Part II: Shaking things up in NIGERIA
Fri, 02 Apr 2004 00:52:23 -0500
TOBACCO CONTROL ACROSS BORDERS:
U.S. Delegation to West Africa
Part II: NIGERIA
February 15-21, 2004
1. BAT: Up to No Good in Nigeria
2. Youth March Calls on Nigeria to Sign & Ratify the FCTC
3. Meetings with Organizations & Government Officials
4. A Visit to BAT's New Cigarette Factory
5. Modern Day Slavery: BAT Impoverishes Tobacco Farmers
6. Media Outreach: Telling the Truth About the Tobacco Industry
7. The Naming Ceremony
8. Political Aftermath of the Trip
1/ BAT: UP TO NO GOOD IN NIGERIA!
On the delegation's first full day in Nigeria, we attended a meeting
sponsored by the Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance. Over 20 people
attended, including many Nigerian groups involved with GPTC -- it was a
pleasure to meet everyone face-to-face!
Our Nigerian colleagues educated us about some of the tobacco control
issues that are specific to their culture. For example, it is common
for children to go to the store to buy cigarettes for their dad. And
cigarettes are a common gift at marriages. Sometimes, even a specific
brand is expected as part of the bride price!
When asked about BAT's current activities in their country, our Nigerian
colleagues offered a plethora of examples. Here are just a few:
* DON'T SMOKE (JUST KIDDING). BAT has launched a "youth smoking
prevention" program that features an "18+" logo, reinforcing the idea
that smoking is an favorable adult activity. The campaign is clearly an
effort to preempt strong tobacco control legislation in the country.
* FUNDING CASH-STRAPPED GROUPS. It is very difficult for Nigerian
organizations to find sources of funding. BAT has a foundation that
offers grants to organizations. This is an opportunity that many groups
find difficult to pass up.
* DONATIONS TO CHURCHES. One attendee said that BAT had offered a
church a 24 passenger van and a generator (power outages are a frequent
event, as the U.S. delegation discovered). The church wisely refused.
* EXCESSIVE PUBLICIZING OF "GOOD DEEDS." BAT donated about 20,000 naira
(~ $150) of cloths to some village women. The company then held a
televised event at a hotel to publicize their "charitable" giving.
Problem: the company spent far more on advertising its act of giving
than on the gift itself. Sound familiar?
* SPONSORING ROADSHOW EVENTS. Recently, BAT has de-emphasized its
public advertising presence. There are few tobacco billboards left in
Lagos. It has increased sponsored events outside of Lagos, which are
harder to monitor (that's the point!)
* SPONSORING FASHION SHOWS. One cigarette brand -- "St. Moritz" --
promotes the idea that smoking is in vogue by supporting Nigerian
fashion shows. View a related billboard (Lagos):
* SUING NGOS FOR LIBEL. One of the groups in attendance told us that
BAT had sued them for calling it a vampire. The suit was thrown out by a
Other BAT examples mentioned included: funding of education researchers;
"reforestation" programs that don't plant trees where they are needed
and fail to address desertification; free t-shirt & cigarette giveaways;
and the founding of [front] groups.
2/ YOUTH MARCH CALLS ON NIGERIA TO SIGN & RATIFY THE FCTC
In Nigeria, as in Senegal, the U.S. delegation participated in a youth
march in support of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We
progressed from JATH's headquarters, down a main thoroughfare, waving
our signs and banners, handing out Reality Check stickers, and chatting
with people along the way.
Instead of drums, this time we had a brass band to accompany us!
The Nigerian youth led the march with a banner calling on Nigeria to
sign and ratify the FCTC
The youth also carried a "Big Tobacco Addicted to Profit" banner
Despite the hot and sticky weather, we danced the entire way...
U.S. and Nigerian youth have fun shaking things up together!
3/ MEETINGS WITH ORGANIZATIONS & GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
ANTI-DRUG NETWORK. One morning, the delegation went to the UNDP office
for a meeting with members of a Nigerian anti-drug alliance. Eze
Eluchie, Executive Director of PADDI discussed how more and more
anti-drug organizations are coming to the realization that tobacco is a
drug, and a gateway drug to other drugs. His organization did not
originally address tobacco, but was compelled to after being confronted
by school students who questioned the organization's failure to include
tobacco in their work. When his organization started focusing more
attention on tobacco, there was a noticeable reduction in government
support of its agenda.
