Nigeria has dropped from 53 in 2021 to 60 points in 2023, according to a new report on the state of tobacco industry interference ratings.
The report titled ‘Nigeria Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023’ states that there has been a significant increase in the interference of the tobacco industry in public health policies.
The report produced by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and launched recently in Lagos state, outlines the interference of the tobacco industry in Nigeria’s pro-public health efforts.
Highlighting the key findings, the report shed light on the growing challenges faced by the Nigerian government in maintaining transparency mechanisms and disclosing interactions with the tobacco industry, as mandated by the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
Speaking at the launch, Zikora Ibeh, policy and research officer of CAPPA, emphasised the report’s focus on the exploitation of these breaches by the tobacco industry to manipulate public health policies and deliberations.
Ibeh said, “The Nigerian government must work to ensure that public officials in relevant ministries, departments, and agencies sign conflict-of-interest forms periodically to remind them of commitments or obligations that may compromise their office and operations.”
The report also raised concerns about the unhealthy interaction between the tobacco industry and public officials, particularly in the agriculture sector, where top government officials have been observed participating in industry activities and openly praising them.
Furthermore, the report highlighted the tobacco industry’s strategic use of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in the media and on social platforms to bolster its image and create a perception of responsibility.
“The endorsement of these initiatives by state authorities adds to the industry’s influence, as it collaborates with the government on socio-economic empowerment programs,” it read in part.
Addressing the weaknesses in enforcement measures, the report underscored ambiguities in the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) 2015 and its Regulations of 2019, allowing the tobacco industry to operate without accountability in certain instances.
“We urge the Nigerian government to implement the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 fully and review legal ambiguities to prevent industry interference,” Ibeh said.
Also at the launch, Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s executive director, expressed concern about the industry’s continued participation in policy development.
“While Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Act and its Regulations have largely checked the activities of tobacco corporations and entities, the industry has exploited some weaknesses in these laws and gaps in the system to interfere in tobacco control,” Oluwafemi said.
Speaking further, the executive director outlined proposed measures, including the full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act and its regulations, enhanced transparency in government dealings with the tobacco industry, and regular conflict-of-interest disclosures by public officials.
“It is our hope that this report jolts the Nigerian government and all stakeholders to stand up for public health and fortify their defences against the machinations of the tobacco industry,” Oluwafemi said.