MAN: Banning Spirit Drinks in Sachets, Will Endanger 500,000 Jobs, Hurt Billions of Naira Investments

MAN: Banning Spirit Drinks in Sachets, Will Endanger 500,000 Jobs, Hurt Billions of Naira Investments

•Groups, labour leaders stage protest at National Assembly, Lagos Assembly

Raheem Akingbolu, Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has raised concern over the recent ban imposed on the production of spirit drinks in sachets and PET bottles of less than 200ml by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in order to protect underage persons’ consumption of alcohol.

This was just as scores of civil society groups labour leaders yesterday besieged the National Assembly and the Lagos House of Assembly, to protest against the ban of the alcoholic beverages in sachet by NAFDAC.

MAN in a statement issued yesterday, titled: “The Enforcement of Ban on Production of Alcoholic Beverages in Sachets and Less Than 200ML PET Bottles on February 5, 2024,” stated that the move would endanger over 500,000 jobs and hurt hundreds of billions of Naira investments in that sub-sector by foreign and local investors. 

 The Director General of MAN, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, stated that the key challenges in implementing strategies to eliminate underage drinking in the country was the apparent preoccupation of NAFDAC to ban the production of drinks in sachets and PET bottles by 2024, which was at variance with the right of private entrepreneurs to invest and engage in legitimate business.

Ajayi-Kadir said: “Besides, the proposed policy would amount to a deliberate destruction of the business of local and indigenous investors who through thick and thin have kept faith with the Nigerian Economy.

“They have continued to invest and reinvest at enormous cost in the economy and in the Nigerian people who are the bulk of its nearly 500,000 workforce.

“This is in spite of the daunting challenges that businesses have faced in the difficult times, which if we must emphasise, has led to several companies closing down and foreign investors leaving the country.

“We are convinced that this present administration‘s Renewed Hope Agenda will not be best served with this ban. If the administration is committed to encouraging and strengthening local investors, then this ban should give way to access control.”

He said that one would have expected that NAFDAC should allow due process of full legislative hearings by the appropriate House committee to take place, so that relevant stakeholders could be engaged and the public would know the factual, expert and well-informed opinions.

“Also, the Ministerial Technical Committee (MTC) should be allowed to complete its work. It is important to know that the industries have invested hundreds of billions of Naira not only in the business, but overtime in packaging and distribution.

“Most of the huge investments are backed by enormous indebtedness to both foreign and local financial institutions.

“It should also be borne in mind that prior to the investment made by the companies, in the packaging, distribution, logistics and advertisements of their products, the necessary approval were obtained thus prompting them to make said investments. This is what the ban is going to wreck for no justifiable reason.

“It must be explicitly stated: moderation and responsible drinking promote good health. Small is good, if you buy small you will consume small. If you buy big you will consume big, this is not healthy.

“Bigger sizes encourage consumption of bigger portions, while small sizes encourage portion control. If you take away small sizes, you are encouraging excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages.

“To go ahead with the policy based on perceived danger, without empirical information and not minding the consequences, is unfair to the industry operators, the thousands of workers that will lose their jobs and inimical to Nigerian economy,” Ajayi-Kadir argued.

The manufacturers’ association also prayed that government should intensify its activities and support in the form of access control and tighter regulations, “but definitely not ban, which will be counterproductive.”

It pleaded that, “the ban be reversed immediately and replaced with regulations and access control such as establishment of licensed liquor stores/outlets by local governments across the country; requiring suspected underage persons to show I.D to purchase alcoholic beverages as practiced in some other climes; tightening enforcement by law enforcement agencies; increased monitoring and compliance checks by NAFDAC, FCCPC and others to ensure strict product quality in terms of content and safety.”

The manufacturers’ association noted that going back in time when NAFDAC first proposed the ban, critical stakeholders including key members of Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) raised concerns in a letter dated November 6, 2018, which necessitated that NAFDAC, as part of getting the true position on the matter, engaged an independent research agency, Research Data Solution Limited.

The agency, which submitted its report to NAFDAC on August 20, 2021, recommended recommended access control by the regulator rather than outright ban; given the fact that only 3.9 per cent of underage are engaged in binge drinking.

