Lagos, Feb. 8, 2024: The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has expressed concern over the recent ban imposed on spirit drinks in sachets and PET bottles less than 200ml.
Director General, MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, made this known on Wednesday in Lagos, while reacting to the ban directed by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
According to the him, the ban is in line with an agreement reached by a tripartite committee set up in 2018 by the Federal Ministry of Health to stop production of alcohol in sachets and pet bottles of less than 200ml with effect Jan. 31, 2024.
The MAN Director General, however, stated that at the 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 Nov. 6, 2018.
He said that contents of the letter include the following, “the assertion that the segmentation or packaging of alcoholic beverages in sachets and PET bottles is responsible for the reported increase of alcohol use among the underage is unfounded.
Rather DIBAN was of the view that it is a reflection of a systemic problem of much wider ramifications;
“That attributing the alleged increase in the use of hard drugs to the production and sales of alcoholic drinks in sachets and small PET bottles is incorrect; (no scientific or other studies have proven this claim)
“That packaging and sales of alcoholic beverages in sachets and PET bottles has not been shown to be the reason for irresponsible use in terms of quantity, intoxication and other menaces;
“That this ban will certainly lead to black market or bootlegging, influx and proliferation of fake and adulterated products;
“It will also damage local manufacturing and negatively affect the economy, as well as the social well-being of the people of Nigeria.”
He added that notwithstanding its earlier objections immediately to the ban, DIBAN participated in the preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
He said the MoU was then signed with evident reservations on Dec. 18, 2018 between the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, CPC (now FCCPC) and Association of Food, Beverages, and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) and Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN).
“DIBAN immediately commenced extensive support for the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC to undertake the advocacy, messaging, training, education, and other roles assigned to the Committee that was formed.
“During this period, DIBAN spent over one billion naira as at December 2023 on various campaigns to ensure zero consumption of alcoholic beverages by the under aged and in promoting responsible use of alcoholic beverages among adults.
“Our campaigns involved heavy use of radio, billboards, and social media to propagate the Ministry of Health’s carefully crafted messages, which were designed to cause a behavioural change in consumers.
“Working with NAFDAC, we targeted young people below the age of 18, who are not allowed by law to drink alcohol at all, and even the adults who are allowed to drink must drink responsibly.
“In 2021, the Ministerial Committee set up a Technical Sub-Committee to address gaps that were noticed in its work and to ensure effectiveness of the Committee which meets twice every year,” he said.
Ajayi-Kadir said the ministerial committee and technical sub committee developed a strategic plan to engender collaborative effort at all levels to ensure that underage drinking is eliminated in the country.
He added that the plan also was to ensure that adults who drank did so responsibly while protecting and growing local industries.
“The committee was expanded to include Federal Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning, Federal Ministry of Information, National Orientation Agency, Federal Ministry of Education, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Customs Services.
“Others include Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and Civil Society Organisations including Faith Based Organisations were also included for better representation.
“NAFDAC as part of getting the true position on the matter engaged an independent research Agency – Research Data Solution Limited. The Agency submitted its report to NAFDAC on August 20, 2021.
“The report 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.
“This therefore confirms the fact that involvement of underage in alcoholic consumption is low and could, with additional efforts, be eradicated,” he said.
The MAN Director General said that there existed some challenges in implementing strategies to eliminate underage drinking in the country, which was the apparent preoccupation of NAFDAC to ban the production of drinks in sachets and PET bottles by 2024.
This, he said, was at variance with the right of private entrepreneurs to invest and engage in legitimate business.
Ajayi-Kadir said 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 five hundred thousand people 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.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Ajayi-Kadir urged the government to intensify its activities and support, in the form of access control and tighter regulations, but definitely not ban, which would be counterproductive.
He appealed that the ban be reversed and replaced with regulations and access control such as establishment of licensed liquor stores or outlets by local government councils across the country; “Suspected underage persons (under 18) should be required to show identity to purchase alcoholic beverages as practiced in some other climes.
“Tighten enforcement by law enforcement agencies and d) Increased monitoring and compliance checks by NAFDAC, FCCPC and others to ensure strict product quality in terms of content and safety,” he said.