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Category Archives: Press Releases

Support measures to hold Big Tobacco liable for tobacco harms – ERA/FoEN urges COP7 delegates

LAGOS, NIGERIA—In early November, up to 179 countries will convene for the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties of the global tobacco treaty to take some of the most powerful steps in tobacco control since the World Health Organization treaty’s adoption. At the conference, countries will advance a provision to hold the tobacco industry civilly and criminally liable for its abuses. In the wake of revelations this year about British American Tobacco (BAT)’s widespread bribery, governments will also advance policies to exclude the industry from public health policymaking at the international and national levels.
Litigation against Big Tobacco has compelled the industry to pay for the healthcare costs it has caused to countries around the world. The successful litigation against the tobacco industry in the U.S., via the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), secured the recovery of $206 billion USD in health care costs and transformed public health by banning advertising to kids and exposing industry lies. A recent 17-year court case in Canada has similarly awarded smokers $15.6 billion CAD, in what is believed to be the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada to date.
“Litigation is one of the most powerful strategies in forcing the tobacco industry to pay for the staggering costs it incurs on society,” said Cloe Franko, senior international organizer with the Challenge Big Tobacco campaign at Corporate Accountability International. “The outcomes of this year’s Conference of the Parties are poised to mark a turning point for public health.”
The tools Parties will promote at this year’s conference will especially help low- and middle-income countries, where the majority of the world’s smokers now live, but whose GDPs are often dwarfed by Big Tobacco’s revenues—making going head-to-head with the industry in the courts a dubious prospect.
“Nigeria and other developing nations targeted by Big Tobacco for marketing of their lethal products now have the opportunity to support the adoption of mechanisms to hold the industry accountable for the harms caused by tobacco,” said Philip Jakpor, NATT Nigeria Spokesperson.
“Standing for the adoption of provisions that advance criminal liability on Big Tobacco is the right step for delegates from the African region owing to widespread bribery allegations levelled against British America Tobacco (BAT), which has in no small measure slowed the implementation of life-saving legislations”
In addition to advancing tools to hold the tobacco industry civilly and criminally liable, Parties will also close loopholes the tobacco industry has exploited to participate in treaty meetings. The policy stems from a broader treaty directive called Article 5.3 that prevents industry interference in the halls of government.
The global tobacco treaty, known formally as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) entered into force in 2005. To date, 179 countries and the European Union have become Parties to the treaty. It contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures—estimated tosave more than 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.
British American Tobacco is exposed for widespread bribery and attempts to influence public health policy in Africa.
 
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Lagos State Water Courts Illegal, Unacceptable – ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described Lagos State government’s establishment of special courts to prosecute individuals it ascribed to as illegal water service providers as a cover for promoting water privatization.

ERA/FoEN position is coming on the heels of media reports which indicated that Dr. Babatunde Adejare, commissioner for environment, announced the introduction of the courts at a two-day retreat organised for officials of the water sector, which had as theme: ‘Towards achieving a safe and sustainable water sector in Lagos State’.

Adejare who was represented by Babatunde Hunpe, special adviser to the governor on the environment dismissed reports that the state planned to privatize water but surprisingly added that a ‘public-private partnership’ is necessary. He also said the state government is not pleased with giving bail-outs to the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) because of no- payment of water bills by water consumers.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the establishment of the water courts is an “unacceptable” violation of the rights of Lagos citizens to water and has no legal backing anywhere in Nigeria.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We find this development totally absurd. Criminalizing the right of people to source for water when government has consistently failed to live up to its responsibility is simply scape-goating and passing the buck. There is no edict existing or in the works that allows any state government to set up a court for punishing anyone who has decided to provide water to his neighbor free”

“In the layman’s understanding, what this means is that anybody in our communities that carries a jerry-can of water from one house to the other is going to be accused of violating the law and sent to jail. This is absolutely disturbing”

Oluwafemi frowned at references to already budgeted and appropriated funds to the LSWC as bail out, insisting that Adejare’s description of appropriated funds as rescue connotes that the state government has converted the Corporation into a private enterprise whose statutory due in the state budget is now called bail-out.

