• Flays N10 per litre tax on non-alcoholic, carbonated beverages
To curtail the negative impacts of sugar consumption on Nigerians, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) organised a Webinar on November 21, 2022 with participants drawn from civil society, community based organisations, health advocacy groups, professional bodies and the media, among others.

The Webinar, which was held on the sidelines of the 2022 World Diabetes Day (WDD) marked on November 14 every year was to discuss Nigeria’s rising Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) burden and proffer workable solutions to the challenge.

Participants addressed Nigeria’s worsening public health challenges and the legal landscape for a sustainable pathway to significantly reduce the incidences of NCDs in the country.

In his welcome address, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, identified some of the health issues associated with excessive consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs), which include weight gain leading to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases, among others.

“Studies show that about 39 per cent of all deaths are related to NCDs, because of unhealthy lifestyles including diet (excessive consumption of sugar), and sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity). The launch of Nigeria’s multi-sectoral action plan 2019-2025 for the prevention of NCDs has a policy document that listed the cause of NCD as the consumption of sugar,” Oluwafemi said.

He explained that the Finance Act 2021 imposes a tax of N10 per litre on non-alcoholic and carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages, which he said, is lower than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended standard, insisting that that there was the need to ensure that the SSB tax is institutionalised, sustained, reviewed upwardly and earmarked for the health sector.

A public health consultant with the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Dr. Francis Fagbule, in his presentation on the Public Challenges of Nigeria’s Huge NCDs Burden, lamented the astronomical rise in Nigeria’s disease burden, which puts the increase in prevalence at 150 per cent.

Fagbule, however, expressed the need for more evidence generation to drive home the message of harms done by the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Nigeria. Dr Francis further noted that Nigerians must strive to know their health status while the CSOs continue raise awareness, and advocate for pro-health laws in the country.

On her part, Coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) in Nigeria, Joy Amafah, expressed satisfaction at the turnout of participants at the engagement, which she said, showed a cross-sectoral commitment to finding a lasting solution to Nigeria’s NCDs problem that is driven by the people.

On the need for a sustainable approach to combating NCDs, Amafah stated that there was the need for deliberate policy change through data-driven advocacy, legal framework and industry monitoring mechanism to discourage the industry and its allies from setting a public health policy agenda for the country.

In 2021, Nigeria introduced N10 per litre excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages produced and distributed in the country. The tax regime which only came into force in June 2022 has come under huge attacks from the producers of carbonated drinks and their allies. The industry has threatened shutdown of businesses at different times and have continued to use misinformation in the media to pit the public against the government in order to reverse the tax.

However, the N10 per litre tax is a far cry from the WHO’s recommended minimum 20 per cent increase in the final price of sugar-sweetened beverages as an effective way of combating NCDs.

Participants at the virtual meeting agreed on the need for sustained conversations to push for the policy changes required to achieve the set goals.

Executive Director of the Christian Initiative for Nation Building (CIBN) and Executive Secretary, Osun State Health Insurance Services, Dr. Adeniyi Oginni, who joined the Webinar from Cairo, Egypt, restated the need for the tax to be increased and properly earmarked for health interventions and urged the participants to collaborate and advocate as strong unit.

While launching the coalition, Oluwafemi disclosed that the participants would form the fulcrum of a coalition, as suggested by the participants and more organisations with the same campaign goals would be brought in to strengthen what he described as a ‘movement.’

Source: The Trumpet

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