new tobacco control bill sponsored by Hon Dayo Alebiosu a member of the
House of Representatives, representing Kosofe Federal Constituency has
scaled through second reading. In this interview with Michael Azorie, he
talks about what motivated him to sponsor the bill and his life as a
former smoker.

National Tobacco Control Bill that you sponsored scaled through the
second reading and was committed to the committees on health and
Justice, why two committees?
you know if the one sponsored by Senator Mamora had gone through with
the Presidential assent this would have been an amendment, so since it’s
not law yet, you can’t amend what is not law. The Bill sought to amend
the 2004 tobacco act with some additions to it, and we want to make sure
that since it enjoyed the support of the entire house because not a
member opposed it, we want to be sure that some of the objectives it
sought to achieve does not offend any laws here in this country. That
was why it needed to be looked at holistically from the health and
justice angle. That is why you have the bill committed to both
The motivation, what is the motivation for this tobacco bill
be honest with you, I will say that although I have had some health
issues and experiences in the past that I was ignorant of a few
things and on finding out it prompted my actions. I used to be a
smoker, but thank God, I didn’t get to a point where they say if I don’t
quit I will die. With the support and help of God I was able to kick
the habit. I used to drink as well; I used to drink energy drinks and
alcohol. I had some experience with energy drinks and I will not want
anybody to experience what I went through. Before that I had found
myself in the middle of health campaign, I listen to news a lot and with
the  illiteracy rate in Nigeria at 70 percent , who will look out for
them. We need to understand that as a developing nation we have ties and
treaties with other nations which is mutually benefiting and as the
chairman of the Treaties and Agreement committee, I have been able to
examine some of these treaties and say to myself that we need to do
something about it. Nigeria is a signatory to the Framework Convention
on Tobacco Control.
Also the fact
that I see most kids who smoke do so because their parents smoke and
they began at an early age. That is one of the things this bill will do,
parents can’t smoke around their children. We are also looking at those
who send their children to purchase cigarettes; it is going to become a
crime. We know the most addictive drug in the world is nicotine, that
is what makes them smoke. When you send kids to purchase nicotine, you
are saying it is okay to smoke; these are the things we seek to put out.
from that if you go driving out, you can actually buy cigarettes in
traffic. Should this be? Should the most addictive drug in the world be
sold indiscriminately without licensing which is another thing the bill
will do. It will license those who sell cigarettes. There has to be
checks and balances. The law is meant to punish those who go against it.
This is the only way we can protect our
children, as a matter of fact am not just worried about the future of tomorrow
am also worried about today, the present. We all have to die, but I
don’t want to go right now, so how do we protect the passive smoker,
those who never smoke but ended up with a tobacco related disease.  They
have a right to life but they are being killed. Do we classify that as
an act of God or murder? I will continue to repeat the use of the most
addictive drug in the world, nicotine, should we continue to have it
being sold on the streets without licensing. Tell me where in the world
that is practiced.
mentioned that Nigeria has an obligation to domesticate the FCTC, can
this bill serve as the domesticating instrument, and does it fulfill the
protocols in the FCTC.
 It agrees with practically all the provisions of the FCTC. Also when
you append your
signature to a protocol without registering your reservations, it means
you are in agreement with all the protocol. Nigeria is in agreement
with the FCTC. We are also going beyond that to look at the peculiarity
of our country, our culture and society. When they came up with FCTC am
sure they did not consider that cigarettes are being sold on the streets
of Nigeria. There are quite a few things I see around and I ask how did
we get here. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support on this
bill, when the bill was called for hearing, not a member opposed it.
Not even members representing the tobacco growing areas….
Not one nay. And I am very grateful to the members for that as much as I will still need their support throughout this process.
Is there any difference between this bill and the
one sponsored by Senator Mamora
are quite a few. For instance we are introducing licensing, we are
restricting smoking in certain places, you can’t sell tobacco on the
highways, it also addresses smokeless tobacco, there is workplace
protection for speaking up against smoking.
Mamora’s bill was passed by the National Assembly but not signed into
law by the President, now that this process is on again what will you do
differently to ensure a better result this time.
we didn’t hear from the Executive to say this is what they were opposed
to in the bill but I hear that the Executive was working on a bill, or
so I hear, you know you hear rumours here and there. But the legislature
is such that a lot depends on the support of the members, eventually it
comes down to the ayes and the
nayes. Interestingly, we have all the ayes on our side, am hoping that
the bill will continue to get the support. There are also constitutional
provisions that allow you follow certain steps. Unfortunately, the
sponsor of the bill didn’t return to continue to push for the Executive
assent to the bill. I guess God has a reason for that because this bill
is several riders to the earlier one.
constitution has provisions for what to do if the President does not
sign a bill that is he has to transmit in writing to the National
Assembly reasons he did not sign. Also, the National Assembly can choose
to veto the President on any bill. If need be, will you go for this
Well, I do not want
to be preemptive, because in the eventuality of that happening, it
won’t be my decision, it will be the House. You will have to lobby your
colleagues to see
reasons with you. But it is usually always the last resort, I believe
the Executive might have their reasons for what happened, now we have a
stronger bill, I wouldn’t even want to consider that at all, I believe
the Executive and the Legislature are pulling in the same directions for
the good of public health.
Won’t some people see this bill as the opposition bill since Senator Mamora is also a member of your party?
a look at the tobacco statistic, an annual 6.4 million people being
affected. I am sure if they die they will not all be A C N members,
there will be PDP members too. We want to protect the under 18 children,
they are not all opposition children.  Am a father, I used to smoke; I
wouldn’t want my children to experience it likewise all the other
members of that House. Every member supported the bill, it cuts across
There is a
compelling argument from the tobacco industry about paying taxes and
providing jobs. Doesn’t this bill look like you are discouraging Foreign
Direct Investment
Yes I
appreciate the fact that the tobacco industry is providing less than
1,000 jobs. We thank them very much. But we have indigenous companies
like Dangote that have employed more than that. Besides, this bill is
regulatory not prohibitory. There is no other place in the world even in
the homes of the parent tobacco companies that don’t have regulations,
and they don’t have cigarettes sold in kiosks but under licensing. There
are other foreign investors in Nigeria; we need to understand that if
Nigeria isn’t seen as a huge market they wouldn’t be here. In as much
that they have a dangerous product and they want the business of
Nigerians they must be regulated. Without that
we can be sure that they can use tobacco to control our population.
Have you been contacted by the tobacco industry
No I haven’t
 When they do how will you deal with it
This is not the first bill I will be sponsoring, you asked me what
motivated me into doing this and I gave reasons, so I wonder what will
now kill that motivation. Amazingly, Senator Mamora is also my
constituent. It wasn’t planned it just happened, so if he could make it
through I will as well.
  There is a tobacco bill in the Senate……
 Which is seeking to do exactly what your bill wants to do? Will you harmonize with the Senate or step down your bill
are provisions in the National Assembly, we can sit down and look at
all the bills, the strength and weaknesses, we take the strong points
and the ultimate goal is to have a strong legislation for Nigeria. I am
sure the Senate would also see the strength of this bill.