The ERA/FoEN boss pointed out that it is offensive that the Lagos State government is using its resources to establish a “special court,” round up people attempting to provide people with an essential human need, and prosecute them, even as he added that Lagosians are not the problem that need to be solved.

“The proper move for the state government would be to require invest financial resources in strengthening the public water system so more people have access to water. After all, of what use is government if it is not protecting basic human rights, like water? What Adejare calls an undesirable “bail-out” is in fact the proper role and responsibility of government.”

He stressed that the Our Water, Our Right Campaigners who have staged various protests across the state to reject water privatization reject the water courts and still remain resolute in rejecting all forms of water privatization, semi-water privatization or so called Public Private Partnerships.

“What Lagos residents have consistently asked for and will not negotiate is informed and active participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water. The solution remains within the realm of public control. We are unequivocal that the so-called water courts are a gross violation of our right to life”, he insisted.

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Groups Petition Lagos House of Assembly, Demand Halt to Planned Water Privatisation

Civil society, community-based groups and unionists in Lagos have petitioned the Lagos House of Assembly, asking it to step on the brakes on plans by the Lagos State government to embark on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation in the state.

The groups – Environmental Rights Action, Public Services International (PSI), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and representatives of Epe, Ikorodu, Ketu, Agege and Shomolu communities staged a protest march from Ikeja under bridge to the House of Assembly, Alausa today (July 27) to deliver a petition to the Speaker.

In the petition titled PRIVATISATION IS NOT SOLUTION TO LAGOS WATER PROBLEM and presented to Hon. Obasa Mudashiru, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, the groups said they were deeply worried that the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), with the support of the World Bank and private water corporations, had been pushing very hard for a PPP model of water privatization that has failed in other parts of the world. The groups noted that despite the World Bank announced pull back from the project in December 2015 the Lagos government was still bent on pressing ahead with it.

They revealed that failures in water PPP models have been recorded across the globe where, as part owner of water corporations that win PPP contracts, the World Bank has positioned itself to profit from this model. They added also, that ”this conflict of interest drives the Bank’s misleading marketing, especially its promotion of key “success stories “like Manila, Nagpur, Paris, and Dar Es Salaam that have attempted to solve water crisis with PPPs that failed and have instead rolled back water privatisation and advanced down the road of remunicipalisation.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We urge the Speaker and the entire members of the House to side with the people rather than promoters of privatization who put profits before the right to water which is upheld as a human right by the United Nations”

Comrade Sani Baba, Sub-regional secretary of PSI said: “PPP promoters in the water sector advance arguments that are tailored to dousing apprehension of workers towards the initiative but time and again, and global experience shows that workers get laid off and rate hikes follow. The Lagos House of Assembly should reject this initiative because that is the path this PPP arrangement will follow”

In the same vein, Comrade Abiodun Bakare, the state secretary, AUPCTRE said that the Lagos state government must of utmost priority ensure adequate funding for the water sector. This administration must also investigate funding that was expended on expansion of water infrastructure by the immediate past Group Managing Director of LSWC”

The groups asked the Speaker to take the lead in putting the people first. Among the key demands, the groups urged decision-makers to stop any form of water privatization in Lagos, including PPPs that are based on a model that has failed to uphold the human right to water and has locked governments in long-term contracts and enslavement of their people. This is further proven in facts that such deals have proven exceedingly difficult for cities to exit, despite rate hikes, service cutoffs, and unfulfilled infrastructure promises. They prevent cities from making crucial progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.

