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June 14, 2024

Reps, NAFDAC resolves to lift ban on sale of sachet alcohol

sachet alcohol

By Gift ChapiOdekina, Abuja

The House of Representatives and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have resolved to lift the ban on the sale and consumption of sachet alcoholic beverages pending when the manufacturers can adjust to the reality and the economy stabilize.

The deputy spokesman of the House, Philip Agbese stated this while briefing journalist in Abuja.

Recall that NAFDAC had banned the production of beverages in small sachets and bottles for reasons not unconnected with the prevailing cases of drug abuse in the country, especially by some young Nigerians.

The House of Representatives had also on February 7, 2024, mandated its committee on the NAFDAC to probe the circumstances surrounding the ban imposed on the production of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles in Nigeria by the agency.

Following a motion moved on the floor of the Green Chamber by members Paschal Agbodike and Philip Agbese during the plenary session.

According to Agbese, the resolution to temporarily lift the ban was arrived at after a meeting between the House Committee and NAFDAC officials.

He said “We all agreed at the meeting that at a certain stage in history, we must move on with our counterparts across the globe. Nevertheless, at the moment, we agreed with NAFDAC that there would be a temporary lifting of the ban until the economy regains its strength.”

Speaking on how the decision was arrived at, Agbese who represents Ado/Ogbadigbo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency, Benue State said, “Recall that there was a motion before the parliament to investigate the activities leading to the ban placed by NAFDAC on the use and sale of sachet beverages in the country. The parliament in its wisdom delegated the House Committee on NAFDAC led by Hon Regina Akume to investigate the matter and report back to the parliament. The committee did carry out its legislative function as mandated by the parliament.

“We had engagements with stakeholders including NAFDAC and the organized private sector involved. Resolutions were reached at that meeting based on the submissions made by the stakeholders, civil society organisations and other interested parties. Part of the recommendations before the parliament was that the ban was not timely given the current economic realities and coupled with the fact that the five-year moratorium granted by NAFDAC to the private sector, the advent of COVID-19 and other economic realities we are facing today did not permit the operators in the industry to comply with their terms.”

“After that, the parliament in its wisdom adopted the House Committee Report as a whole. Following the questions we received yesterday (Thursday) after the final meeting we had with the leadership of NAFDAC headed by Prof Mojisola Adeyeye; we all agreed as a government, parliament at one end and the executive in charge of that agency to, in the interest of the masses of our country and the mood of the nation, that the ban be suspended.”

The lawmaker noted that by in July, the modalities for the removal of the ban would be made public, saying, “We agreed that in July, we will meet and she (NAFDAC’s Director General) would have worked out the modalities for the temporary removal of the ban.”

Fielding questions from journalists on the sideline of the briefing, Agbese rejected the notion that the lifting of the ban could result in a spike in the health risk occasioned by the sale and consumption of alcohol in small sachets.

He said, “If you pick up a packet of cigarettes, you will see on it the inscription that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health. This warning is expressed this warning in diverse languages, yet, people still buy cigarettes to smoke. It is within people’s fundamental human rights to decide what they consume, especially adults who can make their own decisions.

“The health implications of consuming sachet drinks, when people consume the same content in bottles, I think to be very mild, is hypocritical.”

He further stressed that part of the agitation against the ban came from low-income earners who believed that their fundamental human rights were breached by NAFDAC.

“Part of the presentations we received in the course of the briefing is that those who earn lower income raised the issue of fundamental human rights, discrimination, harassment and victimization. If it is within people’s right to go to the supermarkets and buy choice loaves of bread with butter, we should in the same manner allow people to be able to afford their Agege bread.

“We are now on the same page with NAFDAC. The health implication was not the reason the ban was placed. As for children consuming sachet drinks, what about codeine and other cough syrups being consumed by the children of the rich? These things are still sold in pharmaceutical shops. They are still there and nobody has placed a ban on them. This is one policy of government that was targeted at the poor,” Agbese lamented.