A court in Nigeria has adjourned a multi-billion
dollar lawsuit brought by the government against three major tobacco
firms until March.
The government is seeking $44bn in compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related diseases.
The firms are also accused of deliberately trying to promote smoking among young Nigerians.
The firms, British American Tobacco, Phillip Morris and International Tobacco deny all charges.
Lawyers representing Phillip Morris were not in the
Abuja court. Government lawyers said they had refused to accept their
The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says this lawsuit is likely to take quite some time.
The federal government case follows the decision of
Nigerian state governments to sue the tobacco firms for billions of
They hope to follow the model of states in the US, who sued big tobacco
in the 1990s and then settled out of court for billions of dollars.
Our correspondent says the actual amount sought in
compensation by the Nigerian government is considerably more than the
entire federal budget.
Cynics say the government has never spent anywhere near
that amount on health care - which is in a state of collapse because of
decades of mismanagement and corruption.
But anti-smoking campaigners and some civil rights groups have welcomed the decision to sue.
For decades, tobacco firms have been accused of
aggressively targeting Africa as a market, to offset the impact of
tougher anti smoking regulations introduced in the west.
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