Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Introducing Fela Durotoye as a Tobacco Control Celebrity Cause Champion

Some weeks ago, I called Mr. Fela Durotoye to ask if he could accommodate us in his schedule while he was in the FCT that weekend and we set up to meet by 8pm after his speaking engagement.

By 7.30pm on the agreed day, we were seated and ready waiting for our meeting at the agreed location. At around 7.40pm, I tried to reach him so he would know we were was already 'here' but his phone just rang without pickup. Little did I know at the time how events would unravel over the rest of the evening, as I just reasoned that he was on his way back from the speaking engagement and didn’t hear his phone ring.

I kept my calm till 8pm and called his line again but the feedback was no different from the previous attempt. Calling again by 8.15pm and afterwards every twenty minutes till it was 9.30pm, his phone only rang with no pickup. At this time, I along with my partner sadly stood up, walked to the car and drove home. I was preparing to go and sleep when my phone rang at about 10.30pm and I was doubly sure of the identity of the caller. Fela Durotoye is known for his rare humility and benign disposition and when he spoke on the phone, his words did not fall short of the reputation preceding him. Gladly, we were able to re-schedule our meeting for 10am the next day.

The next day, at about thirty minutes to the scheduled appointment while on our way to the meeting, I got a call from him apologising he would not be able to honour our appointment again as he just got a call from Lagos that he needed to attend an event at his son’s school  later that afternoon. He suggested that we hold  a phone meeting later in the day by 8pm.

Along came the hour (8 O'clock) with its 60 minutes passing by and for a myriad of reasons, our meeting with Mr. Fela was yet unable to hold. Interestingly, I was undeterred looking forward to talking to him on phone the following morning.

Thus, while bidding my time to call Mr. Fela at an appropriate time that morning, I got a call from him at about 10am and we were finally able to discuss via the phone for a while. I told him about our organisation, Social Responsibility Managers (SRM) and the Tobacco Control project we’re currently involved with. I mentioned to him that as part of our project implementation strategy for this project, we were engaging and synergising with needed known faces to help communicate the issue of Tobacco Control (TC) & campaign widely for enactment of TC laws. Based on his personality and work with Nigerian youths, we made the request to Mr. Fela that we would like him to become one of our Celebrity Cause Champions. To my delight, he readily accepted & signed up!

Let me use this opportunity to present to you one of Nigeria’s finest and our latest Tobacco Control Celebrity Cause Champion: 

Fela Durotoye
Mr. Fela Durotoye (FD)

Join Fela Durotoye and Stella Damasus to share information on Tobacco Control and also ensure a comprehensive Tobacco Control law is passed and signed into law by signing up to become a Cause Champion. Lets protect Nigerian's present & future generations from preventable deaths NOW!

Simply sign up to be a Tobacco Control Cause Champion by sending your 1) Name 2) Email 3) Telephone No and 4) Location to info (at)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Social Media Meets Tobacco Control


Use of internet tools for facilitating discussions on national issues first became popular after Seun Osewa launched, an online forum that allows registered members to start discussions on any topic and also comment on other ongoing conversation at no charge.

Few years after the word 'Nairalanders' had become a norm among Nigerian youths, another initiative which redefined the meaning of the words 'friend', 'like' and 'wall'  began  making waves among internet users in the country. The initiative, Facebook became a favorite internet site for Nigerians of varying age, culture and social status and not too long after Nigerians had settled down to this new rave, internet users got a free offering of online short messaging through the website- The site which allows users to post instant updates of 140 characters also introduced us to the world of tweets, hashtags, mentions and trends.

With the availability of these aforementioned social media sites and others such as Google+ and 2go, the platform for discussing personal, family, business, community and national issues have now moved away from solely traditional settings like dining tables, local bars, radio and television stations to include internet-based interaction platforms. Coupled with the potential for mass broadcast at fairly low cost, the internet is now well known as an ideal avenue for raising awareness and launching campaigns on social issues and it is based on this that the Tobacco Control Nigeria Project was envisioned and officially launched on August 21, 2013.

