Three groups – Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), have urged President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene and ensure speedy re-passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) by the National Assembly.

In a letter addressed to the President which was made available to journalists in Lagos, the groups lamented what they call ?the lack of progress? in the enactment of the bill.

According to the groups, the president, by working towards quick passage of the bill, would have established lasting legacy as president of Nigeria, prevent million deaths and protect the health of millions of Nigerians and future generations.

Full text of the letter: ?Your Excellency, Nigeria signed and ratified the World Health Organization?s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) in 2004 and 2005, respectively. As a Party to the FCTC, Nigeria is obligated to domesticate the Treaty. There have been several attempts at domesticating the FCTC in Nigeria; the most recent was in 2011 when the Senate and House of Representatives passed the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) but the Bill did not receive your assent. This presented an opportunity for the re-passage of a NTCB with much stronger provisions, which will save the lives of millions of Nigerians, particularly our young people. We are aware that in 2012, you mandated the Minister of Health to ?repackage? the NTCB and make it a stronger bill and represent it to you for onward transmission to the National Assembly.

?Your Excellency, in the last year, we have observed the lack of progress in the enactment of the NTCB and we are deeply concerned that if the process is not expedited, Nigeria will miss yet another opportunity to protect millions of its citizens from the impending tobacco-related epidemic. Information reaching us is that at the Senate and the House of Representatives, efforts have been on-going for the re-passage of the NTCB. The Senate Bill has passed through a first reading and a second reading is imminent. At the House of Representatives, the process has moved much faster; a public hearing is expected to take place very shortly. The Executive Bill, having not been presented to the Federal Executive Council yet, is likely to miss the opportunity to be presented at the Senate and House of Representatives. The only option left is for it to be presented as a memorandum by the Federal Ministry of Health at the National Assembly Public Hearings. The danger in this is that the FMOH stands a good chance of losing its leadership position since the NTCB is a Public Health Bill.

?Your Excellency Sir, on July 11, 2013, you released the results of Nigeria?s Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). This was a momentous occasion; Nigeria is the first country in Africa to conduct and release the GATS data and all countries in Africa are benefiting from this experience. For us in civil society, listening to your bold statements (made on your behalf by the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu), we were excited and confident that the NTCB would be passed and assented to latest by December 2013. We are deeply disappointed that not a lot of progress has been made since the GATS release. The results of the GATS present a unique challenge. While rates of tobacco use in Nigeria are relatively low compared to other parts of the world, Nigeria must put in place strong tobacco control policies to prevent tobacco-related diseases and deaths.  Evidence has shown that tobacco companies are investing heavily in getting our people addicted to their deadly products, and there is certainty that tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease will compound the burden we are already feeling from communicable diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

?Now is the time to combine the political will of our dedicated policy makers, the strong voices of civil society, and the expertise of public health professionals to address the tobacco crisis in Nigeria before it grows to unmanageable heights. We do not need to wait until death and disease from tobacco use further cripples our health sector, weakens our communities, and leaves our country with more untimely deaths. We must act now to put strong tobacco control policies in place.

?We commend the continued efforts of your government to domesticate the WHO-FCTC by enacting a strong National Tobacco Control Bill that will protect millions of our young from a life time of addiction and millions of our citizens from tobacco-related death and disease. You can count on our support in these efforts.

?By passing the NTCB, you have established a lasting legacy as President of Nigeria, prevented million deaths and protected the health of millions of Nigerians and future generations.?


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