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Monday, April 19, 2010

Senator Adedibu and burden of history

Senator Kamarudeen Adedibu representing Oyo South Constituency has been in the news recently not for sponsoring a bill or contributing to a worthwhile debate but for doing something that leaves a burnt taste in the mouth.
Recently at a public relations event by the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) in Iseyin, Mr. Adedibu said categorically that the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), sponsored by respected and distinguished Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, is dead. Curiously, he went ahead to say the ‘dead’ bill is intended to close down the tobacco industry and with it the jobs of over 600,000 Nigerians who directly derive livelihood from the tobacco industry.
Earlier in July 2009, at a two-day public hearing on the bill organised by the Senate Committee on Health, Mr Adedibu had made the same allegations. Let me state categorically that the statements credited to Mr Adedibu are in bad taste, anti public health and irresponsible of a federal legislator.
The allegations he made are baseless.
Firstly, the NTCB is not about closing down the tobacco industry but about regulating the operations of a company whose product kills 5.4 million people every year. It is about protecting the lives of millions of Nigerian children, who are being targeted to become smokers, those who also labour on a twelve hour shift in the tobacco plantations in Oyo State, represented by Mr. Adedibu.
The bill is to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) a treaty of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that seeks to protect the lives of the people from the dangers of tobacco use. Every responsible government the world over has passed one law or another on this.
President Obama has signed two bills into law in one year, limiting the activities of the tobacco industry.
Secondly, the Senate Committee on Health is still working on the bill, which is due to be presented to the House plenary any time from now. How did the Senator get his information that the bill is dead? His motive is to rubbish and tarnish the image of the members of that committee and influence the outcomes of the report to favour the tobacco industry. He has grossly erred against his colleagues and the leadership of the Senate must call him to order immediately.
He has mischievously insisted that the bill is to close down the industry. That means he has not seen even the cover of the bill. Nowhere in the bill was it suggested that the industry should close down. The tobacco industry itself has praised the bill and acknowledged it was not aimed at closing it down. At the public hearing the industry representatives made that clear.
Thirdly, the tobacco industry represented by Tony Okonji at the public hearing stated that it employs less than 1,000 Nigerians. Mr Adedibu has lied to his constituency and Nigerians. I now join the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth to call on him to voluntarily tender his resignation if he has any honour left in him.
How much lower can a senator go? If Mr. Adedibu has turned against the popular culture of investing in the health of the people, of curtailing the activities of the tobacco industry and limiting the inherent dangers, why should we not accuse him of doing the dirty jobs for the tobacco industry? Why should we not ask him to step down while his constituency asks for an account of his stewardship in the Senate?
What about the children age 5-21 years wasting away their prime on the tobacco farms in Irawo Owode. Mr Adedibu should be ashamed of himself for fighting against a bill that would change that situation and for his blind support for the tobacco industry, a rogue industry condemned and ostracized all over the world for the death and disease its products have been shown to cause, but embraced and loved by Mr Kamarudeen Adedibu representing Oyo South Federal Constituency.
Seun Akioye is a media officer at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.