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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Court adjourns $21.6b tobacco suit


THE recent mass transfer of judges at the Lagos State judiciary has already taken its toll on court cases.
Yesterday, a Lagos High Court, presided over by Justice Bukola Adebiyi, adjourned a $21.6 billion (N3.2 trillion) suit filed by the state government and a civil society group- the Environmental Right Action (ERA), against the British American Tobacco and others, till April 19, in readiness to obeying the transfer order. The matter would now be heard in Ikeja division, where it has been transferred to.
The court was to hear the second to fourth defendants' motion for stay of proceedings in the matter, which was stalled at the last hearing due to the absence of the counsel to second defendants- the International Tobacco Limited, Mr. Chijioke Okoli.
The claimants alleged that the tobacco companies have constituted themselves into a nuisance and a danger to the lives of the people and residents of Lagos. They are, consequently, seeking extensive reliefs that intend to regulate tobacco smoking, especially among youths and under-aged smokers.
The claimants specifically, sought special, general, punitive and anticipatory damages in the sum of $21.6 billion from the defendants.
This is in addition to an order of mandatory injunction compelling them, their successors-in-titles, privies and or agents to cease from marketing, promotion, distribution and sale of tobacco-related products to minors or under aged persons.
They also sought an order of mandatory injunction restraining the defendants from representing or portraying to minors or persons under the age of 18, any alluring and/or misleading image regarding tobacco related products whether by direct depictions, pictorial, advertorials, images, words, messages, sponsorships, branding and/or through overt or covert and/or subliminal means.
The court was also asked to compel them to publicly disclose, disseminate, and publish all research previously conducted directly or indirectly by themselves and their respective agents that relates to the issue of smoking and health. The claimants argued that tobacco smoking has severe health implications including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary complications, stressing that the defendants have recently admitted these facts.
"But despite the obvious knowledge of the adverse effects of their product, the defendants have surreptitiously and fraudulently targeted young and under-aged persons in their advertising and marketing," the claimants alleged.
They held that the mandatory health warnings inscribed on the pack are ineffective, as the defendants promote a retail strategy of sale by the stick, whereas the individual sticks that most consumers purchase have no such warning.
"The overall effect of the defendants' course of conduct is that the state government is called upon to expend its resources in treating tobacco related ailments caused by the use of defendants' products," the claimants added.

Judge’s transfer stalls $21bn tobacco suit

THE recent transfer of judges of Lagos High Court, on Monday, stalled further hearing in a $21bn suit by Lagos State Government and a civil society group, the Environmental Rights Action, against British American Tobacco and five other tobacco firms.
When the matter came up before Justice Bukola Adebiyi, she informed lawyers to the parties that she had been transferred from Lagos to Ikeja Division of the court.
She also told the lawyers that further applications on the case should wait till April 19.
The claimants had alleged that the tobacco firms had constituted themselves into a nuisance and a danger to the lives of the people and residents of Lagos.
The claimants are seeking extensive reliefs that intend to regulate tobacco smoking, especially as it affects youths and under-age smokers.
They also sought special, general, punitive and anticipatory damages in the sum of $21,617,605, 885.17 from the defendants.
They are further asking for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the tobacco firms and their agents to cease the marketing, promotion, distribution and sale of tobacco-related products to minors or under-age persons.
They also sought an order of mandatory injunction restraining the defendants from representing or portraying to minors or persons under the age of 18, any alluring and misleading image regarding tobacco-related products whether by direct depictions, pictorials, advertorials, images, words, messages, sponsorships, branding or through overt or covert and/or subliminal means.
The court was also asked to compel the tobacco firms to publicly disclose, disseminate, and publish all research previously conducted directly or indirectly by themselves and their respective agents that relates to the issue of smoking and health.
The claimants argued that tobacco smoking had severe health implications, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary complications, stressing that the defendants had recently admitted these facts.
But the defendants had in their statement of defence claimed that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.
They also insisted that the suit was an abuse of court process and should be dismissed.

