*Cautions against excessive consumption of carbonated drinks
The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has asked the federal government not to back down on the N10/litre excise tax introduced in the Finance Act, 2021 on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) tax across the country.
The SSB tax is being collected by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on behalf of the Federal Government. It came into force in June 2022. The tax was levied by the government on carbonated drinks and sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages produced, imported, distributed, and sold in Nigeria to ensure healthy living and discourage people from taking too many carbonated drinks.
The government took the step to safeguard public health because of the high calories consumed in SSBs. According to health experts, it leads to excessive weight gain because SSBs’ liquid sugar is easily absorbed into the body, which alters the body’s metabolism, affecting insulin, cholesterol, and metabolites that cause high blood pressure and inflammation and is linked to increasing rate of obesity and diabetes in the country.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, accused manufacturers of carbonated drinks of trying to arm-twist the government to back down on the tax. He said the 10 percent tax introduced by the government was far short of the 20 percent canvassed by the World Health Organisation.
He said “The carbonated drinks industry has been up in arms in the past five to six months using all kinds of tricks in their playbook to intimidate, threaten, and even manipulate the media against the policy. They have been recruiting young Nigerians on social media to discredit the pro-health tax, invested in countless faceless groups and allies, and embarked on media tours to intentionally churn out wrong statistics, and peddle false narratives to get the government to back down.”
Oluwafemi appealed to the government not to allow the manufacturers to make it change its mind on the introduction of the SSB tax. He observed that “Considering the dangers this portends for the country, not only in terms of health but also the financial implications and its effects on quality of life of the citizens, the government of Nigeria must be commended for taking this bold but difficult step.”
Also speaking, Dr. Francis Fagbure, a public health specialist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said the consumption of carbonated drinks has continued to pose clear dangers to the health of the populace and asked the government to do something about it. He said the introduction of the SSB tax was a good step in the right direction, adding that the government must make sure this is carried out, especially among pupils who are being lured with colourful drinks and candies which pose a future threat to their health and leads to obesity.
To press for the realization of this, the National Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Coalition, which is made up of over 30 non-governmental organizations and public health professionals across the country has asked the government not to succumb to cheap blackmail of the industry that places profit above the health of citizens.
The coalition asked the government to as a matter of urgency stand firm in the defence of the health of citizens by enacting the proposed 20 Naira /liter into law with immediate application from January 1, 2023. It added that beyond the yearly Finance Act process, the Federal Government should institute a sustainable legal framework for SSB tax with clear timelines for attaining the WHO recommended 20% of retail price as well as ensure that the SSB tax is dedicated to public health and embark on massive education of citizens on the dangers of overconsumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages.
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