The Regional Stakeholders Forum on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax for states of the Northwest Nigeria held on July 27, 2023, in Kaduna. The forum, which is the third in the series of engagements with policymakers, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organisations, and the media at the sub-national and regional level had participants from the seven states of Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara.
As a consensus building platform for the pro-health tax initiative of the government, the stakeholders forum exposed participants to the current issues surrounding the SSB Tax regime, dangers of overconsumption of SSBs, and the available policy pathways for sustainability and effective implementation of the SSB tax towards improved health outcomes for Nigeria.
The meeting also sought to cultivate a community of advocates for a sustainable increase in the SSB tax.
To welcome participants to the meeting, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) said the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the SSB Tax as a corrective measure to address the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria in 2021. He specifically appreciated the government of Nigeria for confronting the menace of SSBs consumption and said the coalition wants the government to immediately move the tax to 20% on the final retail price of SSBs per litre.
The representative of the Kaduna State Ministry of Health’s Permanent Secretary, Ms. Sakina Maikudi, declared the meeting open and urged all policymakers present to ensure that the deliberation at the forum is further reinforced across the state of the region to push the tax further in the policy stream.
The forum was structured into presentations and plenary sessions to help stakeholders and policymakers have an updated understanding of the issues of the tax. The presentations focused on Public Health Concerns of SSBs, Policy Pathway, and the Economics of SSB Tax.
In his presentation on ‘The Burden of SSBs Consumption on Public Health’ Dr. Francis Fagbule, a Public Health Consultant and Lecturer, University College Hospital, Ibadan, described the worrisome burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria. Fagbule noted that it is a public health concern and must be addressed in the most effective way. Referring to the inadequacy of relying solely on public awareness for reduction of SSBs consumption, he cited results of a cross-sectional study carried in Ibadan between January to March 2023 where 40% of the respondents said they consumed SSBs more than 3 days a week despite knowing the dangers inherent in consuming such products.
He established that the tax is the most effective tool available to reduce consumption and improve health outcomes noting that more than 83 countries of the world have recorded gains in their public health due to the tax.
To set the ball rolling for the plenary session which discussed ‘Policy Options for the Sustainability of the Tax’, Dr. Adeolu Adebiyi who serves as the Regional Policy Advisor, Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) led the conversation on ‘Policy Direction for a Successful SSB Tax Regime in Nigeria’. His session focused on the legal framework that will help public health advocates and the government of Nigeria achieve the most effective result through global best buys. He indicated that the design of such tax policies must not overlook the critical context of the country, especially the citizenry. Drawing samples from across the globe, the Public Health Policy Expert noted that the SSBs industry is only concerned with their profit and has no regard for the health of the public.
On the true cost of SSB consumption for individuals, families, and the country, Austine Iraoya, a Researcher and Economic Expert, spoke on ‘Economics and Public Health Impacts of SSB Tax’. Iraoya presentation established that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) result in decreased productivity of the affected individual, thereby reducing productivity of a country. He explained that SSB tax is a proven tool used to correct market failure and information asymmetry that led to the problem of over consumption of SSBs. While charging participants on their roles in ensuring that the incidence of NCDs due to consumption of SSBs is reduced, the economist said it is important for state representatives to step down the information shared from the regional consultation forum and to begin advocacy at different levels.
The regional meeting after a plenary session closed with a communique to strengthen its advocacy position alongside the National Sugar Sweetened Beverages Tax Coalition (NSSBTC). The communique, read by CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor, recommended that SSB Tax should be key on the agenda of the National Council on Health and that the Federal Government should increase taxation on SSBs towards achieving a 20% increase in the final retail price of targeted sugary drinks as recommended by WHO.