Groups Warn Governor Fashola. Tobacco Money Worse Than Blood Diamonds

Date:

Babatunde-Fashola-Governor-Lagos-StateThe Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) have condemned last Monday’s celebratory reception accorded the Managing Director of British American Tobacco (BAT), Keith Gretton, during a visit to the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola.

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In a statement jointly issued in Abuja, the groups said: called the event a major miss-step by Lagos State, adding, “We owe it a duty to remind the Governor, seen by many as a role model, that tobacco investment is worse than blood diamonds.”

They demanded that the government should immediately revoke permits for the company’s four million pounds headquarters which it claims to be a demonstration of its commitment to Nigeria, and put in place far-reaching tobacco control laws.

“Anything short of this is a license to the tobacco company to continue the killing of our people,” the statement said.

According to reports, during the event Governor Fashola hailed BAT for allegedly creating jobs since it began operations in 2003.  He also said that the Lagos government would continue to maintain a conducive environment for BAT and other businesses to thrive in line with its objectives of “aggressive investment” in infrastructure and security to improve the business environment.

On his part, Gretton called Nigeria one of BAT’s top 10 markets, adding that the company would continue to perform its corporate responsibilities to Nigerians. The company, he said, also supports agriculture, and remits about N15 billion in taxes annually to the Federal Government.

Dismissing the event, ERA/FoEN and CISLAC said their findings revealed that the main import of the meeting was to secure Fashola’s endorsement for BAT’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project for Lagos State at a time it is considering a law to  ban smoking in public places.

“We have gathered that BAT was making plans to donate Hilux jeeps to the Lagos Security Trust Fund just as some corporations did few a weeks ago,” the statement said.  “This is carefully planned so that BAT could interfere in the proposed law to prohibit smoking in public places. This is completely unacceptable.”

It stressed that tobacco companies have demonstrated beyond reasonable conviction that they are enemies of public health and therefore enemies of the public good, describing as “repulsive” their attempt to tap into the profile of Governor Fashola to secure public acceptance.

“We therefore want plead with Fashola not to taint his political stature with tobacco money.  Any porridge from Big Tobacco will run the stomach! A good research by his aides can reveal how political leaders around the world treat funds from the tobacco industry.”

The groups said that what is needed in Lagos State is a strong legislation to  make corporations  accountable for all costs associated with production and profits, and in this case, to make  the tobacco industry accountable for the deaths, diseases,  environmental, social  and other  costs  associated with smoking in the State.

They described the visit of Gretton as “unholy” and “disturbing,” and that it has confirmed what they have always said: that the tobacco industry will never subscribe to any form of regulation.

“While we believe Lagos, like any other state must attract investments, a company that markets lethal products is definitely not the kind of investment that the people of Lagos or Nigerians need. The Governor’s pat on the back of a company that has a track record of frustrating regulations is totally unacceptable.

“Human rights and the business environment are interconnected because people are involved. A decent environment for Lagosians means protection against indignity of all sorts including exposure to dangerous products like cigarettes, direct smoking, second-hand smoking or third degree smoking”.

They called on the governor to recognize that the choice of Lagos by BAT is informed by the company’s belief that the huge number of youths in Lagos is a big market that must be targeted as replacement smokers for a dying generation of smokers.

“Rather than open its doors to BAT at this point, we feel the Lagos state government should take a cue from the Federal Capital Territory and other states that have gone as far as declaring smoke-free public places, ban on public smoking and other regulatory steps against tobacco manufacturing firms”.

 

Full text of the statement:

 

Tobacco Money Worse Than Blood Diamonds, Groups Warn Fashola

 

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) have condemned the celebratory reception accorded the Managing Director of British American Tobacco (BAT), Keith Gretton,  during  a visit to the Lagos State Governor,  Babatunde Fashola  on Monday, September 16, 2013

 

In a statement jointly issued in Abuja, the groups said: “this is a major miss-step by Lagos State and we owe it a duty to remind the Governor, seen by many as a role model, that tobacco investment is worse than blood diamonds”.

 

Media reports indicated that Governor Fashola had, while hosting Gretton in his office at Alausa, hailed BAT for allegedly creating jobs since it began operations in 2003, and added that the Lagos government would continue to maintain a conducive environment for BAT and other businesses to thrive in line with its objectives of “aggressive investment” in infrastructure and security to improve the business environment.

 

During the meeting, Gretton disclosed that Nigeria was one of BAT’s top 10 markets, adding that the company would continue to perform its corporate responsibilities to Nigerians. He also said BAT supported agriculture and remits about N15 billion in taxes annually to the Federal Government .

 

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN  and CISLAC  said that their findings revealed that  the main import of the meeting was to secure Fashola’s endorsement for BAT’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project for the state at a time the state is considering a law to  ban smoking in public places.

 

The groups said: “We have gathered that BAT was making plans to donate Hilux jeeps to the Lagos Security Trust Fund just as some corporations did few a weeks ago.  This is carefully planned so that BAT could interfere in the proposed law to prohibit smoking in public places. This is completely unacceptable.

 

“Tobacco companies have demonstrated beyond reasonable conviction that they are enemies of public health and therefore enemies of the public good. Their attempt to tap into the profile of Governor Fashola to secure public acceptance is repulsive.

 

“We therefore want plead with Fashola not to taint his political stature with tobacco money.  Any porridge from Big Tobacco will run the stomach! A good research by his aides can reveal how political leaders around the world treat funds from the tobacco industry.”

 

“What we need in Lagos  State is a strong legislation  to  make corporations  accountable for all costs associated with production and profits, and in this case, to make  the tobacco industry accountable for the deaths, diseases ,  environmental, social  and other  costs  associated with smoking in the State.

“Not only is this unholy visit very disturbing, it has confirmed what we have always said that the tobacco industry will never subscribe to any form of regulation. That BAT top echelon is visiting the Lagos State Government at a time the State is contemplating far-reaching laws to regulate the marketing and sale of cigarettes in the state is very revealing to the discerning.

 

“While we believe Lagos, like any other state must attract investments, a company that markets lethal products is definitely not the kind of investment that the people of Lagos or Nigerians need. . The Governor’s pat on the back of a company that has a track record of frustrating regulations is totally unacceptable”.

 

“Human rights and the business environment are interconnected because people are involved. A decent environment for Lagosians means protection against indignity of all sorts including exposure to dangerous products

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsolahttps://naija247news.com
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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