The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described as outright lies, claims by British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) that its investment in the Nigerian market has beneficial impacts on the Nigerian nation.
ERA/FoEN said it was necessary to put the facts right following remarks by Managing Director of BATN, Beverley Spencer-Obatoyinbo, at an investment forum on Thursday (March 1, 2012) where she said the company’s investment initiative in Nigeria had turned out to be a win-win situation for the company and Nigeria as a nation.
BATN had in 2001 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government to establish a $150 million tobacco factory in Ibadan. Since then, the company has been targeting young Nigerians in a bid to recruit them as replacement smokers. Some of the ways it has successfully done this include: musical concerts, fashion shows and other promotional events like the Secret Smoking Parties that ERA/FoEN alerted the nation to when the events held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island, both in Lagos.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described the company’s claims as “sheer dishonesty”, insisting that BATN continues to rake in profits as Nigerians harvest death and the health burden associated with the failure of the Federal Government to regulate the activities of tobacco companies operating in Nigeria.
“It is extremely fallacious and vexing for BATN to describe its stranglehold on the huge and largely uninformed Nigerian consumer market as a win-win situation. That remark is unfortunate and can be likened to a victory song by a company that has an avowed mission of conscripting new smokers through the glamorization of a deadly product,” said ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability & Administration, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
“BATN cannot deny that since the sealing of its so-called investment initiative in Nigeria, the health burden of patients with tobacco-related illnesses on the nation had more than doubled. Within the this period, Nigeria has lost great talents in all the sectors including entertainment and media.”
Oluwafemi noted that: “For instance, in Lagos, one among the Nigerian states targeted by BATN for its image blitz, a 2006 survey in 11 government-owned hospitals revealed that at least two persons die daily from a tobacco-related disease. The survey also revealed that the Lagos government expends at least N216,000 treating each of the 9,527 tobacco related cases documented while individual patient spends an additional N70,000. Another survey of secondary school students in Adamawa State, showed that about 33.9 percent of youths smoke. Now let us replicate these across the federation and see how BATN is ravaging the country.”
Oluwafemi added that, unfortunately, the company’s image whitewash on payment of taxes which it has continued to play up is laughable since the average Nigerian knows that every legally registered company is obligated to pay taxes to the government.
Reiterating ERA/FoEN demand for the signing of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) by President Goodluck Jonathan, Oluwafemi stressed that: “We are again using this medium to call on the president to speedily sign the comprehensive tobacco bill passed by the House of Representatives and concurred by the Senate last year to stem avoidable deaths that BATN and other tobacco companies instigate”
“President Jonathan must complete this process that has been commended nationally and internationally and stand firm against the deceptions of the tobacco industry. The nation must fulfill its obligations and a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC),” Oluwafemi insisted.