The National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR), a coalition of public health organisations has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the proposed “pro-health” tax increase on sugary or soft drinks in the 2022 budget.
The coalition comprising Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Health Watch and civil society organisations made the commendation in Abuja on Wednesday in a statement jointly signed by Vivianne Ihekweazu, co-chair NASR and Managing Director, Nigeria Health Watch; and Comrade Bernard Enyia, co-chair NASR and Secretary-General, Diabetes Association of Nigeria.
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The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said during the Public Presentation and Breakdown of the Highlights of the 2022 Appropriation Bill that the government will increase “exercise duties on carbonated drinks in the 2021 Finance Act.”
The coalition said this is in line with their advocating for health and fiscal policy measures to combat the devastating impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria.
The coalition co-chair Vivianne Ihekweazu said, “The proposed increase in the taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages is a step in the right direction because it will enable revenue to be generated for public health programmes, especially those targeted at addressing the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”
Also, Comrade Bernard Enyia, the coalition co-chair, who a type 2 diabetes patient, said, “I was particularly excited when I read that the Minister of Finance has made it clear that there will be higher taxation on carbonated drinks by 2022. This will make funds available for the national response to non-communicable diseases. I believe that her promise will come to pass.”
The Finance Minister’s announcement comes after the House of Representatives considered a motion to formulate a tax policy on sugar-sweetened beverages in Nigeria.
The possible increase in soft drink taxes, which the Minister described as “work in progress”, aligns with the recently updated National NCDs Policy and Multisectoral Action Plan for the Control and Prevention of NCDs in Nigeria. The revised National NCDs Policy includes recommendations to enact new laws to increase taxes and excise duties on carbonated beverages.
In addition to the economic benefits of the tax, the coalition noted the positive effect this will have on the health of Nigerians.
They said that NCDs account for the deaths of one in three Nigerians and present a significant cause of premature death.