of Death) to blindfold truth. Your refusal to see any significant goal portray you as an enemy of the people in that you are only interested in maintaining the status quo for BAT and others merchants. If we listen to you, then we would be sending the next generation of Nigerian youths into drug dependency, we would be licensing cigarette manufactures to keep killing our loved ones, to make us spend more on healthcare treating preventable illness as well as dependants of the dead – deaths caused by tobacco smoking.

What is sinister about a bill conceived with all genuine intention to repeal another because the reality demands for it? This is the reason you consented that ‘this kind of bill should be seen as a good thing…’ It is confusing that you commended the Tobacco Control Act 1990 and refuse to see the need for its replacement with a proactive one even when such is expedient. More than you can imagine, these tobacco companies knows what they are doing. By successfully using you as a willing ally to push these ‘white lies’ shows their desperation and callousness at playing the game. Their entire move to suppress truth, to delay the passage of the bill and distort reality with massive advertising strategies is just ‘buying time’ to kill more Nigerians. You should have requested for the recording of the public hearing and see how BAT trembled and shake discovering that the civil nature of the bill also have criminal appeal.

For a reminder, the singular act of penning your name against falsehood will go down in history. Let's imagine that you even smoke and want your children or relatives to do so. That is yours and their rights. As you quoted, "equity follows the law if it is just", where then is the right of the non-smokers and smokers should the later decide to seek redress in the court of law for damages resulting from taking a product made by BAT? Is tobacco not classified under drug and why should it be sold by an ‘Aboki’ and to a minor. Or don’t you think, all of these are missing in the Tobacco Control Act 1990, and that, it is in order be just (putting tobacco in proper perspective, economy versus health, weighing the gains over loss to the Nigerians) that the Senate thought it fit to review this provision. More so, the position of the Nigerian Senate on this bill is clear and just. These efforts deserved to be commended even as the bill scale through its final path to passage.

