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Stakeholders mull control mechanisms for reduction of sugary substances



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.



FRSC launches 2023 “Ember” months campaign in Abia, warns against overloading



The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Abia Sector Command, has launched this year’s “Ember” months campaign against overloading and speed before and during the Yuletide.

In a speech at the event in Umuahia, the South-East Zonal Commander of the corps, RS9HQ, Mr Ocheja Ameh, said that the campaign would focus on encouraging road users to observe safety measures.

The theme of the campaign is “Speed thrills but kills: Drive responsibly and avoid overloading”.

Ameh said: “The focus of our campaign this year is against overloading, failure to install speed limiting device by commercial vehicles, dangerous driving, lane indiscipline and absence of wipers.

“Also, vehicles that are abusing the use of several lights in the night, other than the factory-fitted ones and use of phone, while driving, amongst others.


“I want to assure you that this year’s campaign will be more vigorous than that of last year, because we want to start early for best results.”

He thanked the government and stakeholders for their support to FRSC programmes, adding that the corps was poised to intensify it’s campaign against violation of safety rules by road users.

The Acting Sector Commander, Mrs Bridget Asekhauno, said that the campaign was targeted at recording minimal road crashes, zero fatalities and free flow of traffic during the Yuletide and going forward.

Asekhauno said that in order to achieve its goal, the command had deployed personnel, operational vehicles and ambulances in all the strategic roads across the state as well as made provision for mobile courts.

She urged drivers to install speed limiting device, use safe tyres in their vehicles and avoid overloading their vehicles with humans and animals, amongst other infractions.


She also said that the command would not hesitate to prosecute violators of any road safety rules and urged road users to cooperate with FRSC personnel deployed in various locations in the state.

In a speech, Gov. Alex Otti of Abia said that the FRSC core mandate of minimising road crashes and fatalities was in line with Abia Government’s agenda to achieve effective traffic management in the state.

The governor, represented by the Commissioner for Transport, Mr Sunny Onwuma, described road safety as a shared responsibility, which makes it important for all drivers to drive safely to save lives.

Otti urged road users to obey traffic rules and regulations to enable them to arrive at their different destinations, safely.

Earlier, the State Chairman, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, Mr Amobi Ohaeri, commended the corps for embarking on a campaign to encourage safe driving.


Ohaeri said that the effort would greatly help to improve the orientation of road users, especially commercial drivers, in driving responsibly and appealed to FRSC to conduct regular enlightenment programmes, particularly in motor parks.

“This campaign should go beyond Ember months.

“Take it to churches, mosques, town hall meetings, because drivers belong to all these places and do consider starting a road safety club for drivers to further drive the message home,” he said.

Also, the State Coordinator of FRSC Special Marshal, Chief Jerry Onyemachi, commended FRSC and the security agencies for their collaborative effort toward keeping the roads safe.

Onyemachi called on the people of Abia to be law-abiding and adhere to the safety measures outlined by FRSC.

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Subsidy: You can’t embark on strike, FG to NLC, TUC



The Federal Government, on Thursday, asked the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to shelve their plan to embark on a nationwide indefinite strike action on October 3.

Government maintained that the proposed industrial action by the labour unions would amount to a gross violation of a subsisting court injunction.

It stressed that issues bordering on fuel subsidy removal, which informed the decision of the NLC and the TUC to declare the strike action, are already pending before the National Industrial Court, NIC.

According to FG, it was due to the willingness of the unions to enter into a negotiation over the issue that it was persuaded to withdraw a contempt proceeding that it initially instituted against them.

Therefore, the government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), wrote to the head of the legal team of the two unions, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), urging him to persuade his clients to abort the planned strike action.


The letter, dated September 26, read: “The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to media reports on the proposed nationwide strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, scheduled to commence on 3rd October 2023.

“You are kindly invited to recall the antecedence of previous steps/actions on this matter, particularly the exchange of correspondence between this office and your firm, before and after the nationwide ‘action/protest’ declared by the NLC on 2nd August 2023.

“Whilst your clients had maintained that the nationwide protest by NLC is in furtherance of its constitutional right to embark on protests, the Ministry has repeatedly advised on the need to advise your clients to refrain from resorting to self-help and taking actions capable of undermining subsisting orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is also to be recalled that based on the conduct of the said nationwide action/protest, this Office instituted contempt proceedings against the labour leaders.

“However, upon the intervention of the President and National Assembly, coupled with the decision of the labour unions to discontinue their action/protest, the contempt proceedings were not prosecuted further.


“This was advisedly done to enable the government and labour union engage in further negotiations without any form of encumbrances.

“However, in its Communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council meeting on 31st August 2023, NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from 31st August 2023.

“Also on 26th September 2023, the Presidents of NLC and TUC, jointly issued a communiqué stating that organised labour had resolved, ‘to embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023.’

“From a review of the contents of the above communiques and available media reports, the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.

“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.


“Therefore, the proposed strike action is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on 5th June 2023 restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice.

“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.

“It is the expectation of the public that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.”

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, State Security Services, DSS, were copied.

Recall that the labour unions had vowed to enforce an indefinite nationwide strike action from October 3, following Federal Government’s failure to address the economic hardship that Nigerians are currently facing owing to its unplanned removal of fuel subsidy.

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