Judges redeployment stalls tobacco suit



The joint suit instituted by the Lagos State government and the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN) against five tobacco companies before a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, could not continue on Monday because of the redeployment process going on in the Lagos judiciary.
At the resumed hearing of the suit, the presiding judge, Raliat Adebiyi, noted that she would not be able to continue with the hearing of the applications brought by the counsel, since she has been transferred to the Ikeja division of the Lagos High court, and is trying to collate the files before her. The hearing of the applications was, therefore, adjourned to April 19, 2010, in Ikeja, where she will continue to preside over the suit amongst other suits.
Justice Adebiyi has been deployed from the commercial division of the Lagos High court sitting in Igbosere to the Land section of the court sitting in Ikeja.
The claimants had instituted the action against the tobacco companies - British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Limited, International Tobacco Limited, British American Tobacco Plc and British American Tobacco Investment Limited - on the ground that tobacco smoking has severe health implications, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary complications, noting that the defendants have recently admitted these facts.
Allegations
They had alleged that, in spite of the obvious knowledge of the adverse effect of their product, the defendants have fraudulently targeted the young and the under-aged in their advertisement and marketing.
That, through the use of market surveys and sophisticated advertising, the defendants have utilised such means as music, cinema and fashion, to attract young and under-aged persons to smoking.
They submitted further that the mandatory health warnings inscribed on their packs are ineffective, as the defendants promote a retail strategy of sale by the stick, whereas the individual sticks that most consumers purchase have no such warnings.
The claimants’ causes of action are based on negligence, public nuisance, restitution, strict liability, and conspiracy to commit actionable wrongs, among others.
It was contended that the overall effect of the defendants’ course of conduct is that the state government is called upon to expend its resources in treating tobacco related ailments caused by the use of defendants’ products, maintaining that the state government spends at least N316, 000 per month on each of these ailments.
Claims
Consequently, the claimants want an order of mandatory injunction compelling the defendants, their successors-in-title, privies and/or agents to cease the marketing, promotion, distribution and sale of tobacco-related products to minors or under-aged persons.
An order of mandatory injunction restraining the defendants from representing or portraying to minors or persons under the age of 18, any alluring and/or misleading image regarding tobacco related products, whether by direct depictions, pictorials, advertorials, images, words, messages, sponsorships, branding and/or through overt or covert and/or subliminal means.
Furthermore, the claimants asked for an order of mandatory injunction restraining the defendants from marketing, distributing, selling, or putting into the stream of commerce, either by themselves or through their distributors, agents, resellers, trade partners, marketers, and or any other person, any tobacco related products of whatever make or brand within a one thousand (1000) metre radius of any schools, hospitals, cinemas, playhouses or locations, children’s shopping areas, childcare facilities or such other public places in Lagos State, which are predominantly a location for minors and young persons under 18 years to “hang out”, play, assemble, congregate for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to educational, recreational, social, religious, sports or any other purposes.
In addition, they urged the court to grant an order of mandatory injunction compelling the tobacco companies to fund a tobacco control programme to be administered and controlled by an independent third party, who is to be appointed by the Lagos State government, targeted at minors and young persons under 18 years.
They also want a declaration of the court that the tobacco related products are addictive, and a declaration of the court that the tobacco related products as manufactured, marketed, promoted, distributed and sold by the defendants, are hazardous and injurious to public health.
The claimants also sought special, general, punitive and anticipatory damages in the sum of $21,617,605, 885.17 from the defendants.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nigeria, others want ban on duty-free tobacco sales

- Law to end business as usual for tobacco industry lobbyists

GENEVA – As delegates from Nigeria and 167 other countries reach the mid-point in their final round of negotiations on a protocol to the global tobacco treaty aiming to curb tobacco smuggling, NGOs from the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals are urging governments to stand firm in their progress toward a ban on duty-free tobacco sales. The message is timed with Corporate Accountability International’s release of a new exposé, Smokescreen for Smuggling: Tobacco Industry Attempts to Derail the Illicit Trade Protocol, highlighting the role of the duty-free lobby in Big Tobacco’s efforts to thwart implementation of the global tobacco treaty, formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

“Many delegates have told us the last negotiating meeting was more productive without the industry present in the room,” says Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action Nigeria. “We hope this will clear the way for Parties to adopt a rigorous protocol at the end of this week.”

“Tobacco corporations have organized a powerful coalition of anti-tax and duty-free trade associations to try and weaken or derail treaty negotiations,” explains Corporate Accountability International’s Tobacco Campaign Director Gigi Kellett. “But governments won’t tolerate business as usual with the tobacco industry anymore.”