Adeyinka Olugbade
Programme Manager

Much ado about tobacco

-Mobolaji Sanusi

What is the big deal about a Tobacco bill? This is the multi-million Naira question that followers of controversies trailing the above bill before the Senate Committee on Health may be seeking answers for. The bill is aimed at repealing the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990 and to enact the National Tobacco Control bill 2008. Its stated goals like the 1990 one are laudable – to provide for the regulation or control of production, manufacture sale, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco or tobacco products and other related matters.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Adeleke Mamora, a medical doctor, ostensibly in tandem with some groups of lawyers in the country. Ordinarily, this kind of bill should be seen as a good thing considering the fact that since the tenure of military president Ibrahim Babangida, the late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti who was then Minister of Health, championed the battle for regulation of tobacco smoking. It was then that the issue of public smoking and compulsory inscription of ‘tobacco smoking is dangerous to your health’ on packet of cigarettes, on billboards and other forms of advertisement were enforced.
Thus, the current bill is not out to achieve any significant goal different from what Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti achieved during the military era. But the bill that is still at the public hearing, stage in the Senate is generating so much controversy and this has attracted intense public attention. Many are wondering why there is no much ado about this new Bill for an Act to repeal the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990.
For this reason, I have taken time to look for the bill, got a copy and have since realized that the bill is as needless as the artificial controversy surrounding it. Certain provisions of the bill (sections 40-45) question the professed altruistic motive of most promoters of the bills: it is important to ask whether most promoters of bills put national interest over personal gains in their pursuits of legislative enactments. Whatever their motives, it is also germane to point out that that is why there are levels of checks in legislative drafting – first, second, and third readings and even the stage of public hearings in legislative enactment processes. But does the National Assembly legislators adhere to this in the overall interest of the nation or just see it as something just there for being there sake? Could it be that the effort by the Senate Health Committee to play by the rules and not allow arm twisting actually led to the on-going controversy on the matter?
What I do know is that there is something sinister about the purport of the bill which might not completely be in the overall interest of the nation. The issue of Child Rights that came out of the bills public hearing that has generated heated debates between Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Mrs. Maryam Uwais might be a decoy aimed at blackmailing somebody so that the bill can enjoy easy passage.
Let us get it right ab initio that cigarette smoking is without equivocation dangerous to the health of both young and old persons. This is acknowledged by the Tobacco companies that agreed with the legislation that compels them to inscribe the warning that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health. Professor Ransome-Kuti himself was a chain smoker of cigarette and this warning would not even deter him and many others in his shoes from smoking. There are several people in high places, including state governors whose governments are suing Tobacco companies who are today chain smokers too. What moral right do these sets of people have to sue the cigarette producing companies? Among the downtrodden in this country, millions engage in legal cigarette smoking. It is at least better than smoking of marijuana and other illicit drugs. The present cases before the court are stalled because of unfavourable rules of evidence which the bill is avariciously planned to cure when passed in to law.
Some of these curious provisions in the bill attempt to empower the government to sue and make claims from tobacco companies for cost incurred from treating tobacco related ailment victims. For example, this provision presupposes that there are free medical services in the country. This is a fallacious assumption as the social safety nets in the country are almost zero. So, the proposed recourse to legal actions by states through the services of certain group of lawyers is laughable. This is not within the jurisprudential sociological theory of law espoused by Rosco Pound. These state governments and their ambitious lawyers behind the bill should also study more of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Realistic School of legal Jurisprudence. Any piece of law worth its salt should be made for the society and not vice-versa. Any law or provisions of it that is out to force itself on the society would only benefit few individuals for a short while before subsequently roiling into oblivion.
The all important legal principle; volunti non fit injuria (voluntary assumption of risk) in the Law of Tort applies in the case of smokers of cigarette. If after the warning and other precautions, people still go ahead and smoke, nobody or entity should be blamed but the smokers themselves.
Morally, some of the state governors who engage in smoking with some of their cabinet members should not have approved the suits being pursued on their behalf by some lawyers in the first instance. Within the Presidency today, there are smokers who are not ready to quit the habit. Would the state be right to claim compensation on behalf of leaders and others no matter their ages who voluntarily take to smoking as habit? I hope this bill is not out to benefit few lawyers who are its covertly promoters?
Most parents smoke cigarettes and even send their wards to buy same for them. These children copy the habit from them. Should anyone or an entity be blamed for this? This is why the issue of prohibiting communications of any form by entities producing cigarettes becomes deluding or the selling of cigarettes within particular radius from certain public places hypocritical. One, it is through advertisement on the danger of smoking that smokers can be more aware of the risk they voluntarily put upon themselves.
Not allowing sale within a certain radius or outright prohibition would make illegal tobacco sale business thrive thereby making monitoring difficult. Tobacco smoking would be a difficult thing to eradicate in any country. In Christianity as well as Islam, it is one thing that is not prohibited but strands condemned because of its hazardous health implications. There should be moderation in the mode of its legislation. What the country should bother about is the creation of standard and effective monitoring through agencies like the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). One of the tobacco companies, British-America tobacco, reportedly had paid tax in excess of over N80 billion since 2001 and gives employment to hundreds of Nigerians from its 150 million dollar factory. This is aside its corporate social responsibilities that gulped hundreds of millions of Naira too.
The question is: Can Nigeria afford to trade off the sector at this point through this draconian bill that might send companies operating therein out of business via needless, avoidable law suits- at a time most big companies are relocating to neighbouring countries? The answer is in the negative

Friday, August 7, 2009

The continued fight to control smoking (2)

