CHAIRMAN of the Nigerian Independent Tobacco Association, Rasheed Bakare, has called on the government to oppose proposed World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which he said threatens the livelihoods of over 30 million farmers worldwide.
Speaking at Iseyin, Oyo State, during the recent World Tobacco Growers’ Day, Bakare said more than 30 million farmers across the world live on tobacco cultivation. The people, he said, would be thrown out of jobs if the WHO’s convention is implemented.
“We are calling on federal government to oppose the proposal by the WHO that threatens the livelihoods of more than 30 million tobacco growers and farm workers. This proposal will be voted on in less than two weeks at the WHO meeting in Seoul, South Korea.
“We are about 800 doing this work in Oyo State. We don’t want the eradication of tobacco planting. We want to do the planting until we have other cash crops to cultivate. Although, apart from tobacco, we plant other crops like cassava, maize and yam.
“We appeal to federal government to stand by tobacco farmers against the bill WHO wants to pass into law soon. Even the duration allocated for planting of tobacco should be expanded. We want to be allowed to plant like we used to; we want to plant from March to August.”
Speaking further on how the farmers have been restricted, he said: “Some of us used to cultivate two to three hectares of land a year. But recently it was reduced to an hectare. We seek opportunity to air our views on the advantages of growing tobacco. WHO has not heard the voice of growers and has gone off track in pursuing absurd proposal that is contrary to its original mandate.”
Bakare described the planned law as draconian, saying that it would throw 800 members of the association out of job if it comes to effect. He also claimed that the members pay over N5 million in form of taxes to the government yearly while arguing that the policy would also affect national economies.
He said the farmers are willing to work with the government to find solution to the tobacco challenge if their opinions are sought.
He said his association has written the government over the matter but that it is yet to get a response. He noted that over 10,000 Nigerians directly or indirectly depend on tobacco for survival.
He said that Nigerian tobacco farmers would not watch their sources of living destroyed but will join others in different parts of the world to stop the passage of the new convention.
Bakare continued: “Tobacco growing has be going on since 1960 but the Nigerian Independent Tobacco Association are coming together for the first time. We support the original intent of the FCTC’s article 17, which was to provide technical and financial assistance to aid the economic transition of tobacco growers and workers as a decline in tobacco production consumption resulted in lower demand for our crop.
“However, the proposal under consideration represents a departure from the original goal as it seeks to artificially reduce the supply of tobacco without providing growers any viable alternatives to support their families. This is despite estimates that demand for tobacco will increase in coming years.”
He said the association’s letter was addressed to the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who he charged to support tobacco growers
“We intend to follow up with another letter. We used the good office of one of the senators in the state. The Oyo State government is aware about the matter,” he disclosed.
On the celebration, Bakare said the association very privileged to mark the day with other tobacco growers across the world for the first time.
|< Prev||Next >|