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NLC Warns Against Duties On Carbonated Drinks, Says That Could Trigger Industrial Disharmony

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The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected plans by the Federal Government to increase taxes on non-alcoholic and carbonated drinks, warning that the move could trigger industrial action. NLC made its position known in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba on Friday. The Federal Government on Wednesday announced N10 per litre tax on all non-alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages, as contained in the 2021 Finance Act. Wabba, in the statement titled, ‘Nigerian workers reject imposition of excise duties on locally produced carbonated drinks’, said the NLC had in a letter dated November 27, 2021 appealed to the President, Muhammadu Buhari not to approve the tax.

The statement reads in part: "On the 31st of December 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Finance Act. Some of the provisions of the Finance Act includes the imposition of excise duties on locally produced non-alcoholic, carbonated, and sugary drinks.

The reason offered by government for this decision was to discourage the consumption of sugar by Nigerians as it has led to upsurge in obesity and diabetes. In a letter dated 27th November 2021, the Nigeria Labour Congress wrote to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly pleading that government should suspend the implementation of the excise duties on non-alcoholic, carbonated and sugary drinks.

The Congress provided a number of very cogent reasons why government should not go ahead with the decision to impose fresh taxes on soft drinks. One of the reasons we advanced was that the re-introduction of excise duties on non-alcoholic, carbonated and sugary drinks will impose immense hardship on ordinary Nigerians who easily keep hunger at bay with a bottle of soft drink and maybe a loaf of bread.

He said, “Our concern is the mass hunger that would result from the slightest increase in the retail price of soft drinks owing to imposition of excise duties as the product would be priced beyond the reach of millions of ordinary and poor Nigerians.

“Congress was also alerted by the complaint of manufacturers of soft drinks in Nigeria that the re-introduction of excise duties on their products would lead to very sharp decline in sales, forced reduction in production, and a sure rollback in investments with the certainty of job losses and possibly shutdown of their manufacturing plants.’’