By Gabriel Ewepu and Ezra Ukanwa, ABUJA
A coalition under the aegis of National Action on Sugar Reduction, NASR, Friday, demanded Federal Government tackle noncommunicable diseases in the with monies generated through taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, SSB.
The demand was contained in a communique signed by the Coalition’s representative, Omei Bongos-Ikwue, after a meeting held in Abuja.
A member of the coalition and Advocacy Specialist, Shirley Ewang, said the next phase of the advocacy is to sustain the tax and increase it to a level that will produce a price change impactful enough to discourage excessive SSB consumption.
One of the recommendations in the communique called for increase of approved tax per litre from N10 to N30 on SSB products in order to discourage consumption of SSB products and reduce risks of non-communicable diseases in Nigeria.
He said: “For this reason, the coalition is advocating for a N30 per litre tax.
“The next [campaign] phase will include measures to ensure the earmarking of the funds as a health policy tool, more specifically, by ensuring that funds go towards curbing non-communicable diseases.”
A Public Health physician and health policy advocate, TalkHealth9ja, Dr Laz Eze, said, “It is important to note that the increase in the tax is a win in itself because the idea behind the tax is to increase the price of the commodity, which will make consumers buy less and therefore reduce consumption.”
However, Eze pointed importance of understanding that there is currently no law that mandates earmarking the funds as a health policy tool.
Meanwhile, raising concerns about tax revenue getting lost in government’s coffers, Vice President, Nigerian Cancer Society, Comrade Elijah, stressed the need and importance of developing a strategy for ensuring transparency in implementing the tax.
“There is a need to develop a mechanism to follow the money until there is legal backing for the earmarking of the fund as a health policy tool”, Elijah said.
Speaking on the next phase of the advocacy, a representative of Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Comrade Bernard, advised the coalition to take the advocacy to the opposition to ensure they properly understand the importance of the tax to Nigeria and Nigerians.