By Zailani Bappa
Late February this year, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a slight increase in excise duties on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. A grace of three months was given to affected companies and related businesses to adjust before it takes effect. That grace lapsed this month and the new policy has now taken effect.
In the past, it was nealy impossible to implement tax related policies on tobacco and alcohol businesses in this country due to the strong lobby and influence of operators. Today, the Federal Government has taken the bull by the horn and has done the needful. According to the Government, the measure will increase Government revenue and reduce the dangers posed by the use of these products in the society.
On the economic front, the Government, a leader of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is a signatory to a document on tax policy which stipulated a high rate on products such as alcohol and tobacco. But we fail to honour this agreement. Most members are on the region of 30%, but we are, by this increase, still on the region of 20%. This is aside of the government’s stated obvious benefit of increased Government revenue to fund the country’s annual budget.
On the health benefits of the policy, it will ensure a cleaner environment free of tobacco smoke; cleaner citizens free of lung cancer and other tobacco related diseases and a less extravagant population. As for alcohol, it will reduce intoxication. Alcohol leads its users to temporary insanity and worse of all, rots the liver. Many users have died of liver related diseases and other alcohol inflicted illnesses.
On the moral ground, both Islam and Christianity (the two major religions in Nigeria of which more than 90% of the population are practitioners or believers) frown at both smoking and alcoholism. Frequent users of these stuff lose esteem in the eyes of the society and are often not trusted in making sound decisions and sound judgements even by members of their immediate family.
The decision of the Federal Government is therefore, what our past governments needed to have done. It is very much welcome now as it will carry along with it chain of benefits without a single negative consequence.