By: JIMI DAVID
Tobacco multinationals in Nigeria now hire proxies in both private and public sectors to ”clean their image and grow their businesses”, thereby undermining the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a new report has shown.
In a report, titled ‘The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Nigeria’ was presented to journalists on Friday in Lagos.
The report, relying on surveys carried out by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) across Nigeria with support from the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), shows how tobacco multinationals undertake partnerships with the Nigerian government, and how several entities organise events and implement programmes that promote tobacco industry initiatives.
It also revealed how front groups launder tobacco industry image through CSR engagements, among others.
It also documents how tobacco companies hide behind front groups to promote educational initiatives, how front groups whitewash tobacco industry image through environmental projects, and how tobacco companies use fronts to organise training and seminars.
“Tobacco industry interference is a major challenge to effective tobacco control,” Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s Executive Director, said at the event.
“The TakeApart Nigeria Report is a vital tool that will enable the Nigerian government and public health advocates to identify and plug loopholes that the tobacco industry and its allies and front groups have exploited to interfere in public health policy.”
Oluwafemi said Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation ”clearly provides that the government should limit its interaction with the tobacco industry”.
“The law forbids the kind of interaction that this report has unveiled,” he said. “Both national and subnational agencies have found themselves in situations where they have flouted the law. We need to remind them that they are flouting the law, we’re using this report to tell the tobacco industry that we are watching.”
The ‘TakeApart’ campaign is a global movement initiated in 2018 by the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids aimed at exposing the antics of the tobacco industry. It is part of a global campaign to show how the industry uses allies to promote their business.
Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, said the report took about eight months to document.
“The TakeApart Nigeria Report is a product of painstaking investigation which unearthed how the tobacco industry and their front groups pull wool over our faces,” Mr Jakpor said.
“We are now handing the Nigerian government the resource that is necessary to ending the unnecessary interactions that the tobacco industry initiates.”
The report specifically shows how British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International is hiding behind allies to partner with several state governments, agencies, and private firms.
Sessou Leonce, ATCA’s Executive Secretary, said tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century and if the trend continues unchecked, ”one billion lives will be claimed in the 21st century”.
“We need to take action against the tobacco industry because for decades they have marketed deadly products to children and older people around the world,” Mr Leonce said. “They have deceived the public about the devastating effects of tobacco use, they are spreading death and disease around the world.”