The MAN observed that this has confirmed the fact that involvement of underage in alcoholic consumption is low and could, with additional efforts, be eradicated.

Meanwhile, scores of civil society groups, yesterday besieged the National Assembly, to stage a protest against the ban.

Tagged, ‘Let The Poor Live’ the protesters were led by the Coalition Against Economic Saboteurs.

Spokesperson for the coalition who was also the main Convener, Adam Matazu, also called for the immediate sack of the NAFDAC DG Prof. Moji Adeyeye, for her alleged anti-people policies.

The groups lamented that the new policy would further pile more problems on the Nigerian economy as it may lead to the eventual shutdown of the industries producing these products.

They further decried that Adeyeye is being used by multinationals to destroy small businesses in our local production and companies.

Matazu said, “Today, we address a matter of grave concern, the recent decision by the Director General of the NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, to ban the sale of beverages in small sachets.

“We view this policy as a direct assault on the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians, a move that will not only put countless citizens out of work but also exacerbate the existing problems of insecurity and unemployment in our nation,” Matazu said on behalf of the groups.

“We strongly condemn this ill-thought-out policy, which seems disconnected from the realities faced by the ordinary Nigerian citizens.

“NAFDAC leadership abandoned their core responsibility of focusing on issues that truly threaten the well-being of our people, such as the inflow of fake and substandard drugs, we find the Director General choosing to target a sector that provides employment for many Nigerians and serves the needs of millions of families.

“Professor Moji Adeyeye’s tenure at NAFDAC has, regrettably, been marked by a series of disappointments and failures to deliver the desired results.

“Rather than ensuring the safety of our food and drugs, we have witnessed a surge in counterfeit beverages, creating a pervasive doubt about the authenticity of what our citizens consume,” he added.

Another speaker, Ben Omale, also called on all stakeholders to unite against the leadership of Adeyeye.

He said, “We demand her immediate suspension from office by the President in order to avert further damage to our economy, job losses, and business closures.

“It is imperative that NAFDAC should be led by someone who prioritises the real issues affecting our nation’s health and economic stability.”

In Lagos, labour and trade unions under the aegis of; Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, Food and Beverages, Tobacco Senior Staff Association Manufacturers Association of Nigeria yesterday, took their protests to the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa.

On Tuesday, the trade unions were at the Lagos office of NAFDAC to address staff and members of public on the implications of the ban on the labour market.

Yesterday’s procession which was attended by representatives of companies and workers, began at Ikeja under bridge with chants of solidarity songs through Awolowo Way, Allen Junction, to the Secretariat with placards showing various inscriptions that spoke to their opposition to the ban. Some of the inscriptions read; ‘Let Alcoholic Beverages Workers Breathe’,’NAFDAC DG is Working for Foreign Companies ‘, ‘NAFDAC is Working Against the Poor’ among  others

Speaking at the entrance to the LSHA,the Vice Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Lagos Chapter, Comrade Emmanuel Edoghe, reiterated the need for NAFDAC to rescind its decision on the ban of the premium alcoholic drink and sachets considering the huge investment made by the companies and the existing purchasing power of the people.

He said, “The same NAFDAC that moved into our various food and beverages companies producing premium alcoholic drink and sachets is the same NAFDAC that gave us the licence to produce the well-blended and refined drinks which were not done in the backyards.

“We bought the machines and materials certified by Standards Organisation of Nigeria(SON). The complaint was that children and taxi drivers are taking the drinks but they did not consider the purchasing power of the public because the economy of Nigeria is tense at this time.

“Now, they shutdown factories and about five million workers are going to be out of job, directly and indirectly.”

Edoghe, further said the nation still combats insecurity and would be a double jeopardy to have more people join the idle groups.

He urged the parliament to join its voice with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to consider the wellbeing of the workers especially with the mantra of Renewed Hope of the current President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Branch Secretary,  Food, Beverages Tobacco Senior Staff Association(FOBTOB), Anthony Oyagha,  in his speech stated that the reason for the ban was illogical and could be suspicious going by the opportunity cost.

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