A Coalition of civil society groups across the country under the aegis of Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) faulted calls by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) for a halt in the implementation of the new excise duty on tobacco products.
Ms Hilda Ochefu, sub-regional coordinator of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) who briefed journalists on behalf of the group called on the federal government to go ahead and implement the new excise duty on tobacco products.
The group maintained that MAN’s position on the issue was self-serving since it was placing priority on profit making before the health and well -being of Nigerians.
The group noted that the Federal Government should be commended for the proposed excise duty because of its overall benefits which include more revenue to government and cutting down on the number of tobacco users and kids who have access to cheap tobacco products.
The group noted that the new excise duty fell short of the expectation of public health experts who feel it should level up to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation which, in Article 6 of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) advocated 70 percent excise duty on tobacco.
They asserted that studies had proven that countries that have implemented higher excise duty on tobacco did not report tobacco firms but on the contrary positive multiplier effects including cutting down tobacco users.
It cited Kenya, Algeria, South Africa and the Gambia as examples rates of countries with higher excise duty rates 23.2 per cent of the price of the most sold far beyond Nigeria. Algeria, South Africa and The Gambia have 38.14 per cent, 36.52 per and 30 per cent respectively.
The group thereby pointed out that MAN’s position reflects a conflict of interest, more so as it is a member of the National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOCC) which plays an advisory role to the Federal Ministry of Health on implementation of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act.
Philip Jakpor of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) said that the position of the MAN on job losses and shutdown of tobacco firms was altogether not unanticipated as the body has in its membership, tobacco entities that may have instigated the call.
Jakpor revealed that the talk about job losses and shutdown of tobacco firms whenever the issue of taxes and regulation are raised are as old as the early beginnings of advocacy for an all-encompassing legislation on tobacco control in the country and that the federal government should discountenance the call.
He explained that the availability of cheap cigarettes makes it easier for kids to purchase as captured in the Big Tobacco Tiny Targets Nigeria Report which ERA/FoEN and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Research Group published in 2017 and a recent report on single sticks published by the Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA).
He also urged the NATOCC to be guarded on MAN membership as conflicting interest would continue to dog its position on issues key in the implementation of the NTC Act.
ChukwukaOnyekwena of the CSEA explained that the new excise duty would not have the anticipated effect including shutdowns an job losses that MAN harped on, because even under the old dispensation tobacco had no overall positive effect on the wellbeing of tobacco farmers.
Onyekwena revealed that tobacco farmers are mostly into a master –slave relationship with the tobacco entities they engage with, even as he encouraged the government to expose farmers to alternatives outside of tobacco.
Earlier, executive director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani said that the groups found it very disturbing that the MAN would pick on a policy that would have an overall positive effect on the Nigerian economy and wellbeing of Nigerian citizens.
The new excise duty announced by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Kemi Adeosun last month was informed by the need to raise the government’s fiscal revenues and reduce the health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse.