To halt on-going attempts by the tobacco industry to truncate the passage of the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations, the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) have urged the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara to ensure the speedy passage of the draft as the 9th assembly winds down its curtain.
In a statement issued in Abuja, Wednesday, the groups pleaded with the National Assembly leadership to repel clandestine activities of the tobacco industry to water-down the draft Regulations.
“We have been monitoring the processes after the adoption of the draft Regulations on the floor of the House of Representatives and are shocked by the delay in transmitting the draft Regulations to the Senate for concurrence.
“Equally worrying are reports that the draft Regulations being sent to the Senate are being doctored to exclude some key provisions as approved on the floor of the House of Representatives and reflected in the record of the Votes and Proceedings.
“To us, the tobacco industry is striking again. Proper due process was followed and respected all along, and all parties were duly consulted but we know the tobacco industry will always act in bad faith to compromise any law aimed at reducing smoking and its attendant harms and economic costs.
“The National Assembly must once and for all, draw the line and side with the health of Nigerians as well as protect them from an industry that is killing 16,100 Nigerians every year,” said ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
According to the groups, some of the critical sections approved at the House of Representatives include: all tobacco products must carry pictorial health warning of 50 per cent on all principal display areas which will automatically increase to 80 per cent after four years; licensing of all tobacco products including variants by the Federal Ministry of Health, amongst others.
The NTCA Alliance Coordinator, Oluseun Esan said: “The eighth National Assembly is at a critical period and we have seen the wave of bills that were given expedited passage. We wonder why the Tobacco Control Regulations have not enjoyed similar treatment.
“Our plea is that the Senate President and the Speaker of the House Representatives step into this issue personally and stand with public good. Nigerians are watching and indeed the global public health community is also watching to see how the eighth National Assembly treats this very important issue.
“We restate our confidence that the leadership will do the needful by approving strong Regulations as approved on the floor of the House of Representatives; that is the Public Health legacy Nigerians need from Senator Saraki and Honourable Dogara.
The draft National Tobacco Control Regulations provide clarity and details for the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Bill, 2015 signed into Law under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
However, Section 39 (2), of the Act provides that draft Regulations for the full implementation of the Act must be sent back to the National Assembly for approval.
The groups want the Senate to concur to the draft Regulations approved by the House of Representatives before the expiration of the term of the current National Assembly on June 6, 2019.