LAGOS ROTARY CLUB. The airfare for one of the U.S. delegates was
partially covered by a Rotary Club in Evanston, IL, which had encouraged
us to attend a Rotary Club meeting in Lagos -- so we did. The delegation
gave a short presentation to the Lagos Rotary Club about the purpose of
our visit to Nigeria.
Soon after our presentation, a towering man stood up to address us.
Several other Rotary Club members shouted out "Mr. Tobacco" in a teasing
manner. As it turned out, this man had retired 12 years ago after
working for the tobacco industry 32 years. He felt compelled to come to
the podium to offer some "alternative viewpoints."
NATIONAL AGENCY FOR FOOD DRUG ADMINISTRATION & CONTROL (NAFDAC). Last
year, PADDI launched a letter campaign calling on NAFDAC to classify
tobacco as a drug, for purposes of regulation. The Director General of
NAFDAC, Mrs. Dora Akunyilli, has taken a strong stand for the public
interest in other areas, even surviving an assassination attempt
following her agency's cracking down on Nigeria's deadly fake medicine
industry. Even though NAFDAC seems favorable to the idea of regulating
tobacco, its hands appear to be tied from higher above. The U.S.
delegation accompanied PADDI to a meeting with NAFDAC officials, where
he informed them of his organization's intentions to sue the agency if
prompt action is not taken. View a photo of Eze Eluchie:
Read more about the issue:
4/ A VISIT TO BAT'S NEW CIGARETTE FACTORY
Last year, BAT unveiled a new "state of the art" factory in Ibadan. The
factory has served as a cornerstone for BAT's public relations campaign
to convince Nigerian officials and the public of the company's economic
value to the country. In Lagos, billboards advertising the new factory
are quite common:
Billboard: "A site to behold"
Billboard: "Meet builders of our new factory"
BAT regularly touts the 1,000 new jobs the factory has generated. As
Nigerian tobacco control groups counter, what good are 1,000 new jobs,
if the factory's products end up killing 100,000 people?
We decided to take a trip outside of Lagos to check out BAT's new
The highway alongside the factory is lined with BAT billboards. A
Benson & Hedges billboard advertised "Hopes & Dreams"
Akinbode Oluwafemi (ERA) and Seun Akioye (JATH) struck a pose in front
of a "Believe It" billboard for BAT's Rothmans brand
Our vehicle was able to enter the factory parking lot, but after talking
to plant managers, the guard on duty said that we did not have the
proper authorization to tour the plant.
5/ MODERN DAY SLAVERY: BAT IMPOVERISHES TOBACCO FARMERS
During a Essential Action trip to Kenya in 2003, several Kenyan GPTC
groups described the plight of tobacco farmers in their country, who
find themselves impoverished and poisoned by their "livelihood." The
Kenyan groups regretted that there was insufficient time to arrange a
visit to the tobacco growing area, so that we could see the terrible
situation with our own eyes. This prompted us to schedule a visit to a
tobacco growing area in Nigeria. The trip proved to be terribly
eye-opening, even for our Nigerian colleagues...
A scene from a village where farmers who grow tobacco for BAT live
A village woman and her child
Soon after our arrival in the village, a young man in a pink shirt drove
up to us on his motorbike and asked us what we were doing. We told him
that we were there to interview tobacco farmers. He informed us that it
was not allowed. Our first hint that he was an employee of BAT!
Akinbode Oluwafemi (ERA) then asked him whether BAT owned the farmers
and questioned why the farmers did not have the freedom to speak for
themselves. Eventually, the BAT guy gave in.
What the farmers had to tell us we found shocking. This farmer said he
hadn't made a profit in 4 years. When asked why he continues to grow
tobacco, he said that it is because he is indebted to BAT.
BAT gives the farmers loans for seeds and fertilizer, that it expects
the farmer to pay back at the end of the growing season. But BAT also
controls the grading system for tobacco, so the money the farmers end up
making often does not cover their costs. As Akinbode Oluwafemi (ERA)
said, these farmers are like "modern day slaves."
The farmers' testimony is in direct contrast to BAT's public relations
campaign touting its support of tobacco farmers. Check out this 2003 BAT
billboard in Lagos that features a happy farmer and the line "A long
time to maintain a relationship." For the farmers we met, it's been a
long time to maintain an oppressive relationship! (Source: Eze Eluchie,
The tobacco farmers then gave us a tour of the buildings in which they
cure the tobacco that they grow.
