On December 19, 2022, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) held a press briefing to alert the public of the tactics employed by the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) industry in Nigeria to misinform citizens of the intentions of the government to enforce a tax implementation on sugar-sweetened beverages in the country. The event drew the participation of public health experts, media representatives, and members of the SSB tax coalition, a group campaigning for the implementation of a sustainable tax framework on SSB in Nigeria.
Increasing medical reports and scientific research have suggested evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) contribute to the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. Accordingly, in December 2021, the Nigerian government imposed a N10 tax on all non-alcoholic and sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks produced and sold in Nigeria in a bid to lower citizens’ consumption of sugar and improve public health. This policy though for the benefit of citizens has continued to generate resistance from the carbonated industry including false claims that suggest that the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages will lead to job losses and impoverish citizens.
According to Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, who also spoke on behalf of the SSB tax coalition, the claims by the carbonated industry were totally false and misleading. He noted that the proposed N10 tax per litre of SSB even falls short of the World Health Organization’s recommended 20% tax on sugary drinks and thus could be less effective in achieving desired outcomes. He urged the federal government to not only enforce the current tax demands on identified drinks but also work to establish a sustainable legal framework for SSB in Nigeria in line with global benchmarks. In addition to the health benefits that the SSB tax would provide, Oluwafemi pointed out that it could also serve as a revenue generator for the development of public health infrastructure and systems in the country.
Dr. Francis Fagbule, a public health expert from the University of Ibadan, provided information about the types of drinks that fall under the category of SSBs, which include soda, juice, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, and more. He explained that these drinks are high in calories and offer no nutritional value, and their consumption can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Reducing the overall intake of added sugars, which are linked to a range of negative health outcomes is not only important in order to safeguard the body but also necessary to reduce the burden of diet-related health problems on the fragile healthcare systems in Nigeria.
Opeyemi Ibitoye, CAPPA’s SSB tax Project Officer, emphasized the importance of public education and awareness about the dangers of overconsumption of sugary drinks. She invited participants to join the SSB tax coalition and advocate for the tax and its sustainability.[spacer height=”25px”]
Barnabas Yahaya, a coalition member from Breakthrough Action Nigeria who joined the briefing virtually discussed the need for moderation in one’s lifestyle to prevent non-communicable diseases and other health issues linked to the consumption of SSBs.[spacer height=”25px”]
The meeting concluded with a call on government to CAPPA to remain committed to implementing a sustainable legal framework for addressing the health impacts of SSB consumption in Nigeria.