In the petition, the groups urged the Speaker to use his good office to lead Lagosians in developing real solutions that truly address people’s access to water from the prism of human rights. The Speaker was urged to ensure that the Lagos State Government:

  1. Reject all forms of water privatization and commodification.
  2. Revise all water sector laws that promotes PPP
  3. Make adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector
  4. Fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people.
  5. Integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.
  6. Reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit.
  7. Disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
  8. Build the political will to prioritize water for the people, therefore leading to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Lagos economy.
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FG Vows To Enforce Tobacco Law, Inaugurates Advisory Committee

The Federal government will adopt all legal and administrative measures to ensure effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has said.

The Minister who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday at the inauguration of the National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOC)  affirmed  Federal Government’s commitment  towards  “safeguarding and protecting the health of Nigerians from the risks posed by the use of tobacco and tobacco products”

He said: “There is no permissible limit for tobacco use in whichever method, form or disguise because it is harmful to health.

“Tobacco, when used exactly as intended by the tobacco industry will maim and kill more than half of its users.

Globally, tobacco use is responsible for 6 million deaths through many medical conditions notably cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and cancers,”

“While charging  committee members on their roles and responsibilities, the minister pointed out that tobacco has been red-flagged by both local and international health communities as a poisonous and highly addictive substance that requires urgent intervention.”

“It is therefore imperative to double our efforts in a sustainable and well-coordinated approach to enable us protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.

“However, if we fail in our moral duty, we will be seen to be promoting and expanding tobacco business with dire consequences on Nigerians.”

Adewole stressed: “I assure you that we will sharpen our strategies and make best use of our legal instrument to operationalize the National Tobacco Control Act to its maximum potential and ensure a drastic reduction in the burden of tobacco use and its related diseases in Nigeria.”

The Committee headed by Professor Ukoli Onawefe of the University of Jos, will advise and make recommendations to the minister  on the development and implementation of tobacco control policies, strategies, plans, programmes and projects, in accordance with World Health Organisation  (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), its implementing guidelines and protocols.

The West Africa Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Campaign for Tobacco Control Free Kids, a United States based organisation, Hilda Ochefu said the inauguration of the committee represent a bold step towards ensuring effective implementation of tobacco control measures in Nigeria.

“We are encouraged by this development as it will aid effective implementation of the tobacco control law and lead to reduction in disease burdens associated with smoking,” she said.

The Deputy Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Akinbode Oluwafemi expressed delight at the inauguration of the committee saying “with this move, the Federal Government is sending strong signals that it wants to take public health issues much more serious than we have ever seen”.

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ERA/FoEN to Lagos Speaker: Privatisation not solution to water crisis in Lagos

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Obasa Mudashiru to side with Lagos people in rejecting Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the water sector.

ERA/FoEN, in a letter to the Speaker titled PRIVATISATION IS NOT SOLUTION TO LAGOS WATER PROBLEM, frowned at attempts to foist the PPP model of water privatization on the people despite the World Bank withdrawal from the scheme following civil society pressure and documented failures in other parts of the world.

Quoting the Speaker’s June 9, 2016 remarks at the commemoration of one year of the inauguration of the Assembly, ERA/FoEN said that his views that if Lagosians want clean water then the state government must privatise, was very disturbing, as the much hyped PPP is basically driven by the quest for private profits and not the desire to fulfill the basic needs of the people.

In the letter, ERA/FoEN insisted that PPPs fail to invest in the kind of massive infrastructure that people need and that the most celebrated water privatization schemes have failed as governments who fell into the trap are now opting instead for remunicipalisation.

“Rather than bring efficiency, PPPs are known to have led to cost-cutting measures, prices hikes, layoffs  and the extraction of profit from the people at the expense of human rights”, it read.

Manila, Nagpur, Cochabamba and Paris, were cited as examples of PPP failures and the recourse to remunicipalisation – a term for taking back previously privatized public water infrastructure from the hands of the privatisers.