They also showed us the room where charcoal is stored for tobacco curing
and a sheet of paper which lists the prices for tobacco grades.
The farmers gave us a detailed account of their plight, which was
recorded by our delegation and several journalists.
Some young children of the farmers...
We then hopped back in our van and traveled to the next tobacco growing
village, followed by the BAT employee on his motorbike. There we came
across more buildings for curing tobacco.
Behind many of the buildings were large piles of wood, which are burned
in the tobacco curing process. The use of wood is a major cause of
deforestation in the region.
To counter the negative publicity about the environmental problem, BAT
has launched highly publicized reforestation programs. According to our
colleagues, the programs do much more to cover up the problem than to
In this village, another tobacco farmer shared his plight with us.
According to him, BAT has been making the farmers cover more and more of
the production and transportion costs related to their tobacco crops.
The farmers are so fed up that they are considering going on strike.
As we were talking to the farmer, a second BAT employee approached us.
He wore an official BAT shirt with the slogan "Proudly Nigerian" on the
sleeve (a public relations slogan that BAT has adopted to boost goodwill
for the company)
Akinbode Oluwafemi asked him about BAT's "Model Farmer" program, that
has been so publicized in the Nigerian media. How does the company
choose model farmers? What are the benefits of being designated a model
farmer, e.g. state of the art equipment? Were there any "model farmers"
in the two villages that we had visited? The BAT guy told us that a
model farmer is one who does his work with "eagerness." And yes, there
were "model farmers" in the villages we had visited, i.e. farmers who
accept being exploited are BAT's favorite business partners.
Unfortunately, BAT's exploitation of tobacco farmers in Nigeria is a
common story around the world. A recent report by Christian Aid cited a
study of Kenyan tobacco farmers, which found 80% actually lose money
from growing tobacco. Internal BAT documents attest that the
compensation for Kenyan tobacco farmers was so low that even BAT's UK
headquarters questioned them. Read the report:
Our visit with the tobacco farmers confirmed that BAT not only profits
from selling tobacco products but by failing to pay poor farmers a
6/ MEDIA OUTREACH: TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY
Our Nigerian colleagues arranged meetings with several Nigerian media
outlets. At the office of Tell magazine, the U.S. delegation stressed
the importance of the media remaining independent of tobacco industry
influence. Last year, one of the top reporters for Tell magazine
received a journalism award from BAT. The prize? A laptop computer.
The delegation also visited the editors and newsroom of the Daily
...and was presented with newspapers.
A photo that the newspaper published from our meeting:
Early in the week, Journalists Action on Tobacco and Health held a press
conference to publicly unveil Nigeria's first tobacco control website.
The site features tobacco industry documents relevant to Nigeria,
information on Nigerian tobacco control campaigns, and a chat room for
Nigerian tobacco control youth advocates. JATH intends the site to be a
primary source of information for Nigerian journalists seeking
information on the tobacco industry.
View the site: http://www.jathng.org/
Jessica Harvey (Reality Check, NY) was one of the speakers at the press
A photo of the press conference that ran in the Daily Independent:
The morning following the delegation's visit to the tobacco growing
area, Akinbode Oluwafemi (ERA) and Anna White (Essential Action) were
guests on one of Nigeria's most popular television talk shows, Kakaaki.
Later that day, the delegation held a press conference at the
International Press Centre. After a creative start (more on that
later!), we covered a wide range of topics, including our recent visit
to the tobacco growing region, the successful cross-border campaign
against BAT's use of Warner Bros films to promote Rothmans cigarettes,
and Nigerian tobacco industry documents researched by Reality Check
teens in NY. In particular, Dave Walling highlighted a document
detailing a historical example of the tobacco industry thwarting tobacco
control legislation in Nigeria, in part by "keeping well away from the
All the major Nigerian media attended, including television, radio,
The media coverage of our press conference was terrific. Here are a few
of the stories that came out (perhaps you can figure out the event's
"creative twist" from some of the titles!):
This Day Online: 'Tobacco Kills over 4.8m Annually'
Vanguard: Cigarettes as Licensed Killer (March 3, 2004)
Punch: A company, licensed to kill
(Nigeria's most widely read magazine)
page 1: http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/event/wafr04/punch1.jpg
page 2: http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/event/wafr04/punch2.jpg
The Insider: Smoking to Kill
page 1: http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/event/wafr04/insider1.jpg
page 2: http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/event/wafr04/insider2.jpg
New Age Online: A novel way to fight tobacco
Ken Dahlgren (Reality Check, NY) was also interviewed a few days later
on another popular television talkshow
7/ THE NAMING CEREMONY
While in Lagos, the U.S. delegation had the privilage to attend the
naming ceremony for Eze Eluchie and his wife's first child, born just
weeks before our arrival.
