By Gabriel Ewepu and Favour Ulebor, Abuja.
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark 2023 World No Tobacco Day, a Civil Society Organization, CSO, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, NTCA, Thursday, told the Federal Government that Nigerians need food and not tobacco.
This was stated by the Chairman NTCA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, during a press conference tagged ‘Nigeria needs food, not Tobacco’, in Abuja.
Oluwafemi said the Tinubu-led administration should consider as a matter of urgency to transform tobacco farmers into food producers because Nigerians are in need of food and not a destructive commodity as tobacco.
According to him, over 8 million people die from tobacco consumption worldwide and he pointed out that the cultivation of tobacco causes diseases among farmers and family members, which suffer from respiratory and neurological disorders.
He said: “Article 17 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control encourages parties to promote economically viable and sustainable alternatives to tobacco farmers.
“In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for championing this objective.
“However, how much land is used for tobacco farming in Nigeria is unclear. This critical data gap makes it difficult to identify and plan interventions for tobacco farmers.
“We, therefore, call on the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to make known the extent of tobacco farming in Nigeria.
“It is also important that the Ministry rolls out plans to help tobacco farmers transition to nutritious and healthy crops such as maize, cassava, guinea corn and even livestock.”
However, he asserted that government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, are not working in synergy to tackle the menace of tobacco impact on farmers and smokers.
“We note that very little can be achieved if every government agency works in a silo, and poor coordination among agencies is a recipe for poor public health.
“Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Health, Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, and all agencies saddled with the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act must synergize, share information and resources and work cohesively for the implementation of these laws”, he added.
Also speaking, the Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, Hilda Ochefu, enjoined CSOs to remain vigilant by calling on the government and tobacco industry, in ensuring they abide by the law.
Ochefu called on the government to utilize lands tobacco is cultivated on for alternative livelihoods.
Meanwhile, the Programmes Manager, NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie, made it known that about 40 per cent of Nigerians are food insecure; and tobacco farming should be eradicated, because it is not a profitable venture in Nigeria, rather compounds health challenges among Nigerians.