Nigeria is a significant tobacco market and influential country in Africa. Nigeria ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. We reviewed Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation since 2000 and compliance of the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) 2015 with the FCTC.
We reviewed the National Tobacco Control Bills 2011 (proposed by legislature) and 2014 (proposed by Executive), the NTCA 2015, and media stories on tobacco control from 2008 to 2017.
The NTCA, despite being more comprehensive than Nigeria’s first Tobacco Smoking (Control) law of 1990, maintained provisions promoted by the tobacco industry. Examples include: allowing designated smoking areas in hospitality venues, higher educational institutions, and transportation venues; a loophole in the advertising restictions allowing communications with consenting adults; having the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) (which includes tobacco companies) on the National Tobacco Control Committee charged with working with the Ministry of Health to implement the law. The industry is also directly involved with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in preparing regulations on cigarette constituents and emissions. In an unprecedented step globally, the law requires that implementing regulations be approved by the National Assembly, giving the industry another opportunity to weaken this law further by lobbying the legislators to favour the industry. As of January 2018 the law was still not being enforced.
The NTCA can be strengthened through implementation guidelines still being developed. The industry should be prevented from interfering with through MAN and SON, as required by FCTC Article 5.3.
The tobacco industry works to block FCTC implementation even after a country ratifies the treaty. The Nigerian case illustrates that it is essential for health authorities to remain vigilant and ensure that the tobacco industry does not play a decision-making role in the process of tobacco legislation and regulation either directly or indirectly. The unprecedented step of requiring approval of implementing regulations for the Nigerian law should not be allowed to become a precedent in other countries.