By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
Stakeholders in the public health sector have collaborated to earmarked Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) tax for public health financing and framework towards the sustainability of the tax.
Speaking at a recent one-day Inter-Agency Capacity Building Meeting on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)tax in Abuja, the Director/Head, public Health Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Alex Omohudu, explained that the institution of the SSB tax has been identified as the most effective way of reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, consequently reducing the incidences and prevalence of NCDs.
According to her, it is to this effect that the government introduced a 10 naira per litre excise tax on all sweetened beverages in the 2021 Finance Act.
“We believe that this is a step in the right direction towards achieving the global best practice of excise tax of at least 20% of the final retail price on all SSBs products. “This tax is to be earmarked for public health interventions towards the prevention and control of NCDs”.
“In an effort to accomplish its mandate, the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCD Division of the Public Health Department has continued to engage relevant stakeholders and this is why we are here today to address the misconceptions that abound concerning the SSBs tax.
She noted that, “Nigeria has lost a lot of money annually to loss of productivity due to Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and incur cost on treatment and management of these chronic diseases”.
She said: “An estimated 38.6 million litres of soft drinks are sold daily in Nigeria making us the 4th highest soft drink consuming country in the world. “The drinks are marketed in such a way that customers believe that they get better value when they buy the bigger bottles of soft drinks, leading to overconsumption.
“Of particular concern is the trend of overconsumption among Nigerian adolescents which can lead to childhood obesity and negative health consequences in adulthood. NCDS threaten progress towards the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development which includes reducing the probability of death from any of the four NCDS between ages 30 and 70 years by2030”, Dr. Okoh stated.
She said a multi-agency collaboration is necessary to ensure the long-term implementation and sustainability of the SSBs tax. “The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to working with relevant MDAs and NGOs to ensure sustainable implementation of the SSB tax, efficient utilization of revenue generated towards public health and periodic monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the tax”, she said.
Also speaking, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said this Inter-Agency Capacity Building meeting serves as a platform for us to foster partnerships and collaborations of stakeholders across various government agencies, sectors, and departments to maximize our collective impact and bring about sustainable implementation for the SSB tax including earmarking the revenue generated for health initiatives.
He emphasized that, as advocates, we recognize the urgent need to implement effective measures to address this growing public health crisis.
“The Federal Government through the Finance Act 2021 began implementation of a N10 per litre tax on non-alcoholic and sugar-sweetened beverages in June 2022, a commendable effort in a bit to reduce the prevalence of NCDs associated with sugary drinks, which various researches shows contributes to about 39% of the total deaths, annually”.
Similarly, in his paper presentation, Executive Secretary, Osun Health Insurance Agency, Adeniyi Oginni noted that, most of the risk factors of NCDs lie outside health and we all need to come together to reduce the burden of NCDs in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Research Associate, Center for the Study of the Economic of Africa (CSEA), Austin Iraoya, who said, the advantages of earmarking SSB Tax are countless. “It increases the fiscal space for health and makes funds available for targeted interventions in addressing NCDs among many others”.