NGOs urge FG to operationalise Tobacco Control Fund

By Deji Abdulwahab

Some NGOs have called on the Federal Government to operationalise the Tobacco Control Fund, to help in funding tobacco related-diseases and other tobacco control activities in the country.

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa and Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa, gave the advice on Thursday at a news conference in Abuja.

The Chairman of NTCA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that this became necessary as Nigerian government had lost huge monies due to the non enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019.

According to Oluwafemi, the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019, states, ” a tobacco manufacturer shall pay N10 million, importer will pay N10 million and distributor will pay N2million before issuance of license.

“Nigeria had lost a lot of funds that should have accrued to it through licensing of Tobacco Industry players.

”This is one of the dangers of not having the Tobacco Control Fund fully operational.”

He said that the Federal Ministry of Health as the primary executor of the National Tobacco Control Act must step up to its responsibility.

This, he added, was to make the Tobacco Control Fund fully operational as soon as possible.

“The continued delay in the operationalisation of the Fund is tantamount to self-injury on the Federal Government.

“Revenue which should accrue to the fund from the issuance of licenses to tobacco manufacturers and distributors is being lost.

“Also, the unavailability of an operational account for the payment of licensing fees makes the operations of tobacco manufacturers, importers and distributors in the country illegal, as the companies have no licenses to back their operations.

“It is also deeply concerning that the tobacco industry with its awful public health implications is indirectly being granted a license-free-holiday,’’ NTCA chief said.

According to him, the industry was also allowed to operate in Nigeria without licenses, ”because of the government’s continued delay to make the fund operational.

“It is not a secret that tobacco control activities in the country are grossly underfunded and this  delay negatively impacts important tobacco control work.

“CBN, Federal Ministry of Finance and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation must also play their roles in the setting up of the fund’s account.

“This will ensure that the revenue loss is closed, and the fund is running as prescribed by the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act, 2015.”

Mr Austine Iraoya, a Research Associate with the Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa, urged the Federal Government to increase 30 per cent tax on tobacco to 70 per cent to meet WHO standard.

“Globally, tobacco smoking keeps reducing in other continents, but in Africa, it keeps increasing due to lack of control and enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy.

“ECOWAS tax on tobacco is 50 per cent, while WHO standard is 70 per cent.

“Nigerian government needs to increase its 30 per cent to 70 per cent as part of measures to control tobacco smoking in Nigeria.

“It is imperative, because tobacco is not only harmful to the environment, but also endangers the health of consumers and non- consumers,’’ Iraoya said.

Mr Peter Unekwu-Ojo, Technical Consultant, Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa, urged the media to join the NGOs in the tobacco control campaign, to make fund fully operational in the country. (NAN)