In the letter, ERA/FoEN said that the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) present parlous state of affairs is a result of over 16 years of World Bank-driven policies, bad management and monumental corruption, which culminated in the ouster of immediate past Group Managing Director, Shayo Holloway on October 16, 2015 after a strongly-worded query issued by the office of the Head of Service demanding he explain the poor state of water infrastructure in the state.

Further, it noted that, “Apart from budgetary allocations, the LSWC attracted loans from the World Bank and international donor agencies to fund water supply expansion schemes such as the Iju, Adiyan, and Isashi Waterworks, as well as expansion of distribution networks. These loans, running into billions of naira have not translated into improved water supply for residents and no one is being called to account for this.”

The group drew the Speaker’s attention to Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly which explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.

The Resolution urged national governments to take necessary action to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water for all. Several other global bodies like the   Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, have recognized water as human rights.

On the way forward, it recommended that water remain in public control, urging the Speaker to support its campaign to get the Lagos government to reject all forms of water privatization and commodification; reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit, while fully upholding the human right to water as an obligation of the government representing the people.

The Lagos government was encouraged to build the political will to prioritize water for the people and come up with a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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Lagos Speakers’ Suggestion on Water Privatisation a Betrayal of Public Trust – ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described suggestions by the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa that privatization is the answer to the water needs of Lagosians as “betrayal of the trust reposed on him by the electorate”.

Obasa had, while speaking during a media parley to mark the first year of the Assembly last week, stated that the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) needs chemicals as well as new and modern equipment to make it deliver on its mandate of providing Lagosians clean water. He added however that the state does not have the kind of resources to ensure this happens, hence will subscribe to privatisers taking over the LSWC.

The lawmaker also revealed that a condusive environment was being put in place for foreign partners to come in, and argued that water was currently being sold to Lagosians at “below price”

In reaction to the comments, ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “The proposal of the Speaker on an issue of such magnitude which bothers on the rights of Lagos citizens to a free gift of nature is not satisfactory and also reveals the depth of financial deprivation the water sector has been subjected to owing to the perception that water must be commodified for it to be more widely and readily available”

“This unfortunate suggestion adds to the plethora of conflicting statements from the Lagos State government on its plans to ensure access to water as a human right. We recall that the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejire had said last year said that the issue of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the water sector was “null and void”. The Permanent Secretary, Office of the Chief of Staff to the governor, Abiodun Bamigboye, had similarly explained that the state was not considering privatization in the water sector. A few days after,  it came as a rude shock to us that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode sang a different tune, stressing the state would privatize.”

Oluwafemi noted that the Speaker’s suggestion points to an attempt to legitimize water privatisation, playing on the faulty notion that private investors will turn around the Lagos water sector.

“We want to make the Speaker understand that the private sector does not bring capital investments. If they make any investment at all, they push the burden to the people while raking illicit profits. This happened in Manila, the Philippines, Nagpur in India and other countries where privatization in the PPP model was experimented”

He added also, that, “We fault the claim that Lagos does not have the funds needed to deliver on its water mandate. On the contrary, we feel that the state is not prioritizing water as it does security, road construction and other obligations it is delivering on at the moment”.

He insisted that examples across the globe show that remunicipalisation is the answer to the failed PPPs promoted by the World Bank, revealing that Paris and Cochabamaba are the latest cities to take back their water from privatisers.

In his words: “The water wars of Cochabamba is one example that the Lagos government must learn from. Bolivians rejected the deal to hand over their utility rights to US-based Bechtel Corporation following rate hikes which made it impossible for people to afford water. Lagosians are now being primed for a similar experience if we are to take the Speaker by his remarks that we are paying “below price”.