-Emmanuel Ogala

There is no up-to-date data showing how many Nigerians are smokers or how many die of tobacco related illnesses, but the floor of the senate has been gripped with excitement since it started hearing on a bill to control the sale of tobacco last week.
Research conducted in 1988 by the Federal Ministry of Health showed that nine million Nigerians were smokers, out of which 3.5 million smoked an average of 20 sticks daily. This led to the promulgation of a decree banning smoking in public spaces. In 2006, research carried out in Lagos revealed that two people die daily from tobacco related illnesses in the state.
The tobacco industry is a bug-bear for many health activists and government institutions, locally and internationally, so it was no surprise that a National Tobacco Control Bill which seeks to control the production, sale and use of tobacco in Nigeria was debated by the public in the senate chamber early last week. The bill is sponsored by Adeleke Olorunimbe Mamora (AC, Lagos state).
The National Tobacco Control Bill 2009 is an upgrade of the Tobacco Control Act of 1990 and a replica of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Nigeria ratified the FCTC treaty in October 2005.
The bill was welcomed by health organisations and environmentalists but, as expected, there was solid opposition from tobacco companies, their suppliers, traders, community associations of tobacco producing communities and others connected economically to tobacco production.
The bill is a double-edged sword: while it promises to save the lives of about 6.5 million Nigerian smokers whom activists from the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) say are on the ‘death row’ due to tobacco addiction, it will also lead to the loss of about 500,000 jobs across the nation, according to pro-tobacco lobbyists.
“We stand between health and economy,” David Mark, the senate president, said while declaring the public hearing open. He, however, noted that although the tobacco industry is economically significant, it is only the living that can enjoy the wealth.
The case for production Oloye Gbade Isola, national secretary of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, said British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) is a major business concern in Ibadan. He said the company might find it difficult to operate under a regulatory legislation that is choking.
“The company will eventually wind up,” he said. “To those who have benefited from BATN’s presence, its exit will be a calamity.” Saka Muniru, representing the Ibadan Progressive Union, also told the Senate that the closure of the BATN factory located in Ibadan would lead to the loss of more than 500,000 jobs. In his view, the bill will drive away investors. He therefore pleaded that the new bill should only include measures to regulate the production of cigarettes in the country rather than strangle existing companies.
Tony Okwoju,Area Head Regional Affairs at BATN, the largest cigarette producing companyin Nigeria, promised that his company will comply with the provisions of the bill whenever it is signed into law.
However, he said there are components of the proposed bill that are extreme and would have ‘unintended consequences’ on the industry or even make it impossible for legal companies to operate yet will not achieve the desired goal of reducing the impact of tobacco on public health.
“We have seen cases where extreme regulation has resulted in an increase in the levels of illicit trade,” Mr. Okwoju said. “We believe that the purpose of a tobacco control law should be the reduction of the impact of tobacco on public health. It should not be to force legal tax-paying tobacco companies out of business.”
The case against Environmental and health activists argue that the hazards of smoking far outweigh the benefits, as few Nigerians are directly or indirectly on the payroll of tobacco companies.
. They insist that tobacco farmers in Nigeria could easily shift to other crops, such as cassava, which has high demand in the international market.
“Besides, Nigeria still imports tobacco leaves at a mere 5% duty, which makes locally produced tobacco unattractive,” Uche Onyeagocha of Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (FoEN) said.
The bill, amongst other provisions, seeks to regulate the involvement of tobacco companies in corporate social responsibility (CSR), a tool many tobacco companies use as part of the arguments to justify their presence in any community.
“It is simply a decoy to replace the dead smokers and keep the government’s eye away from regulating its expansion,” Adeola Akinremi, African coordinator of Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), an intergovernmental policy
organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, said. “What social responsibility can a company whose product kills offer?” The bill also seeks to establish a National Tobacco Committee (NATOC) to monitor the implementation of the restrictions in the bill. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) presently has the responsibility of regulating tobacco sale and distribution.
The devil is in the bill When the bill is eventually passed, tobacco companies will be required to go beyond the written warning on cigarette packs, to using pictures of people harmed by smoking, and this which will occupy at least one-third of the cover to warn consumers.
It will also be against the law to sell tobacco products within one kilometre of churches, mosques, schools and hospitals when the bill is passed.
This provision particularly angered a group called Concerned Tobacco Retailers. “This means we cannot sell at all in this country!” Luka Vindi, secretary to the organization, said.
Other provisions in the bill include: prohibition of smoking in public places, ban on the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 18, and prohibition of the sale of tobacco in single sticks. When passed, cigarettes will be sold only in a pack of 20.
Also, the bill prohibits mail delivery of cigarettes to consumers, and provides that all tobacco meant to be consumed in Nigeria must bear a mark indicating that it is for the Nigerian market only; while those meant for export should be clearly marked too. This, they say, will help curb smuggling of tobacco products.
Although it will be a tough decision for the senators to choose between the economy and the health implications of tobacco, the senate president has promised to make every senator declare his/her stance publicly when the bill is up for passage.
Legislative drama Part of the drama at the emotive public hearing was the altercation between the chairman of the senate committee on health, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, and Maryam Uwais, wife of the former chief justice of Nigeria, Muhammed Uwais.
Mrs Uwais was angry that Mrs Obasanjo-Bello refused to allow some children present on the floor to speak. She later sent a letter to the senate to complain aboutthis.
In an interview with NEXT, Mrs Uwais said:“What happened was that there was a hearing on the tobacco and I have been involved in a related litigation. We’ve been suing tobacco companies and trying to get them to stop selling to children, and around sport centres and schools.
“We have also been supporting Senator Mamora who had produced a bill for tobacco control which is more effective than the other law that has been in existence.
We went for the public hearing and I was able to speak on the first day. I spoke about my role as a child rights advocate and how tobacco affects children.
“I was allowed to speak. But the following day, other members of ourteam were going to speak, so I went. I noticed in the audience, the three children. I don’t know them and I have never seen them before.
They attempted to speak but the chairperson said no. I stood up and she said ‘sit down, I am not going to allow you to address me on this issue, as a mother I am to protect these children. They are being brought here to be paraded.’ Meanwhile a lot of people had come to testify that children are stakeholders. All I wanted to do was make her realise that she was wrong.”