Tobacco Control Nigeria is a social media policy change campaign using Social Media to advance tobacco control discussions in Nigeria and support the passage of a comprehensive Tobacco Control (TC) law compliant with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). 

The launch which held in Ikeja, Lagos was all fun and educative. The West Africa Regional Officer for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Hilda Ochefu gave a goodwill address on the issue of tobacco control and how it relates to public health in Nigeria and Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action informed participants on the diverse efforts by civil society to ensure Nigerians are well informed and safe from the dangers of tobacco use.

The now popular Vocal Slender (one of the scavengers interviewed on the BBC documentary 'Welcome to Lagos') gave a stunning musical performance and the video of a flash mob on Tobacco Control held at Ajegunle, Lagos was shown which got a rousing applause from all present.

Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) facilitated the unveiling of the website - with all its fascinating features such as the competitive game called Tobacco Dodge. The game charges its players with the task of achieving high scores by dodging cigarettes and acquiring hearts within the space of sixty seconds. The game is quite tricky but also engaging as it appeals to gamers both young & old. On completion, players are encouraged to share their scores with others via Twitter or facebook platforms thereby promoting the Tobacco Control cause.

Prizes were given to the winner of the Tobacco Dodge game at the event venue, the first person at the launch to like the project's Facebook page -, the first person to follow on Twitter -, and the first person to send a message to the project's SMS shortcode - 39405.

The giveaways have not ended but will continue online on Facebook, Twitter and the website. Social activism in tobacco control is now fun and we're waiting for you to come on board.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Enactment of WHO-compliant Tobacco Control Laws - The Journey Before us

Nigeria's National Assembly Complex

A lawless land will always result in chaos because the residents will do just what seems good in their own sight and it is in order to avoid such, that countries have what is called a legislative body also known as a law-making body.

In Nigeria, the law-making body is composed of a Senate (Upper House) and a House of Representatives (Lower House). Both houses can also be jointly referred to as the National Assembly and all members of both the upper and lower houses are elected to these positions. 

Each of the states that make up our Federal Republic are subdivided into Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies and each District and Constituency is entitled to electing one person each to the Senate and House of Representatives respectively. In total we have 109 seats for Senate members and 360 for members of the House of Representatives.

The first step in the process of enacting new laws is Bill Initiation which involves drafting the proposed bill and sponsorship by either the executive or a member of the legislature. The major stakeholders and other processes involved in passing a new bill are discussed below:

The Executive
A quick history of successful bills passed by the National Assembly since 1999 shows a majority of these bills were first proposed by the executive arm of government. The draft bill is usually put together based on a directive by the President or it originates from one of the MDAs (Ministry, Department, Agency) of the Federal Government. In either case, the bill bears the signature of the President and it is usually submitted to both houses for their consideration.
In addition to being able to play the role of a bill sponsor, the executive is also the last stop for all bills that have been passed by the National Assembly. Based on Nigeria's law-making process, the National Assembly is expected to send bills passed on the floor of the houses to the President for his/her assent and once the President signs, the bill effectively becomes law in Nigeria. 

The Legislative
When a bill is introduced before any of the houses, it undergoes a first reading and then committee consideration. After this, a second reading is held and the bill might be referred again to the appropriate committee. The committee is charged with debating the merits & demerits of the draft bill, organising public hearings so the general public and all interested persons/groups can come forward to make presentations and/or submissions on the content of the bill.

After this stage, the bill is read a third time on the floor of the house and following debates and amendments, a vote is taken. If majority of the members present vote in favour of the bill, then it has been successfully passed.

When a bill is passed by one of houses, it must be sent to the other house where it goes through the same process and after both houses have passed the bill, it is then sent to the President for his assent.

Should the President delay or refuse assent (veto) the bill, the Assembly invoking its powers may pass the law by two-thirds of both chambers and overrule the veto and the President's consent will not be required.

Civil Society & General Public
Civil society are often involved from the very beginning of initiating and drafting a bill for a specific cause or issue. This could be because no law exists to deal with the issue, the current laws are outdated or were passed by the military thus not enforceable in a democratic governance system.

