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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Environmentalists beg Health Minister to save tobacco Bill

  • Urges Jonathan to sign one-year-old Bill

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) yesterday urged the Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu to ensure the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) is signed into law.
The group said the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will prevent an imminent tobacco epidemic in the country.
ERA/FoEN, in a letter to the minister, said the failure of President Goodluck Jonathan to assent the Bill would not only reverse efforts to wean the youth off smoking, but also threaten the country’s leadership position in global tobacco control efforts.
The group said Nigeria having signed and ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is bound to domesticate it through the Bill.
The tobacco bill, sponsored by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, was passed by the Senate on March 15, 2011 and concurred by the House of Representatives on May 31, last year. The signature of the President is required to make the bill law.
ERA/FoEN, in a statement by its Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, said: “Our plea for the minister to intervene at this crucial time is a patriotic call to save Nigerians from the tobacco industry’s commitment to advocating weak legislation that will ensure they continue business as usual thereby worsening our health burden.
“After the overwhelming support the bill received in the Senate and House of Representatives, It is sad that till date, it has not been signed by the President. The intervention of the Health Minister is a singular action that generations of Nigerians will not forget. Giving Nigerians this gift as we mark the 2012 World No Tobacco Day will be remarkable. 
Bassey reminded the minister of his promise during the 2011 World No Tobacco Day to ensure the Bill gets presidential assent speedily. He urged the minister to be on the watch for tobacco industry lobbyists that have been let loose to ensure the Bill never becomes law.