Tobacco control activists led by the head of mental health division in the ministry of health and the focus spokes person of Tobacco Control Uganda, Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi have committed to drag the executive director of Uganda Free Zones Authority (UFZA) Richard Jabo to court, in case he fails to revoke the agreement giving out land measuring two hectares of land to Nilus Limited in Jinja district to enable it set up a 11 millon US dollar tobacco industry.
Dr. Ndyanabangi said that the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), the Tobacco advocates legal arm is to first write a legal opinion to the Executive Director of UFZA Richard Jabo, interesting him on how he awarded the land illegal since his action contravenes the Tobacco Control Act 2015 which prohibits any public servant from conniving with people in the tobacco industry or giving or receiving any incentive from the tobacco industry.
“Uganda free zone authority’ agreement with that tobacco company is null and void whether they did it knowingly or ignorantly. We shall first write a legal opinion to them, instructing them to withdraw the contract in addition to publishing it in press and once they fail to comply then we shall have no option other than prosecuting the Executive director individually since the law criminalize the organisation head not the organisation ” Said Ndyanabangi.
It should be noted that UFZA has been added to Ministry of trade, industries and cooperatives which also contravened the same act by declaring 2017 a tobacco growing year.
Tobacco control advocates emphasis that in case the two fail to abide by their legal opinions, they will be no other option other than prosecuting them.
The Tobacco control act 2015 was assented to by president Yoweri Kagutta Museveni on the 19th of August 2015 and came into force on the 19 may of 2016 but it was given a grace period of one year to be fully implemented, which ended on 18th May 2017.
The act banned favored tobacco like Shisha, kuber and electronic cigarette, bans smoking in public places, advertising of tobacco products, refrains any public official from dealing in whatever way with the tobacco industry and once found guilty is liable to a fine of not less than one million shillings, imprisonment not less than a year or serve both punishments.
The warning comes at a time when over 180 countries globally have adopted a similar law and when preparations for Uganda to join the rest of the world in commemoration of the world no tobacco day due every 31 of May are in high gear with this year’s theme being Tobacco affecting development.