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Stakeholders mull control mechanisms for reduction of sugary substances

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Health policy experts and government officials on Wednesday in Abuja, converged to discuss control mechanism to aid in the reduction of sugary substances.

According to the stakeholders, the action is needed to reduce the rise in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country.

They spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of a summit organised by Gatefield, in partnership with the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) Coalition and the World Bank.

A major stakeholder event aimed at advancing healthcare financing through pro-health taxes.

Dr Salma Anas, Special Adviser to the President on Health, said that NCDs were one of the highest contributors to death in the Nigeria.

Anas said that, though the country was not doing well in terms of health allocation, the priority of the present administration was to ensure that the health needs of Nigerians were catered for.

“A policymaker will not understand the issue of women dying while giving birth in Nigeria because they feel death is a natural thing.

“There is a need for continuous advocacy to share the challenges of health situations with them to improve health outcomes for all Nigerians,” she said.

The Founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF), Dr Zainab Bagudu, recalled that the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) tax was introduced in the country after much advocacy.

Bagudu said that there were various taxes used to strengthen different sectors in the country.

“So, SSB tax is the right step to generate funds for health system strengthening in the country.

“We expected the SSB tax revenue to be used to fund the health sector, but the funds have yet to be channelled to health.

“We must continue to advocate for SSB taxes to be allocated to the health sector,” she said.

Dr Adamu Umar, President, Nigeria Cancer Society, said that nearly one in three deaths in the country was a result of NCDs.

Umar said that chronic conditions such as cancer and type 2 diabetes were on the rise in the country.

“In 2021, Nigeria became one of the first countries in the region to implement an SSB tax, applying an exercise tax of N10 per litre to carbonated sweetened non-alcoholic beverages.”

“Nigeria’s current SSB tax stands at about 6.7 per cent which is not an effective tax rate.

“The government must tax SSBs at a high rate enough to achieve optimum health impact,” he stressed.

Dr Olumide Okunola, Senior Health Specialist, World Bank Group, described Nigeria as “a rich but poor country”.

Okunola said for any country to be able to provide meaningful services to its citizens, it must be able to raise at least 15 per cent of its GDP, but the country raises less than six per cent.

Prof Felicia Anumah, Director, Center for Diabetes Studies, University of Abuja, said that diabetes was an expensive disease, adding that prevention was the cheapest option to check it.

“People use more than 25 per cent of their income to manage Type 2 diabetes, ” she said.

She said that Since the early 2020s, as life expectancy increased the country began to see an increase in NCD prevalence, adding that there was a need to urgently address this.

Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) said that Pro-health taxes were a win-win for the government.

Oluwafemi said that the government would generate more income when they the consumption of things that can harm population health and promote the health outcome of people simultaneously.

Dr Pamela Ajayi, President of, the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), said that the country must subsidise health insurance to ensure that vulnerable people had access to healthcare.

Ajayi said that the country must look at programmes that improved health education and preventative health measures.

Dr Laz Eze, a public health physician, health policy and sustainable development advocate, said that the SSB was not an end but a means towards the end.

According to Eze, this conversation is crucial as it brings to bear why lifestyle modification is critical to preventing diabetes and other NCDs.

He said that it was important to emphasise that the increase in taxation on SSBs was just one step towards achieving the ultimate goal, which is drastic reduction in NCDs .

 

Ms Omei Bongos-Ikwue, Health Communication Specialist, Gatefield, said that there was a need for SSB tax policies to be designed to align with the primary objectives of the tax.

Bongos-Ikwe said that health taxes could serve to raise revenues to fund healthcare service provision or to shift behaviour and reduce the health harms of SSB consumption.

“SSB tax design must consider the type of tax and the tax rate.

“What considerations do policymakers and health authorities need to make when designing and implementing SSB taxes? What lessons can be learnt from other geographies?” she probed.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria is facing an increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease.

Majority of Nigerians pay out-of-pocket for health care; however, many patients, especially from low-income groups, cannot afford the rising cost of care.

NCDs like type 2 diabetes are chronic illnesses that usually last a lifetime, meaning that health expenses are recurrent.

Many NCDs are linked to lifestyle risk factors like physical inactivity and poor diets, including the consumption of SSBs.

According to experts, the rise in NCD prevalence is putting pressure on the health system and government spending on healthcare is low due to lack of funds allocated to healthcare.

The current administration has identified revenue generation as one of its key priorities; pro-health policies, such as SSB taxes, have proven to be valuable sources of revenue generation.

SSB taxes are recommended by global experts like WHO and work by raising the price of the product and discouraging consumption while raising revenue.

Nigeria’s SSB tax, which is currently 10 naira per litre, is abysmally low and falls below the regional average.

