By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
The National Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Coalition, has called on the Federal Government to increase the tax imposed on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, SSBs, to 20% minimum per final retail price.
The Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, made the call in Abuja on Wednesday during a press briefing, stressing that the current N10 per litre of SSB was insignificant, and had been absorbed by the industry.
It would be recalled that in 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria imposed a N10/Litre Excise Duty on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. The aim of the tax is principally to help reduce the overconsumption of SSBs which have links to more than 15 types of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
SSBs, popularly called Soft Drinks, have been confirmed by the World Health
Organisation (WHO) and other national and international health bodies, to have a hard-hitting impact on health, social, economic, and environmental well-being of consumers and communities. The tax covers different categories of sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages
and its implementation began in June 2022.
The Executive Director noted that overconsumption has been achieved in countries where the Tax has been effectively introduced and managed. “It has also helped to improve public health indices while also reducing some of the environmental problems caused by the indiscriminate disposal of SSB product packages.”
He reiterated that the beverages are non-nutritive and have no use in the body. “Hence, can be totally avoided for the good of everyone.”
He, therefore stated, “Having consulted across regions of the country, we assert unequivocally that the current tax of #10 per litre is insignificant as it has been absorbed by the industry.
“To achieve the desired impact of reducing consumption and lowering non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the tax should be immediately raised to a minimum of 20% of the final retail price of SSBs.”
“Rather than yielding to the producers of SSBs, the federal government should initiate a legislative process to ensure the sustainability of the tax, which can be adjusted for inflation and include provisions for earmarking.”
“The government’s fundamental duty to safeguard the public remains paramount, and the current administration must honour this social contract. All other SSBs not covered under the existing tax framework should also be encompassed.”
“In good faith, the government should start transparently accounting for the taxes collected and provide a breakdown of its expenditures.”
According to him, civil society groups have gone under attack for working to ensure that Nigeria institutes effective food policies that will reduce diet-related diseases in the country.
He further said that the manufacturers of SSBs have resorted to blackmailing the government with media campaign of misinformation, through the organized private sector and other groups.
He, therefore, urged media practitioners to be alert to deliberate misinformation coming from certain sections, “those working tirelessly to undermine the collective well-being of Nigerians through their daily attack on government pro-health initiatives aimed at promoting public health by weaning Nigerians off unhealthy diets, and unhealthy lifestyles.”