Tobacco industry: NITA decries multiplicity of regulations

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The Nigeria Independent Tobacco Association (NITA) has decried multiplicity of regulations within the tobacco industry, adding that the action will distort the market and create unnecessary complexities for the public in terms of monitoring and compliance.

Making this observations, Rasheed Bakare and Abiodun Fagbemi, Chairman and Secretary of the Oyo and Kwara states chapter said the Tobacco Control Act Regulation gives discretionary powers to enforce and such discretionary power would fuel opportunity for corruption and bribery, two monsters that have retarded Nigeria’s rise to prosperity.”

According to the two officials, with NITA membership soaring to 350 farmers in 2016, it will be unfair for government not to be supportive of the help granted to the farmers by tobacco companies.

“The benefits we have had from growing tobacco with the help granted to us by the tobacco companies are regular annual interest free support for farmers input to our members of over N250 million. We also do relay cropping and crop rotation advantage – Tobacco, Maize, Yam and Cassava – part and parcel of the present administration agenda in tackling recession.”

“It is our stance that this part of the proposed regulation is unfair and unjust to us as individuals and association. We want to beg the committee not to pass a bad law that will affect the tobacco companies because anything that affects them will affect our tobacco farming,” they argued.

Continuing the association reiterated that the tobacco industry offers them “annual negotiated and stable price of tobacco with an average sales of about N600 million, while farmers empowerment have strengthened within the last 8 years; with the provision of scholarship opportunities by the tobacco companies for our children studying Agriculture in Nigeria.”

Desmond Wakama Nnanna of Rights Advocacy Group (RAG) in an interaction said ““There is a need to look critically at how to draft effective tobacco control laws. This will definitely involve understanding how draconian policies affect human behaviours. There is undeniably health implications related to any product consumed, be it tobacco or alcohol.”

More so, Nnanna said, “the implications of having a tobacco market dominated by smugglers is beyond loss of taxes and unemployment due to legal business closure shops, bigger health related issues would ensure when people consume low quality and un-standardized products.”

Collaborating Nnanna’s assertion is Freddy Messanvi, Legal and external Affairs Director of BATN said the nature of the illegal tobacco trade varies from country to country, but that the drivers are very similar. “These include regulation that is not balanced, over regulation, large excise increases causing price differences between countries and ineffective law enforcement measures,’ Messanvi noted.

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