Distillers plan more protests as Reps probe ban on sachet alcohol

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, directed its committee on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to probe the circumstances surrounding the ban imposed on the production of beverages in sachets and small bottles by the agency.

This was sequel to a motion moved on the floor of the Green Chamber by Paschal Agbese during Tuesday’s plenary.

Also, the  Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria told of its plan to take its protest to the National Assembly over the issue.

The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, had on Monday announced that the agency would begin the enforcement of the ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of alcoholic beverages in sachets, PET, and glass bottles of 200ml and below.

On Tuesday, members of the DBAN  staged a protest at the Lagos office of NAFDAC to express their displeasure about the ban.

The  Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association and the National Union of Food Beverages and Tobacco Employees also rejected the plan, saying it would send “over 500,000 breadwinners out of jobs and into the oversaturated Nigerian labour market.”

The unions took the protest to the Lagos State House of Assembly on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Assembly entrance, the Vice Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Lagos Chapter,  Emmanuel Edoghe, reiterated the need for NAFDAC to rescind its decision on the ban.

He said, “The same NAFDAC that moved into our various food and beverages companies producing premium alcoholic drink and sachets is the same NAFDAC that gave us the licence to produce the well blended and refined drinks which were not done in the backyards.

“We bought the machines and materials certified by Standards Organisation of Nigeria. The complaint was that children and taxi drivers are taking the drinks but they did not consider the purchasing power of the public because the economy of Nigeria is tense at this time.

“Now ,they shutdown factories and about five million workers are going to be out of job, directly and indirectly.”

Leading the debate on the issue on Wednesday at the House of Assembly, Agbbodike said Section 88(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution empowered the National Assembly to conduct to look into such an issue, given its potential impact on the economy.

He said, “NAFDAC had announced its decision to stop the registration of beverages in small sachets and bottles in January 2024 while the Director General of the agency informed the public that the agency would ensure that the validity of renewal of already registered products would not exceed January 2024.

“The decision to ban the registration of beverages in small sachets and bottles runs counter to the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and runs against the Economic Recovery Plan of the current administration.”

According to him, the House is worried that given the numerous economic challenges confronting poor Nigerians, “the ban on the production of the said beverages will wreak more havoc and cause job losses for over 50 per cent of the workers in Nigeria.”

“The need to encourage the sustainability of Small and Medium Enterprises, which are the greatest employer of labour in Nigeria, employing over 84 per cent of the workforce in Nigeria, NAFDAC’s policy to place a ban on the production of beverages in small sachets and bottles will be counterproductive.

“The decision to place a ban on the production of beverages in small sachets and bottles will encourage unscrupulous elements to go about the production of such drinks and products without recourse to NAFDAC.

He further explained that the ban on the registration of beverages in small sachets and bottles will worsen the poverty situation in the country.

The motion was subsequently referred to the Committee on NAFDAC for further legislative input.

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