FG given 30-day ultimatum to revert new legislation on alcoholic beverages, tobacco

A coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations, Business Renaissance Group (BRG) and Sustained Development Collective (SDC) has given the Federal Government an ultimatum of a 30-day period to revert upward review of excise duty legislation on locally produced alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

The groups gave this warning during a media briefing held on Tuesday in Abuja where they emphasized that they shall seek judicial redress without further recourse to the government if the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun refuses to heed to their call.

Recall that recently, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun announced an amendment to the existing tariff and Excise Duty on locally produced wines and spirits as well as tobacco products.

Meanwhile, the current excise being paid by Alcohol beverages stands at 20 percent and amounts to N31 per litre while the new excise duty announced by the Minister amounts to N200 per litre for spirits and N150 for wines.

Addressing journalists at the event, President of the Coalition for NGOs, Mazi Omife I. Omife, strongly insisted that nothing should be done to endanger the wines and spirits sector which presently employs about 250,000 Nigerians with an investment portfolio of about N420 billion.

Mazi stated: “The Wines and Spirit industry is one of the few surviving sectors of the Nigerian economy and all patriots and men of good conscience should strive to ensure that the secret flourishes.

“The Business Renaissance Group (BRG) restates the obvious fact that the astronomical increase in the tariff is counter-productive and will lead to massive job loss, turn the country into a dump-yard for foreign products, further pauperise Nigerians and stifle growth in an otherwise resilient sector of the economy.”

Continuing, he warned: “If immediate steps are not taken to review the new excise legislation, the local wines and spirits industry will be prone to massive job loss of about 25,000 direct employees and over 200,000 indirect employees and beneficiaries.”

Expressing disappointment over the development, he said there was no consultation and engagement with the local producers/distillers and blenders association of Nigeria by the Minister of Finance who just demanded that immediate steps be taken to review the Excise Duty with a view to reducing it to be in consonance with present day reality.

Also contributing, the Coordinator of the Coalition group, Dr. Ike Ikegbunam, while responding to questions from newsmen, said that “the review is not timely and not in the best interest of the country for now, and called on the government to immediately review the decision.”

Also, the Legal Adviser to the Coalition, Ogbonnaya Agbafo, Esq, who stressed that when government’s decisions jeopardise the economy and become negative, businesses will die, adding: “If the Excise Duty is not reviewed, it might lead to protests from the labour unions and a possible unrest in the country.”

Concluding, the groups, while noting that a written representation has been sent to the Minister, stressed that “the increase must have a human face”.

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