At a meeting with the press during the World Health Assembly last spring, Dr. Graciela Gamarra, a delegate from Paraguay, made a prescient observation: For tobacco control there are two eras, before and after FCTC Article 5.3. One month later the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) for the FCTC Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) made a historic decision. Delegates observed that over 90% of the people at the meeting with “public” badges, lobbying delegates in the hall and watching from the public gallery, worked for the tobacco industry. Legally bound by FCTC Article 5.3’s requirement to protect policy-making from tobacco industry interference, the INB closed the public gallery to exclude the tobacco industry. One of the people kicked out of the meeting as a result was Keith Spinks, a key coordinators of the Big Tobacco/duty-free lobbying effort for the past eight years. This week, Parties reaffirmed this decision.

“The decision demonstrates the strength of the legal obligations of the first corporate accountability treaty,” according Yul Dorado, Corporate Accountability International Latin America Campaign Coordinator.

Monday, March 8, 2010

ERA pushes for passage of National Tobacco Bill

By Collins Nweze

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has decried the delay by the National Assembly in the passage into law of the National Tobacco Control Bill. The agency said further delay in the passage of the bill may cost the nation more tobacco-related deaths.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been signed and ratified by over 168 countries including Nigeria came into force in 2005 and is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to take global action against tobacco-related deaths. The WHO says tobacco-related deaths stand at 5.4 million people annually, and projects this will increase beyond eight million over the next two decades, with the majority of lives lost in developing countries. It, therefore, insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the FCTC could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.
Nigeria, which signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified in 2005, has been recording more deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer. "The fifth year of FCTC entering into force calls for sober reflection for us as a nation because in the last five years little progress has been made in domesticating the FCTC.
This has not been without a grave impact on the citizenry because within this period we have lost talented musicians, journalists and even doctors, no thanks to nearly no regulation of an industry that markets a lethal product in beautiful wraps," said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
Oluwafemi pointed out that "Nigerians are unhappy with the slow response of government to public health protection especially with the way the tobacco control bill has been neglected after the public hearing held in July 2009. We are further dismayed that there is an alleged clandestine moves by tobacco lobbyists to compromise our law makers with the intent of thwarting the passage of the national tobacco control bill."
"How else can you explain our law makers’ foot-dragging on the bill nearly one year after the public hearing? This action is anti-people and seriously compromises our democracy. Our lawmakers should stand by the people who have spoken in unison at the public hearing and abide by the principles of the FCTC which has reduced tobacco-related deaths in countries that have implemented the provisions"
The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, said recent studies estimates that full implementation of just four cost-effective measures set out in the FCTC could prevent 5.5 million deaths within a decade.

SOURCE

Speed up tobacco bill, group tells assembly

The lack lustre approach of the National Assembly to the speedy passage into law of the National Tobacco Control Bill may cause the nation more tobacco related deaths, according to the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation.

The organisation made this call on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which had been ratified by over 168 countries including Nigeria since 2005.

Increased tobacco-related deaths

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco related deaths stand at 5.4 million people annually and by projections will increase beyond eight million over the next two decades, with the majority of lives lost in the developing countries.

The WHO insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the FCTC could save 200 million lives by the year 2050. Nigeria signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified in 2005 but has been recording more deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer.

"The fifth year of FCTC entering into force calls for sober reflection for us as a nation because in the last five years little progress has been made in domesticating the FCTC," said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN's programme manager. "This has not been without a grave impact on the citizenry because within this period we have lost talented musicians, journalists and even doctors, no thanks to nearly no regulation of an industry that markets a lethal product in beautiful wraps."

Foot-dragging on the bill

Mr. Oluwafemi said that Nigerians are not happy with the slow response of government to public health protection, especially the way the tobacco control bill was neglected after the public hearing in July last year.

"We are further dismayed that there is an alleged clandestine move by tobacco lobbyists to compromise our law makers with the intent of thwarting the passage of the national tobacco control bill," said Mr. Oluwafemi. "How else can you explain our law makers' foot-dragging on the bill nearly one year after the public hearing? This action is anti-people and seriously compromises our democracy. Our lawmakers should stand by the people who have spoken in unison at the public hearing and abide by the principles of the FCTC which has reduced tobacco-related deaths in countries that have implemented the provisions."

At the fifth anniversary of the entry of the WHO FCTC, the convention secretariat organised a special event on 26 February 2010 at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.

Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, said that recent studies estimate that full implementation of just four cost-effective measures set out in the FCTC could prevent 5.5 million deaths within a decade.

Fighting the lobbyists

Similar sentiments were echoed by tobacco control groups across the world. The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), a network of tobacco control groups from across the globe, said that countries that have implemented the FCTC provisions like a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorships have gone a long way in reducing deaths.