“Like we had said time and again, there are no alternatives to a democratically-governed water sector in privatisation. The people must determine how water is managed. The solution has never and will never be in giving our public assets to privatisers whose only interest is skimming us off profits. We are open to putting forward our proposals on how to ensure this happens. Privatisation in any guise is unacceptable. We reject it and Lagos residents reject it,” Oluwafemi insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

0803726939

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Ambode Got It Right on Mosan- Okunola Water Project, Should Dump PPP Arrangements –ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for inaugurating the Mosan-Okunola Mini-Waterworks in Abesan area of Lagos but still frowns at the governor’s failure to open up on a controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) water arrangement which public pressure forced the World Bank to cancel last December.

Governor Ambode, represented by his Special Adviser on Housing, Mrs. Aramide Giwanson, had announced that the waterworks which would also service residents of Abesan, Baruwa and neighbouring communities was part of government’s efforts to make life conducive for the people.

Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) Group Managing Director (GMD) Muminu Badmus who was also at the inauguration said contract for the construction of the mini-waterworks was awarded in May 2009 to Messrs. Eldorado Nigeria Ltd at a cost of N457. 3 million by the government and has a capacity for 50,000 gallons daily. He also announced the introduction of water kiosks from where water will be sold supposedly cheaply to Lagosians.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “while we hail this initiative of providing water infrastructure from the public purse, we still desire that Governor Ambode make a public statement on the controversial PPP which is suspected to be going forward even after the World Bank washed its hands off the deal in December 2015.”

 “The inauguration of the Mosan- Okunola waterworks is indeed welcome because it has the potential of increasing the number of Lagos households that will have access to portable and safe water from the pipes. It also reinforces our conviction that with a strong political will the Lagos government can fund the expansion of public water infrastructure.

“This notwithstanding, we are not satisfied that there are secret concessioning of public water infrastructure and contradictory statement from the Lagos government on the PPP. We have said it time and again that with an internally-generated revenue hitting as much as N30 billion monthly the Lagos government has no business allowing the World Bank or other international agencies to advise it on how to fund or provide its citizens water.”

Oluwafemi stressed that PPP in the water sector has failed to deliver in Nagpur in India, Manila, and other cities of the world that experimented on it based on the advice of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private arm of the World Bank hence Lagos must not venture on that path.

He added that the planned introduction of water kiosks was another pointer to the for-profit only bent of Lagos government as the initiative was not driven by the desire to expand water infrastructure to Lagos homes.

The ERA/FoEN boss argued that, “public water must remain in public hands because it can be democratically-controlled and the operators subject to public scrutiny. We still expect Governor Ambode to make a public statement on this to ease the tense environment that a PPP in the water sector would create”.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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ERA/FoEN demands that fossil fuel industry be shut out of climate talks

Lagos, Nigeria—Today, environmental groups rallied to demand Nigerian delegates to the UN climate treaty take decisive action to address the corrosive influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy. The action is part of a global series of actions calling for governments to launch a global investigation into industry interference at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) – a leading group in the Kick Big Polluters campaign has demanded that Nigerian delegates to the talks lend their voices to calls for the fossil fuels industry to be shut out of the talks. ERA/FoEN is part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels Coalition which commenced actions in Nigeria yesterday (10th May 2016), with a rally at Oil Well 1, Nigeria’s first oil well drilled in 1956.

The gathering yesterday had hundreds of community chiefs, youths, women groups, and civil society groups

“Thanks to interference from big polluters, the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change here in Nigeria said Godwin Ojo, executive director of ERA/FoEN “We, the people, urge our government leaders to take action in Bonn to eliminate the primary obstacle to more ambitious and aggressive action by showing big polluters the door.”

Across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria climate change is dislocating communities and ruining livelihoods. From the north where the desert continues its downward march, to the south west where coastal erosion is swallowing coastal communities to the east where gulley erosion is assuming frightening dimensions, the impact is real. Oil extraction and gas flares in the Niger Delta, aside polluting surrounding communities, are excercebating the climate chaos.