Female relatives and Eze's wife presented the new member of the family
As Eze explained, all Nigerian names carry important meanings. Eze's
father gave his granddaughter the name "Adaeze" (daughter of Eze)
Afterwards, Eze's father bestowed meaningful Nigerian names upon each
member of the U.S. delegation. Later, Dave "Big One" Walling joined in
8/ POLITICAL AFTERMATH OF THE TRIP
a) PARLIAMENT MEMBERS ANGERED OVER FARMERS' PLIGHT. Akinbode Oluwafemi
A member of parliament from the tobacco growing areas watched our Kakaki
TV programme and was struck by what we said about the plights of tobacco
farmers. He thereafter got in touch with Educare in Ibadan and got
corroborating reports. He then got all the MPs from the tobacco growing
areas to agree to summon BAT before them to defend itself. I was invited
as the MPS "Consultant" on tobacco matters. I was also asked to come
with the video tape of our trip, so I recorded a few clips from JATH's
camcorder. Before the meeting, the MPs and I met to discuss the issues
to be raised and the points likely to be advanced by BAT, so we were
BAT sent two officials: the Manager of its Political liason office and a
representative of its social responsibility office. At the meeting BAT
was asked to state what kind of agreement it signs with farmers that
keeps them in debt every year and also forbids them from talking to the
media or anybody who is not from BAT. As expected, the BAT officials
denied that such a policy ever existed. The officials also spent time
speaking about how one of the communities honoured the BAT Managing
Director with a chieftancy title. This angered one of the
At this point a video of our trip was screened. Then one of the BAT guys
became visibly angry and accused me of instigating farmers and MPs
against them. But the MPs shut him down, insisting that they have a
duty to be concerned about what happens to their people. The BAT guy
said the video gave only one side of the story. He was also furious
that a "young man like Mr Bode" always refuses to talk with young men
like them. I told him that I was invited to the meeting and had no hands
in planning it, but that BAT has all the resources to project its image
and has been doing so -- including mounting billboards about how happy
the farmers doing business with BAT are. I said that we are only saying
this is other side of the story. I also told him that I represent an
organisation whose stand on tobacco is well known and that has nothing
to "dialogue" with BAT about.
At the end of the meeting the BAT guys said they will go back to
investigate the allegations and will be better prepared next time they
The symbolism of the meeting is that we still have parliamentarians who
have not been bought over and are ready to ask the almighty BAT
questions. The parliamentarians have also sent a strong message that
they have the powers to summon BAT to appear before it anytime and that
this might be the beginning of a bigger inquiry into BAT activities in
I am very sure BAT will plan a counter. I will keep you posted.
Read two articles on the meeting:
Last week, Free Speech Radio aired a story about our visit with the
Nigeria tobacco farmers, and the meeting described above...
ENSLAVING WORKING CONDITIONS FOR NIGERIAN TOBACCO FARMERS
Tobacco farmers in Nigeria say British American Tobacco, BAT, is
enslaving them. The farmers work under a loan agreement that leaves them
perpetually poor and indebted to the company. Nigeria's house of
Assembly has asked BAT, to respect the rights of the farmers. Sam
Listen to story (20:15-24:35):
b) NIGERIA EXPRESSES INTENT TO SIGN FCTC. Eze Eluchie (PADDI) reports:
At the Federal Executive Council (our council of Ministers) meeting held
in Abuja, Nigeria on March 10, 2004, the Nigerian Government announced
its intention to sign the FCTC and submit same to the National Assembly
as soon as possible.
Read an article on the decision:
Statement of Solidarity with West African Tobacco Control Groups
by BNICEH SmokeOut Campaign (Chicago, IL)
View more photos from Nigeria at:
Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control
P.O. Box 19405
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: +1 202-387-8030
Fax: +1 202-234-5176