Editorial

Excise duty on carbonated drinks, other non-alcoholic beverages

The Federal Government has decided to impose a N10/litre excise duty on carbonated drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages because they are seen by government as being a major cause of diabetes, considered to be a key factor leading to the deaths of many Nigerians.

 

The plan has elicited reactions from Nigerians in different sectors of the country’s national life. Some have thrown their weight behind the plan saying that the FG should stop at nothing to neutralize or even kick out diabetes from the shores of the country. Others have frowned at the proposal on the grounds that it would add to the financial burden of Nigerians.

 

New Telegraph is full of appreciation to the Federal Government for its demonstrable responsibility and responsiveness in the face of diabetes-induced deaths among some Nigerians. If eventually introduced, the excise duty is likely to help discourage the consumption of sweet products considered to be partly responsible for diabetes.

 

Such intervention will, no doubt, help preserve and enhance the health status of Nigerians especially those in the habit of consuming sugary products. However, much as we align ourselves with any intervention to help liberate more Nigerians from the killer-grip of diabetes, New Telegraph is disturbed that the proposed excise duty will likely increase the cost of production which may lead to an upward review of the prices of soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages.

 

This will likely result in a further whittling down of the purchasing power of the populace and job-losses due to the closure of production plants.

 

The four-layered disadvantages will predictably continue to have dire consequences on the nation’s economy that is already gasping for air, despite unsubstantiated claims of improvement by some FG’s apologists.

 

We are at pains to remember a major industrialization setback in Africa’s most populous country in the past when the FG, in what was regarded as flawed economic reasoning, slammed excise duties on motor vehicle tyres produced in Nigeria. This singular action shot the cost of production and upped the prices of tyres with motorists subjected to paying more.

 

Some of the factories manufacturing motor vehicle tyres folded up as Nigeria became increasingly unfriendly and suffocating to businesses and resumed production in neighbouring Ghana, where amidst a pocketfriendly cost of production, they produced tyres for export to the Nigerian market.

 

With a rise in unemployment, more Nigerians would become desperate to find alternative means of livelihoods. Some of them are likely to find sojourn in unlawful activities thereby swelling the army of syndicates continuously unleashing assault, thuggery, rape, arson, violence, terrorism and abduction on the populace.

Acknowledged, the wouldbe excise duty has the prospect of becoming a major source of revenue for an Executive Branch of Government that is latching on all available opportunities to raise funds to implement its farewell budget, described in some quarters as bogus and unrealistic.

 

The referred gain is voided by the perceived illogicality of generating funds from a deeply suffering and agonizing population and such people could go to any length to undermine the lawful conduct of activities in Nigeria.

 

New Telegraph enjoins the Federal Government to back down from its proposed imposition of excise duty on soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages as it is likely to deepen the perceived distrust between the government and the people, especially when it concerns how monies are being generated and spent. The Federal Government should instead channel its limited resources into promoting health literacy so as to key into healthier lifestyles.

 

This will enable the populace to know what to eat, when to eat and how to eat. Health literacy will also help people to know what to avoid, without having to slam an excise duty that will expectably produce catastrophic consequences on the polity.

 

It should be pointed out that while consumption of sugary products poses a health risk, the low presence of sugar or carbohydrate in the body of a human being produces the same hazardous consequence.

 

This further strengthens the argument about the relevance of health literacy which will help sensitise the populace about regulated consumption of sugary or sweet products To make a success of health literacy, both the traditional and modern mass communication should be deployed into operation.

 

The Theories of Mass Communication especially the Libertarian and the Social Responsibility Theories of Mass Communication, probably the two chief scholarly drivers of media practice in Nigeria, should be articulated and dissected for the appreciation of all those involved in the use of traditional and modern mass communication to actualise health literacy.

 

The bottom-top approach, which emphasizes that the grassroots should be the first port of call in the aggregation of facts to be disseminated, should be emphasised.

This approach will help confer legitimacy on the health literacy to be carried out thereby resulting in the populace exhibiting a high level of compliance with the health tips.

Effective and efficient health education done in English and indigenous languages and at all levels of the agents of socialisation including all educational institutions will expectedly result in a win-win situation for all, as a rising number of individuals strive harder towards preventive medication.

 

Excise duty is not what the FG should be thinking of slamming on soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages now, given the profound socio-economic dislocation such a tax will unleash on the people

 

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