The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a non-governmental organisation with head office in Abuja has backed the Federal Government on the new regulations on tobacco; just as it condemned the aversion of Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria to the recent increase of excise duty on tobacco products in Nigeria.
This position was made known by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Ibrahim (Rafsanjani), stating the NGO’s position on the MAN statement during a press conference held in Abuja Tuesday.
According to him, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun had announced that under the new dispensation, in addition to the existing 20 per cent ad-valorem rate, each stick of cigarette will attract N1 specific rate in 2018; N2 specific rate per stick in 2019, and N2.90k specific rate per stick in 2020.
The new policy, according to Adeosun, will spread over a three-year period to moderate the impact on the prices of the products.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Article 6 of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requests that countries implement 70 per cent duty on tobacco products. Ironically, Nigeria’s proposed excise duty falls short of the WHO recommendation as the cumulative specific excise duty rate for tobacco here will be 23.2 per cent of the price of the most sold brands, which is lower than Algeria, South Africa and the Gambia, which have 38.14 per cent, 32.52 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
According to Rafsanjani, this is a welcome development considering the havoc in which tobacco smoking had done to many Nigerians and other health-related issues related to tobacco consumption.
The conference, he said, became imperative based on the position of MAN’s comment on the new policy, which it claimed would lead to job losses and shutdown of tobacco firms. The view of the body, he said, is reflective of the unsubstantiated arguments of the tobacco industry whenever the issue of regulation is discussed.
â€œIf you recall, in the Big Tobacco Tiny Targets Nigeria Report which was carried out in five states by ERA and NTCRG, children are deliberately exposed to tobacco products sold side-by-side candies and biscuit because they are cheap and readily available.
â€œThe recently released single stick reports by the African Control Alliance (ACTA) which also lists Nigeria amongst countries where sale of single stick is a gimmick used by tobacco industry to lure kids into smoking, also highlights the same factâ€, he said.
Rafsanjani said the decision of the federal government on increase on excise duty is a welcome development, just at the countries that had carried out the policy in the past are not known to have reported that their tobacco firms were shut down. The policy, he noted, is always on the positive trend which is how such policies helped cut down tobacco users as attested by WHO.
â€œFor us at CISLAC, MAN’s position reflects a conflict of interest that puts profit before the health of millions of Nigeriansâ€, he said and called on the federal government not to be deterred and to remain committed to implementing the regulation policy.
He also called on relevant authorities such as the Consumer Protection Council and security services to begin clampdown on infractions. He also appealed to the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently send the draft regulations to the National Assembly for approval.