By Henry Uche
Following the Federal Government’s plan to introduce excise duty of N10 per litre on all non- alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages, industrialists, entrepreneurs, economists and others have raised concern on the decision.
To the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chambers of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) and others, the decision was not ideal. They asserted that the decision would cause job loss and other negative effects.
However, experts at the Nigeria Pro- Health Tax Webinar organized by Nigeria Health Watch (NHW), who spoke on the theme: “Does Nigeria Need Sugar Tax?” unanimously affirmed that the increase in the excise duty was a way forward.
They argued that it was useful in improving public health, reducing the consumption of such products (which has not been friendly to human health), reducing non-communicable disease so that Nigeria can enjoy universal health coverage and a revenue boost for the Federal Government.
Nevertheless, they warned that the revenue that shall be generated from the package must be judiciously plugged back into the health sector.
At the session, the experts implored Nigerians to see the long-term benefits since health is paramount for all human activities. They maintained that it was a good move for Nigeria to join other 66 countries to reduce sugar consumption saying that there has been tax increase in alcohol and tobacco already, all for the good of Nigerians.
The founder, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) Dr Pamela Ajayi, decried, “Nigeria does not produce nor process sugar, but we consume it more, thus reduction in consumption of this nature means a reduction in foreign exchange – a savings to Nigeria. But the taxes generated must be used for health Infrastructure, facilities and health insurance,” she said.
For the Minister of State or Health, Sen. Olurunnimbe Mamora, the increase in tax for the aforementioned products was just a tax imposed on pleasure. Saying, “It was a pleasurable tax and it’s the way to go, howbeit sustainability is the key and proper use of the pro -health tax,”
On her part, the kebbi State first lady and founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF), Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, gave the federal government thumps up, adding that countries which had earlier taken the same step were not losing revenue, therefore the decision would set Nigeria on a right part s health wise.
For the chairman, FATE Foundation and co-founder of GTB, Fola Adeola, transparency, accountability and thorough research which informed sound decision-making, planning and policy design are indispensable to achieve the desired goal.
From the session, it was gathered that Nigerians should see reasons to agree with the Federal Government in the decision to reduce the number of death owing to diabetes and other sugar-related diseases.