By Naomi Uzor
The British American Tobacco (BAT) hasÂ said that it paid N89 billion taxÂ as revenue to the federalÂ government between 2001 and 2009.
Speaking at a media interactive session with top management of BAT at their corporate office in Victoria Island, the Corporate/Regulatory Director, Nigeria, Mr Alistair Hide, Chris Osinubi Gbenga Ibikunle disclosed that the company has made over N600 billion from export earnings.
According to the management team, the company has 850 direct employees and about 300 part-time workers in which 87 per cent of them are Nigerians in its list, adding that over 800 tobacco farmers, 1,000 distributors and 1,039 suppliers are also in the companyâ€™s register.
They stated that BAT is in Nigeria rural areas empowering tobacco farmers whom they say the company has granted N218 million interest free loan facilities which is a form of poverty alleviation inj support of the federal government seven point agenda.
According to them the BAT foundation set up and funded by setting aside one per cent of the companyâ€™s annual profit has 78 ongoing projects in 34 of the 36 states in the federation. They said before the year runs out, the other two state, Bornu and Bayelsa will join the beneficiary states of the foundation goodwill.
The BAT team â€œOur companies buy some 390,000 tonnes of tobacco leaf a year, around 80 per cent of it by volume from farmers and suppliers in emerging economies. We aim to ensure that we only purchase leaf from responsible and sustainable sources.
Our social responsibility in tobacco production programme addresses the social and environmental issues associated with tobacco growing and precessing, and reaches more than 300,000 farmers who supply all the leaf we buyâ€
The company claims thatÂ they fight illicit trade in tobacco, which is a major and growing problem worldwide by ensuring that they have tight control over whom they supply tobacco to.
â€œWe have specialist teams who work with law enforcers to gather and share intelligence and our company has signed agreement with customs authorities in some 35 countries to formalise the joint effort against illicit trade, based on coordinated action and shared intelligence, we destroy our used manufacturing equipment to prevent it from finding its way into criminal hands and all our products carry authentication device, so that counterfeits can be identified and enforcement agencies can seize them.
It is critical that governments establish workable tax regimes that do not create the conditions for illicit trade, along with strong border controls and effective laws. We also belief that if governments take tobacco regulation to extremes, such as minimising contact with legitimate industry, forcing tobacco products â€˜under the counterâ€™ in the shops or demanding thatÂ tobacco packaging is plain or unbranded, they could make the illicit trade even worse by driving more consumers into the hands of illicit trafficke
On the issue on how they market, the company says modern tobacco marketing is driven by an excellent understanding of the consumer and by sticking to fundamentals appropriate to the challenging product category.
â€œWe have re-defined our way of marketing for much more focused, narrowed channels, with tight standards for age verification and we work hard to ensure that our product brand communications are aimed at adult tobacco consumers. Trade marketing is a large part of our activity, managing business-to-business relationship with the retailers from whom our consumers buyâ€.