‘Government should establish a monitoring and evaluation and accountability framework to track the implementation and impact of the current SSB tax policy’
By Valentine Amanze
No doubt Nigeria’s population of about 200 million is being reduced by non-communicable deaseases as a result of over-consumption of sweetened sugar beverages (SSBs) and products.
The irony of it is that many are unaware of the dangers of excessive consumption of SSBs.
In 2021, the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) stated that total diabetes-related health expenditure in Nigeria grossed N745 billion, a nation, where many live below poverty line.
Health experts have also established that excessive consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) is associated with diabetes, cancer, a high risk of overweight and obesity in children, adolescents, adults and many others.
To reverse the trend worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017 recommended a 20 percent tax increase per litre of SSB.
Nigeria is one of the countries yet to implement the WHO recommendation, prompting Regional Stakeholders Forum on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax in Lagos on March 29, 2023.
The event, organized by Corporate Accountability and
Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), and the National SSB Tax Coalition, with the support of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), was an assemblage of prominent individuals and organizations including the
Nigeria Customs Service, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control
(NAFDAC), media representatives, nutrition-focused and public health Civil Society
Organizations, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) as well as state agencies such as the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Ministry of Health, Oyo State, Ministry of Health, Osun State, and the Osun State Health Insurance Agency.
They were unanimous on their opinion that Nigeria must adhere to the WHO recommendation on SSBs tax to save the nation.
The Executive Director, CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, set the ball rollig in his address, in which he lamented that overconsumption of SSBs had become a major source of concern globally.
He said that though the N10/litre Excise Duty in practice in Nigeria was welcomed, it remained a far cry from the WHO recommendation of 20% of the retail price of SSB products.
He was however optimistic that regional consultation would expand the discourse on tackling the public health impact of over-consumption of SSBs, galvanize stakeholders’ broader acceptance of SSB tax and explore options for sustainable public health
financing through SSB tax.
Akinbode was not alone in the advocacy.
Other experts including Iraoya Augustine of CSEA Africa, agreed that the time was rife for the Nigeria government to adopt the WHO standards on SSBs tax.
Besides, every stakeholders at the event, urged the government and policymakers to engage and collaborate with relevant stakeholders,
including civil society organizations, media institutions, and healthcare professionals to create public awareness of the health risks associated with SSB consumption and the benefits of the SSBs tax policy.
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They also appealed to the government to increase taxation on SSBs towards achieving 20% of the retail price as recommended by WHO.
Other recommendations to the government include:
. Establish a monitoring and evaluation and accountability framework to track the
implementation and impact of the current SSB tax policy.
. Government should implement complementary regulatory instruments like Front-of Pack Labelling, restricting the availability and marketing of SSBs in school environments
. Government should promote healthier alternatives to SSBs.
. SSB tax campaigners should target key constituents and allies such as education boards, school owners, religious leaders, Parents Teachers Associations, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Ministry of Education, National Health Insurance Authority, Hoteliers Association, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nurses and Midwives Association, supermarket associations, Small and Medium Enterprises
Development Agencies of Nigeria among others to stimulate increased public
. State authorities must work to champion the sustainability of the SSB tax in Nigeria by localizing research on the impact of SSB consumption within their respective states and
developing strategies to decrease consumption, thereby reinforcing the campaign for SSB taxation.
. There is a need for national legislation that advocates for the imposition of a pro-health tax.
. The Federal Government and regulatory authorities must design and enforce penalties for companies that default on SSB tax obligations.
. Government should earmark revenue generated from the SSBs tax to support and
strengthen public health systems in Nigeria.
. Government should ensure periodic review of the SSB tax which is indexed on inflation.
. Stakeholders should conduct further research and studies on the impact of SSBs consumption and taxation in Nigeria to inform evidence-based policymaking and intervention strategies.
. Encourage parents to teach children to appreciate the benefits of not consuming SSBs.
Recall that in 2022, CAPPA started the SSB tax campaign under its Public Health advocacy programme with the main objective of bringing stakeholders together with the intention of promoting sustainability of the SSB tax and its increase towards the 20% on final retail price as recommended by WHO.