By Eromosele Abiodun
The British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) has reiterated its commitment to the socio-economic development of Nigeria through its significant investments in the local manufacturing industry.
The Legal and External Affairs Director, BAT, West Africa, Freddy Messanvi, stated this just as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched its World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) campaign for the year themed: ‘Tobacco: A Threat to Development.’
Messanvi said: “We are one of the leading industry manufacturers in Nigeria with initial investments of over $150 million in our Ibadan factory and Zaria operations. We believe in the huge potential of the non-oil sector and as one of the nation’s non-oil foreign exchange earners, we support about 350,000 to 400,000 livelihoods directly and indirectly while building local capacity of our employees by exposing them to international best practices in environmental health and safety, corporate governance, standards of business conduct, principles of engagement, among others.”
Speaking further, Messanvi noted that BATN has been making significant strides in the agricultural sector with the support of farmers through an extensive world-class backward integration model that also encourages alternative food cropping programmes with growers.
He stated that the model has been studied and replicated by other key stakeholders and industry players in Nigeria.
He added that through the company’s independent charity, the BATN Foundation, it facilitates livelihood initiatives that focus on the development of smallholder food crop farmers residing in rural communities. This critical role, he noted, “supports the attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to eradicate poverty, hunger and encourage the supply of potable water.”
“With our strong ties in Nigeria and long-standing commitment to development, we believe in the value of a balanced, workable and evidence-based regulatory framework, which has been our position since 2015. Our objective ensures the effective implementation of reasonable and practical tobacco control measures, provided that these measures adequately combat smoking activity in a manner which is proportionate, not duplicating or contradicting existing laws, and does not unjustifiably limit any rights or objectives. It is important to note that for regulation to be effective; regulation must be very clear in terms of its set objectives to reduce the health impact of tobacco and should not leave the market open to illicit trading activities which ultimately become a threat to development.
“As a responsible organisation, we will continue to abide by all laws of the country we operate in and will support the effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Act through practicable regulations with a positive contribution of setting a new global benchmark in tobacco control,” he concluded.