On August 17, 2023, CAPPA hosted a South-East regional stakeholder forum in Enugu State to deliberate on strategies to promote and ensure the sustainability of the sugar-sweetened beverages tax (SSB Tax) in Nigeria. The meeting brought together Permanent Secretaries of State Ministries of Health, Directors of Public Health, and representatives of Chairmen of the Boards of Internal Revenue, as well as CSOs from Abia, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, and Anambra States.
In his welcome remarks, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA explained that the meeting was the fourth in a series focused on promoting the sustainability of the SSB Tax while also addressing the linkages between the consumption of SSBs and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Oluwafemi praised the Nigerian government for introducing the SSB tax and called for greater commitment and teamwork to fight NCDs through pro-health taxes for improved investments in the country’s public health and healthcare structures.
Delivering her goodwill message, Joy Amafah, the In-Country Coordinator for the Food Policy Programme at Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), stressed the importance of cohesive engagement between policymakers at the subnational level and the central government for a unified approach to sustaining the SSB tax.
Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, the Permanent Secretary of the Enugu State Ministry of Health, conveyed a warm welcome to participants during his opening address. Representing the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Prof. Obi Emmanuel Ikechukwu, he expressed appreciation to CAPPA for leading the SSB Tax advocacy. Dr. Agujiobi emphasized the critical nature of addressing the harmful impacts of SSBs and their correlation with NCDs.
The meeting featured presentations from public health experts who enlightened participants on the SSB tax and the effects of SSB consumption on human health.
Dr. Francis Fagbule, a Public Health Consultant at University College Hospital in Ibadan, addressed the burden of SSB consumption on public health, underscoring the extensive health risks tied to the excessive intake of SSBs. He advocated for increased taxes on SSBs and the availability of healthier alternatives. He also suggested that measures to promote public awareness of the SSB tax should encompass initiatives like front-pack labeling, enhanced public health awareness and grassroots engagements, and restrictions on sugary drinks in schools.
In his presentation, Dr. Adeolu Adebiyi, Senior Regional Advisor for Africa at Global Health Advocacy Incubator, emphasized the need to ensure the sustainable implementation of the SSB tax. The current tax, levied at 10 Naira per litre of non-alcoholic sugary beverages, is subject to yearly revisions under the Finance Act. Dr. Adebiyi expressed reservations about this arrangement, pointing out that it leaves the tax susceptible to policy shifts and potential challenges from beverage companies. He noted that it was far better and more productive to enact a dedicated legislation for health-oriented taxes rather than relying on the current arrangement outlined in the Finance Act. He also advised policymakers to develop robust monitoring and oversight systems to ensure that revenues generated from pro-health taxes are ploughed into developing public health systems.
Providing updates on CAPPA’s SSB tax interventions, Abayomi Sarunmi, CAPPA’s Programme Manager, informed participants at the meeting of the various activities undertaken by the organization to promote the SSB tax. He highlighted CAPPA’s strategic utilization of both online and offline volunteers to enhance the campaign, leveraging the digital space and surrounding community. This included activities such as digital media challenges like the “Sip Smart Challenge” and school outreaches, supported by CAPPA. Additionally, he acknowledged community mobilizations conducted in Lagos and Abuja, advocacy visits to policymakers and dedicated coverage in TV, radio, and print publications regarding the tax.
Austine Iraoye, a Research and Policy Expert dwelt on the Economic and Public Health Impacts of the SSB Tax. Iraoya argued that the current tax rate is insufficient and emphasized the economic impacts of NCDs and the necessity of a robust legislative framework.
The plenary discussions that followed the insightful presentations centered on more ways to ensure the long-term sustainability of the SSB tax. The meeting concluded with a communique for further policy engagement.