To commemorate the 2022 World Diabetes Day marked annually on November 14, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) held a webinar on Monday, November 21, 2022, with participants drawn from civil society, community-based organisations, health advocacy groups, professional bodies, and the media, among others, to discuss Nigeria’s rising non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden.
The webinar addressed Nigeria’s public health challenges, and the legal landscape for a sustainable pathway to significantly reduce the incidences of NCDs in Nigeria.
In his welcome address, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, identified some of the health issues associated with the excessive consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) which include weight gain leading to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases, among others.
“Studies show that about 39% of all deaths are related to NCDs, because of unhealthy lifestyles including diet (excessive consumption of sugar), and sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity). The launch of Nigeria’s multi-sectoral action plan 2019-2025 for the prevention of NCDs, has a policy document that listed the cause of NCD as the consumption of sugar,” Oluwafemi said.
He explained that the Finance Act 2021 imposes a tax of N10 per litre on non-alcoholic and carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages, which is lower than the recommended WHO standard. Stating the need to ensure that the SSB tax is institutionalised, sustained, reviewed upwardly, and earmarked for the health sector.
Dr. Francis Fagbule, a public health consultant with the University College Hospital, Ibadan, while making his presentation on the Public Challenges of Nigeria’s huge NCD burden, lamented the astronomical rise in Nigeria’s disease burden which puts the increase in prevalence at 150%.
Fagbunle however expressed the need for more evidence generation to drive home the message of harms done by the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Nigeria. Dr Francis further noted that Nigerians must strive to know their health status while the CSOs continue raise awareness, and advocate for pro-health laws in the country.
Nigerian Coordinator for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Joy Amafah, expressed satisfaction at the turn out of participants at the engagement which, she said, showed a cross-sectoral commitment to finding a lasting solution to Nigeria’s NCDs problem that is driven by the people.
On the need for a sustainable approach to combating NCDs, Amafah stated that there is a need for deliberate policy change through data-driven advocacy, legal framework, and industry monitoring to discourage the industry and their allies from setting policy agenda for the country on public health.
In 2021, Nigeria introduced a N10/litre excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages produced and distributed in the country. The tax regime which only came into force in June 2022 has come under huge attacks from the producers of carbonated drinks and their allies. The industry has threatened shutdown of businesses at different times and have continued to use misinformation in the media pitch the public against the government to reverse the tax.
However, the N10/litre tax is a far cry from the minimum 20% increase in final price of sugar-sweetened beverages as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an effective way of combating non-communicable diseases.
The participants at the virtual meeting agreed on the need to have a sustained conversation through to push for the policy changes required to achieve the set goals.
Dr Adeniyi Oginni, President of the Christian Initiative for Nation Building (CIBN) and Executive Secretary, Osun State Health Insurance Agency, reiterated the need for the tax to be increased and properly earmarked for health interventions. Dr Oginni, who joined from Cairo, urged the participants to coalesce and advocate as one strong unit.
While launching the coalition, Oluwafemi disclosed that the participants would form the fulcrum of a coalition as suggested by the attendees and more organisations with the same campaign goals would be brought in to strengthen it.