"Tobacco use remains high in low and middle income countries and is increasing among women and young people... We have had five years of good progress on policy but deaths due to tobacco use continue to rise. Governments need to fund their policy promises to stem the tide of tobacco deaths," said Laurent Huber, the FCA Director.

Another group, Corporate Accountability International, warned about the tobacco industry's track-record of trying to water down on the implementation of the FCTC.

According to the organisation's director, Gigi Kellett, "In July 2009, during an international protocol negotiating session, parties identified and kicked tobacco lobbyists out of the process - a move made possible by Article 5.3., a provision of the FCTC which protects the treaty from tobacco industry interference in any guise. By that action, parties safeguarded the negotiations against the tobacco industry's fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest, sending a strong message to the industry."

The FCTC entered into force in 2005. Parties are expected to domesticate the treaty by implementing national tobacco control coordinating mechanisms, prohibiting the sals of tobacco products to minors, and taking measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Contending With Menace Of Cancer

-Kemi Yesufu


It is the trend the world over, that celebrities are recruited to champion causes. A famous name, several incidents have shown, is all that is needed to draw attention to a hitherto overlooked issue. By stroke of fate, some celebrities find themselves becoming the faces of causes they never thought they would willingly promote.

In the case of cancer, Nigeria has lost well-known and admirable personalities to this terminal disease. The most recent victims of the disease include former First Lady, Hajiya Mariam Babangida, wife of former Managing Director Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Aliere Alaibe, and legal icon and human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi (SAN). Mrs. Babangida died from ovarian cancer, Mrs. Alaibe from intestinal cancer, while Chief Fawehinmi lost the battle to cancer of the lungs. The death of these highly placed individuals have acted as some kinds of wake up call to Nigeria that indeed cancer is silently killing many of its citizens.

Cancer can be defined as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that have mutated from normal tissues. This growth can kill when these cells prevent normal function of vital organs or spread throughout the body, damaging essential systems.

Cancer, known by its medical term, malignant neoplasm, has also been described as a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumours, which are self-limited, and do not invade or metastasise. Most cancers form a tumour, but some like leukaemia, do not. The branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer is oncology.

Cancer affects people at all ages with the risk for most types increasing with age. Cancer caused about 13 percent of all human deaths in 2007 (7.6million) people. Cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material of the transformed cells. These abnormalities may be due to the effects of carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, or infectious agents. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities may randomly occur through errors in DNA replication, or are inherited, and thus present in all cells from birth. The heritability of cancers is usually affected by complex interactions between carcinogens and the host’s genome.

Daily Independent met with Chidinma Uwajimogu someone who lived with the fear of inheriting cancerous genes, having lost her mum to the disease. Before Uwajimogu’s mum passed on in year 2006, she lost two close friends to the disease, so, it seemed that cancer was hell bent on making her life an unhappy one. This much she disclosed, “I lived with the fear of cancer. I lost two friends, both of them in their youth, to cancer. One of them, married with three children died of breast cancer. The second one died of cancer of the bladder. I lost these two women I was close to in 1997. Then, any little pimple on my body I self-diagnosed as cancer. Once I felt feverish I assumed it was cancer. I went for a mammogram test, blood tests. So you can imagine my state of mind when my mother was diagnosed with cancer at 59. This was a woman, after losing my father and had raised 10 children on her own who should now be enjoying the fruit of her labour, but rather than us spending money to buy her jewellery or other good things of life, we spent on hospitals and treatment for cancer. If one person in the family is stricken by cancer then every other member of the family is affected emotionally, financially and you wouldn’t smile until your sick relative smiles. I have seen the face of cancer not from strangers, but people close to me. I have personally suffered the devastation that cancer brings upon the sufferer, his/her friends and family.”

Nevertheless, the NGO facilitator, speaking in an optimistic tone advised that individuals with cancer patients in their families be emboldened by the simple fact that cancer like other ailments is kept at bay with a healthy diet, exercise and routine medical checks. “Yes, doctors do warn that if one of your family members has cancer, it increases the chances of you having the disease. But we also know that if you eat well, live a healthy life, exercise and do things in moderation, you will alter that genetic factor. Our health in God’s hands, but we can help ourselves by dropping the bad habits like smoking which increase the risk of having cancer.”