On May 16, delegates to the UNFCCC will convene in Bonn, Germany for the first time since the Paris Agreement was gaveled through last December. While the agreement has been applauded as an historic accomplishment, many have criticized it for not being ambitious enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

“The Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough. In fact, without more ambitious action now, we will be on a path that far exceeds the temperature threshold that would prevent the worst effects of climate change,” said Patti Lynn of Corporate Accountability International, “To ensure governments can take action far beyond the Paris Agreement, we must first ensure that those that wish to undermine progress–polluting industries like Big Oil, Coal, and Gas—are out of the room.”

From aggressive lobbying at the regional level to financial sponsorship of international meetings, the industry interferes at all levels. Industry cooptation of treaty meetings has been a growing problem and a primary obstacle to progress. At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw, corporate entities with a direct conflict of interest in the treaty’s success not only sponsored the talks, they were given preferential access to delegates.

And, at COP21 in Paris, industry interference was a central concern. The meetings, dubbed the “Corporate COP,” were financially sponsored bydozens of corporations with massive carbon footprints and track records of undermining sound climate policy. Inside the meetings, special areas were created for corporations and everything from charging stations to water fountains were branded.

Today’s events are part of a rapidly growing movement of people demanding that big polluters are removed from the climate policymaking process. To date more than 570,000 people have joined the call, which was launch in May of 2015.

To view the petition, go to www.KickBigPollutersOut.org

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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Prosecute Philip Morris for acknowledging illegally importing cigarettes into Nigeria

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Federal Government to begin immediate prosecution of Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINTL) for illegal importation of cigarette into Nigeria.

In a statement released in Lagos, the group said PMINTL has provided enough evidence for prosecution for flouting the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 in a letter it purportedly sent to the Budget Office of the Federation in which it is asking for approval to import another 550 million tons of cigarette after the first illegal import.

ERA/FoEN had alerted in December 2015 that PMINTL breached the nation’s laws by bypassing the Ministry of Health as required by the NTC Act and instead, getting authorization from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other agencies of government to import 122 million tons of cigarettes from Senegal.

Section 29(1) of the NTC Act signed into law last May by former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan says: No person shall manufacture, import or distribute tobacco or tobacco products except the person has obtained license or is authorised in writing by the minister. The law also stipulates a fine of “not less than N10 million and a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years or both” among others for defaulters.

The products were to be imported into Nigeria under the cover of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) between September 18, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

Media reports (See link: http://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2016/05/10/philip-morris-plans-to-import-n156bn-cigarettes-uncovered/) indicate that in a letter to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, PMINTL acknowledged that it had imported and distributed the 122 million tons of cigarette in Nigeria and that it cleared the products in the country in line with its sales projections.

The new application for 550 million cigarette units was made in January 2016 and is for Marlboro, Marlboro Gold, Bond Street, Bond Street Blue, Chesterfield Mint Burst and Chesterfield Blue cigarettes.

ERA/FoEN said: “The acknowledgement by PMINTL after months of silence and secrecy around the importation of the deadly products is not only shocking, but also smacks of respect for Nigeria’s laws as espoused in the NTC Act 2015”

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “ERA/FoEN is finally vindicated. After months of evasive body language, PMINTL has finally come out of the woods to own up to importing illegally into Nigeria. The illegal imports show that PMINTL is determined to compromise the health of Nigerians through its so-called long term commitment and investment plans that will only lead to a harvest of deaths in a very short time.

“We expect the government to demonstrate that the era of impunity is over. PMINTL should face prosecution and appropriate sanctions imposed. It is very worrisome that the same company that compromised our systems to import lethal products is still asking for government nod to legally import the same death in wraps. This government must turn down this godless request.”

Oluwafemi added that, “This opportunity is one we are using to renew our petition for criminal prosecution of PMINTL Nigeria Limited for the illegal importation of cigarette into Nigeria. A full probe of the entire transaction must be carried out with a view to bringing to justice any government official that compromised his office in the process of this illegal importation.

