British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) has spoken of the need for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade, the criminals behind it, and the need for greater cooperation to fight it. This call came as part of a new campaign developed by BATN to raise awareness of the facts around the illegal tobacco trade to coincide with the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day.
Legal and external affairs director, BATN, Freddy Messanvi, said the impact of illegal tobacco may not be felt as immediately and directly as other crimes, but the consequences are very real.
“In West Africa, it is estimated to cost about US$774 million to governments across the region,” said Messanvi. “Coming closer to home, in Nigeria this implies that illicit activities contribute to the shortfall in government revenue from tobacco sales, paid in taxes to the Nigerian government, which could have been higher. Also crucial is that sales of illegal tobacco have been reported to fund human trafficking, drug and arms trades, as well as terrorist organisations activities globally.”
Messanvi said BATN has been operating here since 2003, adding that in the 15 years of the company’s operations in Nigeria, it has shown commitment to the memorandum of understanding signed with the Nigerian government to regularize the tobacco sector, support sustainable foreign direct investments, and contribute to socio-economic development in Nigeria.
“Our partnerships with government agencies have yielded a significant reduction in incidence of illicit tobacco products in Nigeria, with a reduction from about 80% share of the market when we first came in, to less than 20% as of 2015, thereby supporting the reclaiming of government revenue lost through illegal tobacco marketing channels,” said Messanvi.