Satchet Alcohol Ban: NAFDAC’s Narrative That We’re Placing Profit Over Health Is Cheap Blackmail, Say Nigerian Manufacturers 

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Segun Ajayi-Kadir, the Director General of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has said that there is no justifiable reason to ban the sachet alcohols in the country, stating that the narrative of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC that claimed that the association is prioritizing making profits over the health of the citizen, is nothing but a cheap blackmail.

Ajayi-Kabir made this known in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Tuesday, while speaking on MAN’s stance on the matter.

NAFDAC had announced the ban on the use of alcohol in sachets and pet bottles of less than 200ml last week Monday, stating that the decision was in line with the agreement reached by a tripartite committee set up in 2018 by the federal ministry of health.

The agency’s assistant chief regulation officer, Kazeem Adeniran said part of the 2018 agreement was that distillers, under the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN), would stop the production of alcohol in sachets and pet bottles of less than 200ml with effect from January 31, 2024.

The Director General said “The thing that we need to do is to understand if this is a failure of regulation and I think it should be clear because if everything that you think is dangerous is banned, then NAFDAC will have no job. So, I believe that everybody has to play its role. Alcohol is a legal product; you may like it or not. There are people whom you will be infringing on their rights if you ban it and those who will be very happy if you ban it. So, I think we should focus on the economics of it. People have a right to their choices. Health issues, we will always prioritize and I think that the narrative we are placing profit over health does not hold any water. It is actually cheap blackmail because it is not subjected to any scientific analysis.

“We are facing a dire situation in Nigeria as 500,000 people are going to lose their jobs for nothing. I do not believe that the health of the people will be helped if you impose this ban, as a matter of fact, you will endanger it because you are going to drive out those who make this legitimate product that you can trace, track and that you know. If you drive them out of the market, they don’t even have the obligation of assisting the regulatory agencies to drive out the illicits that are more dangerous to the health that we are trying to protect.”

He also stated that with the level of achievements that have been made it is unnecessary to continue with the ban, especially following a study by the committee set up by the ministry of health which showed that a ban will be counterproductive.

“We are actually against the ban because it is not going to achieve the objective for which it was set out and the second thing is that yes, we were part of the agreement in 2018 but that agreement was premised on the fact underage drinking was seen to be a concern and that it was the major reason, if not the only reason that was deduced at that time. But between 2018 and 2024, we have seen significant reduction in underage consumption because of the series of actions that have been taken by processes that were done jointly with NAFDAC, ministry of health, FCCPC and other stakeholders and of course with a major role played by DIBAN, which is the association of those who manufacture these products under the auspices of MAN.

 “So, we have seen that this year, the achievements that have been made has made it unnecessary to continue with the ban, particularly, because there was a study that was conducted by the committee that was set up by the ministry of health which shows that a ban will be counter productive and that instead, there should be restrictions of access.

So, the major issue here is whether or not we should not have a win-win situation where we will have underage people no consuming alcohol, have businesses that will continue to run and provide a value for those who have chosen to drink and have the capacity to make that decision and whether we should not save more than 500,000 jobs for government to also earn the much-needed revenue. That is the situation.”

He also said if the agency further pulls through with the ban, it will lead to a more dangerous outcome as the young people/Underage who are being protected, would resort to taking in more imported dangerous substances.

“Right from the time that decision was taken, because actually at that time, it is either you sign the agreement or you face the ban and so it made sense for us to work with other stakeholders to be able to get to a level where the ban will be unnecessary and this is where we feel we are comfortably seated. So, as we speak, it is generally agreed that after the ministerial committee was set up that included even the association of local governments and so many other organizations that are relevant in ensuring that we have an environment that restricts access by the underage and even for responsible drinking which is another issue entirely.

“What we have done is a lot of sensitization. We also have actively engaged in terms of expenditure, I think we have spent more than a billion naira during this process and we have seen significant progress to the extent that binge drinking was said to be at a level of 3.9 percent and we said that if we were able to achieve this over his period, then you should just make the next push that would allow us to completely eliminate it. Underage drinking is not the only issue you have in the space.

“There are so many other drugs that could even be more dangerous and if you ban this, you are likely to even expose them to other unwholesome drinks that may even come in smaller doses and are more deadly. Not to even talk about those that are imported that will continue to come into the market, seeing how badly we have done with checking smuggling.

“As a producer, you need to look at the market, what it wants and in what sizes? It’s not only for alcohol generally speaking, there is milk, and milo in smaller sizes. What it does is that it even allows even more responsible consumption because it means you can have it in smaller doses and also the fact that it becomes more affordable for people to take and they are wholesome.”

 “No one has said responsible consumption of alcohol is dangerous to your health. As a matter of fact, it can be helpful if it is taken in the right doses, if you do not exceed what is acceptable. I believe that NAFDAC as yet has not adduced any scientific bases for coming to that conclusion in Nigeria and several studies have shown that we don’t have a drinking problem in that area and that those who are producing are actively monitoring the process.”

Chioma Kalu

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