After years of fear characterised by countless tests to detect cancer, Uwajimogu, having proven by her doctors to be cancer free, took up the gauntlet to fight the disease by setting up the Ego Bekee cancer foundation. As someone greatly affected by cancer, the Ego Bekee Foundation founder had adopted a never-say-die approach in what can be termed a revenge mission on the disease. “It is one of the goals of the Ego Bekee Foundation to reach the grassroots with our message. Most of our advocacy works are carried out in the rural areas. If my siblings and I could feel the pressure financially by providing treatment for my mother, you can imagine how a rural dweller or less privileged person will fare. Most of our patients are rural women. They cannot afford to pay for treatment and most times they don’t even know what they are suffering from. You know there is so much stigmatisation of cancer in the rural areas. Some say it cannot be cured others. Others say cancer is caused by spiritual attack. Somebody even asked my siblings and I if we had checked to find out if my mother’s case was not caused by spiritual attack. It is true that the spiritual world exists, but we need to start from the things we see. So if there is a pimple on your body or a strange mark, check it out in the hospital, find out what it is all about.”

Speaking from her personal experience, Uwajimogu further said, “Through the years that I cared for my mum, I found out that cancer is curable, it is a condition that can be treated when detected early. This is why it is good to test for cancer if one has the suspicion or not that he/she may have cancer. Some people think there is no need of test for cancer, because it cannot be treated and it will amount to a waste of money treating the disease, but they are wrong. Rather cancer becomes incurable when people leave it till it advances to the late stages. The best thing is to see a doctor because you just might be at the stage where the disease can be treated.”

Explaining why more cancer cases are discovered among Nigerian women, Uwajimogu identified the female anatomy and lifestyle changes as the major cause. “Women are more at risk for cancer because of the way we are constituted. We have breasts and the men who have breast cancer are very few. Also a woman that has a cervix is more likely to go to the hospital to investigate what is going wrong with her body. Again, aside from the cancers that women develop owing to their anatomy, there are also cases of women suffering from other forms of cancer. Continuing she said, “Most people don’t eat healthy foods. They are more into fried, processed, and sugary food. Are we still eating the way we used to in the past? I don’t think so. Now we store food for weeks and use the microwave to warm the food when we bring it out. I believe that you are what you eat. I don’t think that it is advisable to smoke and drink for years and think that you feel very well. I have asked a smoker to give me reasons he smokes and he could not give me one. These are lifestyles we have imported and they definitely will come with consequences. But I don’t think that people weren’t dying of cancer before the fast food restaurants sprung up or we started consuming alcohol in large quantities or smoking became a common habit. The difference now is that more people are aware of the disease.”

Uwajimogu gave Nigerian doctors a pass mark on how her mum’s case was handled. She probably was lucky, as many have complained of wrong diagnosis leading to cancers reaching the advanced stage. Fawehinmi was reportedly treated for pneumonia for years locally before being diagnosed with lung cancer. To avoid misdiagnosis and its grave consequence Uwajimogu has some advice for doctors, government and individuals. “It is good for us to know that not all doctors can treat cancer. There are physicians, but there are specialists in some areas. It is important for a doctor if you cannot handle a case to refer it to a specialist who can. There are some cancer patients who would have survived if they had commenced treatment on time. So it is important that we have more doctors in oncology and nurses trained specially to care for cancer patients. It is very important that nurses caring for cancer patients are well trained, because some of the patients can be difficult because of the suffering they are going through. In fact I suggest that every medical facility in Nigeria be equipped for cancer screening so that people do not need to travel for miles for screening or to get any kind of help. This is not a tall order because every physician can conduct a breast examination and a gynaecologist can screen for cervical cancer. Women are also encouraged to examine their breasts, because most patients detect the lump before going to the hospital.”

An expert in the field of Oncology and President Elect of the Africa Organisation of Research and Training In Cancer (AORTIC), Professor Isaac Adewole, who spoke with our correspondent during the February 4 World Cancer Day, held in Abuja, called on Medical Doctors and Pharmacists in government hospitals to access drugs for the treatment of various forms of cancer. These drugs, he said, are stored at the National Medical Store, Oshodi, Lagos, noting however that the doctors and pharmacists have failed to avail victims of the drugs, some of which were said to have expired. Adewole decried the attitude of the professional health workers. He opined that they should be held liable for not doing enough towards arresting the situation.

According to him, “All that is needed is the Doctors and the Pharmacists to do their jobs by prescribing and dispensing the drugs. They are available at the National Store. Many of these drugs have expired and there is no way the stock can be replenished, because since they are still available and unused, there is no way they can make case for more.”

