The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has expressed deep concern over the recent ban imposed on spirit drinks in sachets and PET bottles less than 200ml and urged that the ban be reversed immediately and replaced with regulations and better access controls.
MAN’s Director-General, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, pointed out that when the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) first proposed the ban, critical stakeholders including key members of Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) raised concerns in a letter dated 6/11/2018.
According to MAN, DIBAN said then that NAFDAC’s assertion that the packaging of alcoholic beverages in sachets and PET bottles is responsible for the reported increase of alcohol use among the underage is unfounded, adding that it is a reflection of a systemic problem of much wider ramifications.
The manufacturers also argued 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 was false and has never been the reason for irresponsible use in terms of quantity, intoxication and other menaces.
The DG pointed out that the ban will only lead to bootlegging, influx and proliferation of fake and adulterated products as well as damage local manufacturing and negatively affect the economy, as well as the social wellbeing of the people.
He said DIBAN added that notwithstanding its earlier objections, they participated in the preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was signed, with reservations, on December 18, 2018, by the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, CPC (now FCCPC) and Association of Food, Beverages, and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) and themselves.
Ajayi-Kadir said that after the MoU signing, DIBAN commenced extensive advocacy, messaging, training, education, and other roles assigned to the Committee that was formed and spent over N1 billion on various campaigns to ensure zero consumption of alcoholic beverages by under-aged and in promoting responsible use of alcoholic beverages among adults. He added that the committee put in place a strategic plan to ensure collaborative effort at all levels to eliminate underage drinking, promote responsibility among adults, while protecting and growing the local industries.
“The plan was drawn up to identify factors that affect irresponsible consumption of alcoholic beverages; factors responsible for underage drinking, implement strategies guided by best global practices and national priorities towards strengthening regulatory activities; strengthen implementation structures through effective collaboration to ensure sustainability and generate evidence through effective monitoring and evaluation for learning and accountability.
“Some of the key activities included harmonising all relevant alcohol and alcohol consumption related laws and regulations, improving regulation of registered alcoholic beverages and imported alcoholic beverages including spirits, shut down unregistered alcoholic beverage factories and warehouses as well as monitoring advocacy, sensitisation campaigns and regulatory/committee activities.
“We all agreed that there should be collaborative efforts to eliminate underage drinking or use of alcoholic beverages; better regulations backed by informed policy and not a general ban on the production and sales of drinks in sachet and PET bottles and the sale of alcoholic beverages should be restricted to On- and Off-license shops and ALGON should be strengthened to oversee the process. We also agreed that there should be government support to promote and protect the growth of local industries and jobs through the balance of trade, tackling of fake, counterfeit, and unwholesome alcoholic beverages and strict monitoring and evaluation of efforts by all member organisations of the committee.”
“To our greatest surprise, we realised the apparent preoccupation of NAFDAC to ban the production of drinks in sachets and PET bottles this year. This is at variance with the right of private entrepreneurs to invest and engage in legitimate business. 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.
“We have continued to invest and reinvest at enormous cost in this economy and in the Nigerian people who are the bulk of its nearly Five Hundred thousand people workforce. This is despite the daunting challenges that businesses have faced in these difficult times, which have led to several companies closing down and foreign investors leaving the country. If this administration is committed to encouraging and strengthening local investors, then this ban should give way to access control.”
He added that the sachets help with portion control compared to big bottles. “If you take away small sizes, you are encouraging excessive consumption of alcohol. To go ahead with the policy based on perceived danger, without empirical information and not minding the consequences is unfair to industry operators and the thousands that will lose their jobs in these hard times.”
The DG urged the Federal Government to instead, intensify activities and support access control and tighter regulations, stressing that the ban will be counterproductive. “The ban should be reversed immediately and replaced with licensed liquor stores/outlets across the country; suspected underage persons should be required to show I.D to purchase alcohol and better enforcement by law enforcement agencies. “There should also be Increased monitoring and compliance checks by NAFDAC, FCCPC and others to ensure strict product quality in terms of content and safety,” he said.