The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has kicked against a penalty clause in the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations.

The bill was sponsored by the Federal government but the Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry was against a penalty of N35m for the issuance of license for tobacco or tobacco products businesses (manufacturers, importers and distributors) pursuant to Section 29 (1) and (2) of the NTC Act.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) also supported the Ministry in the rejection of the clause on the ground that the fine would be counter productive as it could lead to market contraction and loss of margin squeeze.

This would naturally impact negatively on the volume of input purchased from farmers and eventually lead to disengagement of workers.

The Simon Arabo-led Committee on Delegated Legislation organized an interactive session with stakeholders on Thursday the bill which is currently with the National Assembly.

However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire and Environmental Rights Action /Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) threw their weight behind the bill.

ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said it has become extremely important for Nigeria to pass the bill into law in order to curb the usage of cigarettes and several new tobacco products in the country.

He maintained that the passage of the draft regulation represents a unique opportunity for Nigeria to give the needed impetus for the smooth enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 (NTCA).
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While opposing the N35m penalty, the representative Ministry of Trade, Francis Alaneme said, “This stringent measure will eventually lead to job loses and possible relocation of affected companies to neighbouring African countries as was the case with Dunlop and Michelin.

“The massive job loses and social backlashes occasioned by the pull out of these manufacturing companies from Nigeria to Ghana and other neighbouring countries was as a result of unfriendly policies and harsh business environment.”

MAN expressed same concern with emphasis on the fate of field workers if the bill is passed into law with the clause

The Health Minister however, justified the licensing of tobacco dealers, noting that it is global best practice to take that path because of the wider positive effects on the society