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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Groups hail Senate hearing on tobacco bill

-David Ajikobi with agency reports

The Senate has been hailed by international groups and non-governmental agencies for helping in the fight against tobacco smoking in the country.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly is working on the National Tobacco Control Bill and its Committee on Health on Tuesday held a public hearing on the bill.
Kayode Soyinka, a medical practitioner and representative of the World Health Organisation who was at the public hearing, applauded the Senate for helping in the fight against tobacco addiction and associated diseases.
"We fully support this effort, which is to domesticate the WHO- initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Nigeria became a Party to this Convention in October, 2005, and this bill fully conforms to the provisions of the international treaty," said Mr. Soyinka on Friday.
Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, a collection of groups and institutions working on tobacco control in Africa stated in a letter signed by its chairperson, Racheal Kitonyo, that Nigeria is not alone in the quest to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provisions.
"Nigeria would be following the lead of other African countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius that have already began implementation of FCTC provisions."
"The Africa Tobacco Control Alliance challenged the Senate on a quick passage of the bill. We believe the bill is essential to improve the health of all Nigerians and we want to throw our weight as Africans behind the laudable move of your senate to achieve this," he said.
A United States based group, Corporate Accountability International also commended the country's move to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, pointing out that urgent actions are needed to stem the rising tobacco - related deaths across the world, 80 percent of which occur in the Global South.
The Corporate Accountability Group, in a letter to members of the senate health committee, signed by its International Policy Director, Kathryn Mulvey, charged the lawmakers that Article 5.3 of the Framework incorporates measures to protect the tobacco control law from interference from tobacco industry.
"Full implementation of the FCTC in Nigeria and around the world will save millions of lives and change the way Big Tobacco companies operate globally," the group said.
Adeola Akinremi, the regional coordinator of Framework Convention Alliance, a global alliance of organisations working on tobacco control, who personally submitted a memorandum at the hearing described the bill as a great and bold step by the Nigerian senate to safeguard the health of Nigerians.
"This is one bold step to protect Nigerian citizens and the senate deserves commendation. However it is time for vigilance on the part of the senate and all Nigerians to ensure the current standard of the bill is not compromised when it is passed into law," he said
The bill sponsored by Olorunnibe Mamora, (representing Lagos East) is to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, sales, and consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria and is principally targeted at reducing the population of smokers and the effects of smoking on public health, the economy and the environment.
At the public hearing on Tuesday, more than 40 civil society groups sent in memoranda to support the bill. There were statements from the Minister of Health, Babatunde Osotimehin who was represented by Mike Anibueze; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Umaru Modibo, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Yemi Osinbajo, the wife of the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Maryam Uwais among others.