• Senate committee holds public hearing
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Stakeholders in the Nigeria’s food and beverage industry yesterday vowed to resist federal government’s 500 per cent increase in the tariffs paid by local distillers of beverages.
The stakeholders, which include the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN), Association of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employers of Nigeria ( AFBTEN), National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE)etc , unanimously opposed the excise tariff hike in their separate submissions made before the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Senator John Enoh.
The committee, in line with resolution of the Senate in May, organised a public hearing on the “urgent need to review the excise tariff increment in order to save local distillers of beverages from looming extinction” .
The various stakeholders at the hearing said the proposed policy anchored on recommendation to that effect by Tariff Technical Committee ( TTC), would if allowed to be implemented, run affected manufacturers and producers out of business and render millions of Nigerians jobless .
On his part, Chairman of DIBAN , Patrick Anegbe lamented that if the policy is allowed to see the light of the day, N420billion worth of investment would be ruined, aside 250,000 workers to be laid off , adding that £12million worth of investment by Guinness Nigeria Plc would be jeopardised, along with collateral damages of thousands of Nigerians that would end up in the labour market .
Mike Olanrewaju who represented the NLC emphasised that the increase in excise tariff is suicidal and must not be implemented .
According to him, the proposed policy is dead on arrival since the labour and other critical stakeholders were not consulted .
“ One of the strategies expected from any responsible and responsive government in preventing crime and fighting poverty is job creation and not job losses, through outrageous and outlandish tariff hike that would collapse industries and by extension , render millions of Nigerians jobless.To us in the labour sector , capital No! to such tariff increase and if any increase is to be made at all, it should not be above one digit,” he said. .
“The proposed increase is counterproductive and would be resisted by all stakeholders because after Dunlop, Micheline and others, we don’t want any industry to collapse or relocate out of the country again “, he said .
Also speaking, Director-General of MAN, Mr. Segun Kadiri, admitted that the Ministry of Finance and the TTC , consulted MAN while working on the proposed tariff hike but the rate agreed upon on the basis of revenue generation by government was not what the ministry eventually came out with.
On her part, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in a submission sent to the public hearing said the 500 per cent tariff hike was agreed upon by all stakeholders, before the ministry issued circular to that effect in February.
“Protests and petitions trailing the circular since then from concerned stakeholders are to us, unfortunate”, she said .
The committee at the end of the hearing, assured the stakeholders of its readiness to look into the policy by collaborating with the executive on the needed downward review .
Earlier in his opening remarks, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who represented the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said : “The major source of concern is the non inclusion of primary stakeholders in the industry such as Manufactures Association of Nigeria, Distillers and Beverages Association in the consultation process that prompted the decision of the executive arm of government to increase the tariff rate of the affected products”.