Nigeria: Is the Nigerian Tobacco Control Fund in limbo?

In the 2014 paper, Sustainable Funding Models for Tobacco Control: A Discussion Paper, by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, sustainable funding is identified as critical to reducing the projected harm from tobacco use.

The Union offered various financing options for countries implementing tobacco control policies with particular emphasis on tobacco taxes; Taxes on other “products harmful to health such as alcohol; Allocation of the Treasury; Value added tax (VAT); Levy on health / health insurance or universal health coverage; Philanthropic donations; and funds raised through sanctions for violation of legislation, among others.

The body was adamant that any approach to creating sustainable financing for tobacco control must complement and strengthen government initiatives and strategies; and must also bring together government, non-government and community sectors, among others, to work collaboratively in tobacco control.

The experience of the past two decades of increasing global tobacco control efforts has shown that in the absence of funding mechanisms, tobacco control efforts would falter and unwittingly open doors for the tobacco industry to open up channels. interaction with government agencies and officials. Ultimately, the industry’s goal is to thwart any form of regulation of the tobacco trade.

The lessons from the publication are relevant to Nigeria as it grapples with tobacco interference in subtle and, in some cases, cheeky forms. Although Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Act (NTC) of 2015 contains a provision creating the Tobacco Control Fund, the operationalization of the fund has not yet taken place and the public health community has not yet taken place. worried more and more.

Section 8 (2) of the NTC Act 2015 and sections 23 and 26 of the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 provide for these annual budget allocations, these gifts. donations, testamentary dispositions, grants, license fees and proceeds from the sale of confiscated items will be paid into the Fund. Unfortunately, six years after the entry into force of the NTC law, most of the relevant government agencies still cannot ensure that the Fund is operational.

One thing remains certain: The tobacco industry in Nigeria is not oblivious to the gap in funding for government agencies to carry out their statutory monitoring, surveillance and enforcement activities. For this reason, the industry continues to forge working relationships with various ministries and departments to ultimately undermine and complicate the work of law enforcement agencies.

For example, a leading tobacco company in Nigeria is practically taking the lead in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and has signed MoUs with virtually all state governments for the implementation of their FADAMA projects. These projects are scattered throughout the states of Abia, Benue, Kwara, Kogi, Lagos, Niger, Ogun and Osun. In Lagos State, the same tobacco company trained fish farmers and various cooperatives in so-called capacity building commitments. The annual Lagos Agricultural Fair is also funded by the same tobacco company.

To wean government agencies from the attraction of tobacco industry funds, they must have independent access to the necessary resources to be able to carry out the timely and proactive interventions necessary for the successful implementation of tobacco control policies in the country.

A Tobacco Control Fund scheme will not only prevent financial interventions from the tobacco industry, but it will also make funds readily available to relevant government agencies to carry out all public health awareness activities, weaning programs, alternative crops and other important activities. It will eliminate the government’s dependence on donors and foreign funding and make it easier to set up structures across the country to help those who wish to step down and monitor compliance.

As Nigerians continue to wait a long time for the fund to be operational, the Nigerian government must also identify other ways to raise funds to continue the tobacco war. The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) recently recommended that funding could come from heavy taxation on tobacco products and earmarking taxes to finance tobacco control and health coverage for all Nigerians. This recommendation is in line with the WHO strategy to reduce the consumption of tobacco products and at the same time fund government policies aimed at continuing the tobacco war.

From the above, Nigeria as a nation has no shortage of options to address the lack of funding that is currently delaying effective tobacco control in the country. Until this effective funding mechanism is put in place to equal the war chest of the tobacco industry, ongoing tobacco control efforts may not yield the desired results and Nigerians will suffer.

James Imasogie wrote of Makurdi


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