By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) has called on the federal government and the National Assembly to ensure effective funding and budgeting for tobacco control.
The Chairman of NTCA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja, during a media briefing on tobacco control budgeting.
He appealed to President Bola Tinubu to make tobacco control a key strategy in combatting the drug abuse scourge.
“This will deal with one of the root causes of drug use among our youths for the reason that tobacco is a known gateway to the use of hard-drugs.
“We also welcome the National Assembly as it resumes plenary today after two months of recess. Soon enough, we expect that deliberations will begin on the 2024 Appropriation Bill, and honorable members of the House of Representatives, and Senators must pay close attention to the proposed budget for Tobacco Control, and significantly increase the amount
to deal with myriad issues occasioned by tobacco use.”
He also recommended that State Ministries of Finance and Health, State Assemblies, and Governors should complement Federal Government funding efforts by creating a budget line for tobacco control in their states.
“Institutionalizing tobacco control funding and following through with 100% release of budgeted sums will boost the implementation of life-saving provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, and its Regulations of 2019.”
Speaking further, the chairman said during the recently concluded 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA, it was noted that only 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track to meet target, necessitating calls for cash and commitments from member nations to rescue the stalled development goals.
“Nigeria adopted the SDGs and integrated them into her development framework since the launch of the SDGs in 2015. While optimistic analysts may argue that some progress has been made towards the attainment of the goals, it is undeniable that we are still a long way from hitting the mark.
“Tobacco use has and continues to impede the realization of the SDGs, specifically, Goal 3;
Good health and wellbeing, Goal 11; sustainable cities and communities, Goal 12; responsible consumption and production, Goal 14; life below water, and Goal 15; life on land.
“Persistent advocacies have been made for the allocation to the health sector to reach the recommended 15% to address critical deficits. We applauded the Federal Government when for the first time, over 1 trillion Naira (accounting for 5.75% of the entire budget sum) was allocated to the health sector in the 2023 Appropriation Act. We had noted that it was a step in the right direction.
“Regrettably, the allocation to tobacco control plunged by 50% to #4.7 million in 2023, from #9.4 million of the previous year. This unfortunate slash of funding from the national budget has slowed down tobacco control efforts in the country, whilst threatening the gains painstakingly made through the years.
“It is evident that there are competing priorities in the health sector, underscoring the need to funnel monies to deal with critical issues. This is why tobacco control funding must be expressly prioritized because tobacco is a major contributor to global non-communicable diseases burden.”
On his part, the Pogramme Officer NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie, said, there is need to ensure proper funding, release of tobacco control fund.
He lamented that the budget for this year is too small and might not be enough to address critical challenges in the area.
He appealed the the president and the National Assemble to double efforts in budgeting and releases of funds so to address the challenges posed by tobacco.