Fake and possibly harmful cigarettes are set to be released into the Nigerian market unless relevant government regulatory and monitoring agencies swing into immediate action, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), has warned.
According to intelligence reports, five of ten containers load of cigarettes containing about 4,560 cases of fake and harmful cigarettes loaded on trucks belonging to a tobacco dealer in Nigeria have left Lome Port in Togo. The trucks are said to be heading for the Niger-Nigeria border for possible entry into the country.
The other five containers however are already at the Tincan Island Port in Lagos ready to be cleared and distributed.
The CPC council in an attempt to save Nigerian consumers from effects of substandard cigarettes have sent letters to Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on this development, charging them to intercept the contents of the containers before they are sold to people for consumption.
The council in its letter to the two authorities said: ‘Our recent findings, however, show that while some manufacturers/importers are making frantic efforts to follow the implementation schedule for the new changes, others appear to be looking for possible avenues to circumvent the rules.’
The products in the containers have not complied with the labeling requirements and the CPC have warned that allowing this products into the market would constitute a breach of the resolutions reached by all stakeholders in the industry to comply with Cigarette Standard NIS 463: 2007 at a recent workshop organized by SON.
The General Secretary of the Health Care Providers’ Association of Nigeria, Dr. Adeyeye Arigbabuwo, has disclosed that about 32 Health Management Organisations (NHIS) and 7,000 providers had so far been accredited for the Nigerian Health Insurance Scheme.
“As of today, about three million Nigerians benefit from the NHIS,” he said, adding that one hundred and thirty seven (137) million Nigerians were not covered by the scheme.
Should these cigarettes hit the Nigerian market, not only will the risk of cancer, already associated with long-term cigarette smoking, be particularly problematic for the budget-strapped health sector but also immediate health hazards to millions of Nigerians without health insurance covers.