An increase in the SSB tax can provide increased revenue for the government, which can be used to finance healthcare.

There is a need for policies to ensure adequate healthcare financing and increased health investments that would amount to high returns in the form of better health and economic growth.

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Unknown Gunmen Abduct Channelstv Reporter In Port-harcourt

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Some unknown gunmen have kidnapped Joshua Rogers, the ChannelsTV reporter in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Politics Nigeria learnt that Rogers was picked up close to his residence at Rumuosi in Port Harcourt and to an unknown destination by the gunmen around 9pm on Thursday, April 11.

The reporter was driving his official ChannelsTV branded car when the hoodlums accosted, pointed a gun at him and took him away in the same vehicle.

 

Rogers was said to be returning from his official assignment in Government House after a trip to Andoni for a government event when the incident happened.

Already, the gunmen were said to have contacted his wife and demanded a N30million ransom for bis release.

His cameraman confirmed the incident and appealed to his abductors to set him free unconditionally.

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Sermons, Tinubu Appeals To Religious Leaders

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Bola Tinubu

 

President Bola Tinubu has called on religious leaders to refrain from vilifying or denigrating the nation in their sermons.

Speaking during Ramadan Iftar with traditional rulers and religious leaders at the State House on Thursday in Abuja, the President emphasized the important role of religious leaders in shaping public opinion and fostering a sense of unity among citizens.

He urged the leaders to be more constructive in their criticism of those in elective positions.

President Tinubu also declared that his administration is determined to turn Nigeria’s challenges into prosperity.

He reiterated that no terrorist can defeat the collective will of Nigerians, no matter how hard they try to prey on innocent citizens.

He urged traditional and religious leaders to forge a strong bond with the government to defeat terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other forms of criminality in the country.

”Yesterday in Abuja, I attended the burial of the 17 soldiers killed in action at Okuama, Delta State. I saw their pregnant wives and little kids.

”The love of the nation is in your hands. Pray for our country. Educate our children. The sermons we preach to the members of our churches and mosques are important.

”Do not condemn your own nation. As a Yoruba man and as our fathers will say, ‘No matter how slippery the bottom of your child is, you must leave the beads there.’

“Leave the beads there. This is your country; do not condemn it in sermons, do not abuse the nation. Leadership is meant for change.

”Yes, this leader is bad, fine. Wait until the next election to change him, but do not condemn your country. Do not curse Nigeria. This is a beautiful land.

The President, who acknowledged the birthday wishes and goodwill extended to him on the occasion, reminded the leaders that his birthday on March 29, 2024, coincided with Good Friday.

“I have earned the honour of having my birthday fall on Good Friday, and I pray that on this Maundy Thursday, you all shall return to your homes safely. May God guide and keep you and your families in good health, and lift your spirits,” the President prayed.

Different speakers at the dinner expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together in the spirit of Ramadan to share a meal with the President and renew the bonds of friendship that unite the nation.

Vice-President Kashim Shettima emphasized the pivotal roles of religious and traditional rulers in promoting peace and unity, urging them to continue to ‘‘build bridges that transcend ethnic and religious divides.’’

 

The Vice-President expressed delight that the nation’s economy is on a rebound, noting the strengthening of the naira against the dollar.

”The President means well for the nation, and he has continued to redefine the meaning and concept of modern leadership.

”For many years, fuel subsidy was an albatross. The President took a bold decision from day one, and he hit the ground running. Now the economy is turning the corner,” the Vice-President said.

Speaking on behalf of the Traditional Rulers Council of Nigeria, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, assured the President of the unwavering support of traditional rulers and commended the government’s efforts to address the hike in food prices and the security challenges.

”You are not alone, Mr. President. The prices of food items and goods are gradually coming down. You are doing your best on security, and we cannot allow you to do it alone. We will join hands to support your vision for the betterment of our nation,” the Ooni said.

Ambassador Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, Emir of Zazzau, speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), highlighted the significance of Ramadan as a period of reflection, empathy, and unity.

On the security situation in the country, the Emir of Zazzau, who represented the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of NSCIA, expressed optimism that the country will return to peace and stability.

”I am happy to see representatives of Muslim and Christian communities in this room. I pray God Almighty blesses the President for him to do more to take the country to the Promised Land,” the Emir prayed.

Apostle Samson Fatokun, General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), noted that the Ramadan dinner with religious and traditional leaders, coincided with Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, observed in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper.

The General Secretary, who delivered the address of CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, commended President Tinubu for fostering a harmonious relationship between the State and the Church.

”We are encouraged that your administration has shown great determination in tackling the challenges of kidnapping and banditry and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act.

”We shall continue to show our support to your administration so that you can execute your noble intention for the nation,” CAN General Secretary said.

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