Civil Society organisations or individuals on their own can draft a bill and seek sponsorship from a member of the Senate or House of Representative since only a member of the National Assembly can introduce a bill on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives. When public hearings are called by the committees of the National Assembly, private citizens can make submissions either as individuals or groups with the aim of showing strong support for the bill or influencing the content of the bill before it is passed into law.

Other avenues for this group to participate directly in the law-making process is by engaging members of the National Assembly and the executive in order to make them aware of the stand and views of the electorate on the bill being debated.

In a bid to sensitize and involve the general public in the process of advocating for comprehensive Tobacco Control (TC) laws compliant with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a social media policy change campaign will be officially launched in Lagos, Nigeria on August 21, 2013.

By the end of the launch, we will let you know all the different creative and exciting avenues in which you can help protect the health of present and coming generations of Nigerians from the scourge of tobacco smoke.

Meanwhile, we urge you to lend your voice to this campaign & join us NOW by signing up as a Tobacco Control Cause Champion. Simply send your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone No and 4) Location to info(at) Signing up will get you a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus' picture.
You should also actively participate in the discussions presently ongoing on the following social media platforms:
- Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
- Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
- Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle
- 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Would you Buy This? (Pt.3)

 Have you tried holding a pack of Benson and Hedges in your hands? I still remember visiting the mallam’s kiosk to inquire about the price of cigarettes and I was able to get an empty pack from him. Holding the pack almost made me feel like I had just won a trophy. The pack is plated in gold and the edges are perfectly folded. When you lift the partially detachable lid along the slant divide by the sides, the word that best describes what you sight is - Flawless.

I can say that what I held in my hand was designed to be comely and attractive. An addictive product packaged attractively and with comeliness will win the heart and mind of its users and effortlessly record new converts. Without a doubt, no responsible and concerned Nigerian citizen would want to have a product proven to be the world’s leading cause of preventable death to be so gracefully packaged and presented to the general public but sadly, that is what is currently obtained in our country.

Nigeria had actually made some major attempts at regulating the tobacco industry in order to discourage the deadly act of smoking. The most notable one was in 1990 when the TobaccoSmoking (Control) Act was enacted and it is as a result of this law that cigarette packets now bear the amount of tar and nicotine contained in them. The law also got us familiar with these sentences-  
  •  “The Federal Ministry of health warns that tobacco smoking is dangerous to your health”
  • “Smokers are liable to die young”

The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) went a step further in August 2011 when it banned the advertising or promotion of tobacco products on television and restricted advertisement in print, billboards and on radio. Although the move was opposed in some quarters which led the council to extend the deadline for enforcing the ban from January 1, 2001 to January 1, 2004, the ban is largely in effect across the country today. I guess the APCON ban explains why the jingle "Siga Target o, na wa, siga target o na super" ceased on radio and why Golden Tones concerts have long stopped paying the bills in Nigeria’s showbiz industry.

It will interest you to know that the African continent has been recording increase in smoking rate (4.7% annually) while other parts of the world such as North America and Western Europe are seeing notable decrease in smoking prevalence. This shows we need to institute stronger measures that will produce the much desired results of 0% increase in new adopters and decline in number of people who smoke. 

We believe these desires and even more can be met through enactment and enforcement of the new proposed National Tobacco Control Bill that requires among other provisions that all cigarette packs bear clear health warning messages and/or labels covering 50% of the pack’s display area (The health warning on packs at present only coversapproximately 30% of the front and 40% of the back). In addition, the new law will also empower the Minister of Health to prescribe that these warnings should be in form of pictures or pictograms.

Based on this, cigarette packs might be looking like any of the pictures below.

 Now, how many people do you think you will be enticed into buying this product with their money?

You can join our campaign to ensure a smoke-free Nigeria by signing up as a Tobacco Control Cause Champion. Simply send your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone No and 4) Location to info(at) Signing up will get you a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus' picture.
You should also actively participate in the discussions presently ongoing on the following social media platforms:
- Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
- Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
- Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle
- 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

Would you buy this? (Pt.2)

Would you Buy This?