He however proffered that the concerned health authorities should prescribe and dispense the drugs for those in need. While noting that the number of cancer treating institution in the country are grossly inadequate, the University of Ibadan teacher, said “though we have just five radiotherapy machines in the country right now for a population of over 150 million, respite would soon come the way of cancer patients.

Though that is not the only equipment we find in a cancer treatment centre, we gathered that the Federal Ministry of Health is about to acquire and install 10 new such machines in our cancer treatment centres to boost other equipment we have on ground now.”

Adewole, who is coordinating the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored American Cancer Society programme tagged the African Tobacco Control Consortium meant to reduce the use of tobacco, said the essence of his organisation was to provide a platform for government and the private sector to buy into the awareness campaign of the disease on the continent, adding, “Awareness is the key to this disease and that is one thing that is lacking, which the organisation is keen to bridge.”

Meanwhile Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, promised that cancer patients in the country will soon heave a sigh of relief as the Federal Government in conjunction with MD Anderson Cancer Centre in the U.S.A. have concluded arrangement to train six specialists in palliative care and have also invested $2 billion in a partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) to build capacity and upgrade cancer management facilities.

He said that the IAEA would train nuclear physicists, nurses, pharmacists, technologists and radiographers as well as ensuring the availability of nuclear medical and radiotherapy equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer within eight years in 12 tertiary health institutions in Nigeria.

They include University College Hospital, Ibadan, National Hospital, Abuja, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri. Others are University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre, Gombe, Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.



SOURCE

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pass National Tobacco Control Bill now, ERA Urges N/Assembly

On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the coming into force of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has decried the lack-lustre approach of the National Assembly to the speedy passage into law of the National Tobacco Control Bill, saying further delay in the passage of the bill may cost the nation more tobacco related deaths.
The FCTC which has been signed and ratified by over 168 countries including Nigeria came into force in 2005 and is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to draw global action against tobacco-related deaths.
The WHO says tobacco-related deaths stand at 5.4 million people annually and projects this will increase beyond 8 million over the next two decades, with the majority of lives lost in developing countries. It therefore insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the FCTC could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.
Nigeria which signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified in 2005 has been recording more deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer.
“The fifth year of FCTC entering into force calls for sober reflection for us as a nation because in the last five years little progress has been made in domesticating the FCTC. This has not been without a grave impact on the citizenry because within this period we have lost talented musicians, journalists and even doctors, no thanks to nearly no regulation of an industry that markets a lethal product in beautiful wraps, ” said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
Oluwafemi pointed out that “Nigerians are unhappy with the slow response of government to public health protection , especially with the way the tobacco control bill has been neglected after the public hearing held in July 2009. We are further dismayed that there is an alleged clandestine moves by tobacco lobbyists to compromise our law makers with the intent of thwarting the passage of the national tobacco control bill.”
“How else can you explain our law makers’ foot-dragging on the bill nearly one year after the public hearing? This action is anti-people and seriously compromises our democracy. Our lawmakers should stand by the people who have spoken in unison at the public hearing and abide by the principles of the FCTC which has reduced tobacco-related deaths in countries that have implemented the provisions”
In the February 26 anniversary speech, Director General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, said recent studies estimates that full implementation of just four cost-effective measures set out in the FCTC could prevent 5.5 million deaths within a decade.
Similar sentiments were echoed by tobacco control groups across the world. The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), a network of tobacco control groups from across the globe said that countries that have implemented the FCTC provisions like ban on tobacco advertisingand sponsorships have gone a long way in reducing deaths.
FCA Director, Laurent Huber, noted however, that “tobacco use remains high in low and middle income countries and is increasing among women and young people...We have had five years of good progress on policy but deaths due to tobacco use continue to rise. Governments need to fund their policy promises to stem the tide of tobacco deaths”
Another group, Corporate Accountability International, warned on the tobacco industry’s track-record of trying to water down on the implementation of the FCTC.
The organisation’s Director, Campaign Challenging Big Tobacco, Gigi Kellett, revealed that “In July 2009, during an international protocol negotiating session, Parties identified and kicked tobacco lobbyists out of the process - a move made possible by Article 5.3., a provision of the FCTC which protects the treaty from tobacco industry interference in any guise. By that action, parties safeguarded the negotiations against the tobacco industry's fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest, sending a strong message to the industry.”
The FCTC entered into force in 2005. Parties are expected to domesticate the treaty by implementing national tobacco control coordinating mechanisms, prohibiting the sales of tobacco products to minors, and take measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.