The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has commended the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) over its imposition of $110 million fine on British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) and its subsidiaries for serial violation of the nation’s laws including the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) 2015.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, the FCCPC disclosed that on August 28, 2020, it commenced an investigation of BATN and its affiliates for which it gathered, received and procured substantial evidence from forensic analysis of electronic communication and other information and data.
The commission explained that it imposed the fine on BATN, British American Tobacco Marketing (Nigeria) Limited (BATMN) and British American Tobacco (Holdings) Limited after the commission accepted a written request for cooperation under its Cooperation and Assistance Framework (CAF) which provided for reduced penalties.
In a statement issued by Media and Communication Officer of CAPPA, Robert Egbe, the group described the fine and other associated actions in the Consent Order as a milestone in the quest to make corporations accountable for their flagrant violations of the nation’s laws and statutes.
Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We applaud the FCPC for this precedent-setting action. We have consistently advocated that BAT and their ilk should be made to pay for their disregard for our laws and the promotion of an addictive, cancer-causing product to our youths and our people.
“To us, this action sends strong warnings to other tobacco companies in Nigeria and other corporations behind products that compromise public health that justice may be slow in coming, but it will surely catch up.”
CAPPA, however, expressed sadness that with the Consent Order, BAT and its officials have evaded criminal prosecution while details of their infractions are buried in opaque legalese.
“Nigerians need to know the full details of BAT crimes that made it willingly agree to dole out $110 million rather than face prosecution. No amount of fine can atone for actions that compromise public health and undermine the economies of nations. This is a slap on the wrist.
“We, nonetheless, see this fine as a welcome step, in the right direction but we reiterate our call for the comprehensive probe of what BATN benefited from the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) with a view to recouping such funds to our national purse,” Oluwafemi added.
The group also frowned on the section of the Consent Order that allows BAT to conduct a so-called tobacco control advocacy, saying it contradicts Section 38 of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.
The group emphasized that Section 38 of the NTC Act was unambiguous on who handles education, communication, training and awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco products.
It clearly states that “A person or entity working on behalf of or furthering the interest of the tobacco industry shall not be involved in any manner in youth, public education or other initiatives to tobacco control or public health, including and funding of such activities.
“Since this is a fine, at best the funding for advocacy should be administered through the Federal Ministry of Health and not through systems and structures with affiliations to BAT.”