“Like we had demanded in our petition to the president last year, the products already imported must be withdrawn from the market, and the entire consignment destroyed. Governments across the region must also remove tobacco from trade liberalization policies. Here in Nigeria we propose high taxes on cigarette products to reduce consumption and the full implementation of the NTC Act through strong and effective regulations. This is what Nigerians demand and this is what the government should do,” Oluwafemi stated.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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Tobacco Control: Do Not be Intimidated – ERA/FoEN Tells Nigerian Govt

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has advised the Nigerian government to remain resolute in the face of tobacco industry intimidation as the Ministry of health comes up with regulations for the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

ERA/FoEN made the call as it also commended a Kenyan court ruling rejecting British American Tobacco (BAT) petition to stop the adoption of regulations that would facilitate implementation of Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act 2007.

BACKGROUND

BAT Kenya Limited had filed a petition at the Constitutional Court in the High Court of Kenya, Nairobi in April 2015 asking it to declare that the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 developed by the Ministry of Health to facilitate the implementation of Tobacco Control Act 2007 is null and void.

The tobacco company had argued that the due process was not followed in the making of the regulations and that particular sections of the regulations contravened their rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights and other Articles of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that they were therefore unconstitutional.

The regulations had been tabled in Parliament on 5th December 2014 and gazette as is required and were to take effect on 5 June 2015. Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) and the Consumer Information Network (CIN) got enjoined in the case as interested parties. On 4th June 2015, a day before the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 could take effect, the Judge issued conservatory orders suspending implementation of the regulations (at the request of BAT) until the case is heard and determined.

The court however ruled among others, that, according to the documents presented to it, there were various meetings during the framing of the regulations that BAT was represented in, and consulted. Reports of public forums and other consultations were shared and the regulations were presented to Parliament which offered another platform for public participation through the Parliamentary process. It noted that in effect, there was sufficient public participation, hence, the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 cannot be declared null and void on the basis of lack of sufficient public participation, among others.

This ruling comes at a time when a BAT employee-turned-whistleblower, Paul Hopkins, recently revealed that BAT has engaged in systematic bribery to thwart tobacco control laws throughout Central and East Africa. Already Kenya has launched an investigation into this alleged bribery and authorities in the U.S. and the U.K. are considering investigating BAT’s bribery.

ERA/FoEN POSITION

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “This ruling is victory for the Kenyan people and an indication that they refuse to be intimidated by the tobacco industry. Despite BAT arm-twisting through the suit, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and tobacco control advocates such as the Consumer Information Network have demonstrated doggedness and determination to push through life-saving laws which other countries of the continent must emulate”

Oluwafemi stressed that, as Nigeria’s health ministry begins the establishment of regulations for effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, it must note and learn from the Kenyan example which has become an observed pattern that BAT is replicating across Africa.

“BAT aversion to the life-saving laws is not new. It only adds to a woeful list of the company’s antics aimed at continuing the marketing its deadly wares on the continent unchallenged. While we continue to anticipate the findings of current and pending investigations into BAT’s alleged bribery of officials in neighboring countries, we remind Nigerian authorities that BAT acts the same in Nigeria as it does in Kenya. We must be watchful for similar activities in Nigeria.”

While we are yet to get over the recent revelations of BAT employee-turned-whistleblower, Paul Hopkins, that BAT has engaged in systematic bribery, to thwart tobacco control laws throughout Central and East Africa, including Kenya, the corporation is at it again.”

Oluwafemi explained that, “For Nigeria which is BAT largest market on the African continent, we anticipate that the health ministry will meet intimidation and open and subtle pressure as it espouses regulations for implementation of the NTC Act.

“The Ministry of Health must be watchful and refuse BAT presence on the table or its suggestions through bodies that it may be affiliated with. The Kenyan litigation should serve as eye-opener for the sort of tobacco industry tactics we could face in Nigeria. We must be prepared to protect our recently-passed act to ensure it reaches its life-saving potential”, Oluwafemi noted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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