Implementation of Tobacco Control Law: FCCPC pledges fair deal for all stakeholders in enforcement.
West Africa Sub-Regional Coordinator, Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, Mrs. Hilda Ochefu (second left), presenting a customized T-Shirt to the Director General Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera. Also, in the picture are, Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi (left), Director, Surveillance and Enforcement Department, FCCPC, Mrs. Leke Ogundipe (second right), and Director, Consumer Education, FCCPC, Mrs. Mopelola Akeju.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has assured stakeholders that it will ensure all interests are balanced in the enforcement of the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, for the protection of consumers.
FCCPC’s Director General, Babatunde Irukera gave the assurance on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at the Council’s headquarters in Abuja, when a delegation of the Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance led by the Chairman of the NTCA Governing Board, who is also the Deputy Director of Environmental Rights Action, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi and the Sub- Regional Coordinator, West Africa, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Mrs. Hilda Ochefu, paid him a courtesy visit.
The delegation visited the Council’s chief executive to request that FCCPC play a pivotal role in the enforcement of the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, amongst others.
The Director General, while responding to the tobacco control community’s request, asserted that “we have a responsibility to enforce every enactment for the protection of consumers in Nigeria, and so, the Tobacco Control Act falls within our mandate and we intend to enforce that”.
He noted that, as far as the Council is concerned, the welfare of consumers in the country remains its primary focus, and as such, the Council would do all that is necessary, within the ambit of law, to protect them, while preserving their right to choose.
According to him, “as far as we are concerned, the law is supreme, and one of the things we try to convey to industry is that, the consumer is king, and we will continue to treat consumers with the royalty they deserve, in whatever it is that we would do.
“There is a National Tobacco Control Policy, which we are quite aware of. We recognise the need to collaborate with other regulators. For instance, we know that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is responsible for standards, whether it’s the chemical components standards, or the packaging and labelling standards. It appears that the Tobacco Control Act makes some fundamental provisions that might affect those. We are studying the provisions, and we are looking at what the roles of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission should be with respect to them, and the relationship between what the Act says and what the existing Nigerian National Industrial Standards (NIS) stipulates,” he stated.
Irukera assured the delegation that, FCCPC is quite conscious of its role in protecting consumers, “sometimes even from themselves”, stressing that “certainly, our role is to protect people in the choices they make and allow them to make those choices, and also to protect those who may be exposed to potential injury on account of the choices that other people make.”
He further clarified the position of the Council as a regulator, which according to him, is to ensure regulations and laws guiding the industry are strictly adhered to, for the protection of consumers. The Director General said: “We recognize and respect your position as a civil society organisation and that your role is essentially anti-tobacco, and we respect that. But you must recognize that our role as a regulator is not anti-tobacco. Our role as a regulator is to balance the field and to protect consumers, and indeed we will do that, because there are people who consume the product that you are against, whom we also have an obligation to protect.
“We understand all the different dimensions of the obligations that the law imposes on us, but rest assured that, with respect to that balanced approach to regulation, you will always have a partner in us. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily always agree, but to the extent that the objective is the same, you can be sure that we will be there to fulfil what we believe are our obligations”, he emphasized.
Earlier, the delegation had told the Director General that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are ready to partner with the Council to build the capacity of its staff to play necessary roles in enforcing the nine provisions of the Act announced by the Minister of Health.
The delegation also charged the Council to use its structure to drive the enforcement of these nine provisions; to champion the cause of smoke-free Nigeria; to support a quick adoption of the Tobacco Control Regulation by the National Assembly; and to support an increase in tobacco taxes, to discourage youth consumption, as well as to boost government revenue.