Organised Labour, yesterday, stormed the Lagos office of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, over the ban and shut down of production lines of companies manufacturing alcoholic drinks in sachets and small bottles below 200ml.
Led by leaders of Trade Union Congress, TUC, of Nigeria and Food, Beverages and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, FOBTOB, Labour rejected the ban on the production of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles by the Federal Government, saying no fewer than 45,000 jobs and billions of Naira investments are at the risk of going down the drain.
The protesting workers, who stormed NAFDAC’s office at Plot 1, Industrial Estate, Apapa-Oshodi expressway, Isolo, Lagos State, displayed placards with various inscriptions, to convey their grievances.
The protest followed a two-day enforcement exercise by NAFDAC operatives in Ota, Ogun State, leading to the shutting down of some factories,
NAFDAC seals production lines
Vanguard gathered that NAFDAC’s enforcement’s team was led by Mr. Adeniran Kazeem, which swooped on beverage firms in the Sango-Ota area of Ogun State, sealed the production lines in companies such as Shash Industries Limited located in Iyesi- Ota, Nigerian Distilleries Limited, Intercontinental Distilleries Limited among others.
Speaking on what led to the operations, Kazeem said “There was a committee of the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC on one hand, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, and the Industry represented by the Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers, AFBTE, Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria, DIBAN, in December 2018. The committee agreed that such items should no longer be produced or imported from December 31, 2023.
“The five years period of grace is to allow the manufacturers to dispose of whatever they still had in stock. NAFDAC has since stopped to approve the production or importation of such items by anybody in this country.
“We are surprised that the companies are still producing these items. The main reason is because they find it easy to sell such, as they are affordable than other sizes. However, they are not mindful of the negative effects of such on the society as a whole.
“It leads to abuse of alcohol because young children and even pupils in elementary schools are drinking such items and it is affecting them. Do we want to turn our society to that of drunks? After five years of grace, we expect the firms to have diversified to other things and save the country from societal and moral decadence. “
The team took inventory of the items found in those companies and Kazeem said they would be evacuated and destroyed.
Meanwhile, addressing the protesters, Vice-President of TUC, Mr. Emmanuel Idogen, said among others, that several workers had already been rendered jobless from the factories shut down by NAFDAC, saying “We all know the economic hardship we are facing in the country presently. Price of fuel has increased, prices of food are increasing on a daily basis and there is inflation. Some of the people earn their living to feed their family and dependents from the factory that you have shut down.
“Invariably, there will be more families exposed to hunger and I believe this will have a negative impact on the society. Many companies in the country, as a result of the harsh economic indices of doing business, have been under strain. Now, you want to lay off thousands of workers into the labour market that is already overstretched. What do you expect them to do in order to feed and cater for the needs of their family?
“We are appealing to NAFDAC to suspend the directive to shutdown the production of alcoholic sachets drinks for the posterity of the masses.”
45,000 jobs at risk
Speaking to Vanguard, President of FOBTOB, Jimoh Oyibo, said the protest at NAFDAC’s office in Lagos was a warning action, informing that Labour would be at the National Assembly today to present its case against the ban.
Oyibo who doubles as 2nd Deputy President of TUC, threatened that should government fail to reverse the ban, Labour would declare a nationwide protest among other industrial actions, saying “We are shocked by the Federal Government and the National Agency for Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC outright ban on the production of alcoholic beverage in sachets and small bottles. We reject the ban and call for immediate reversal. The ban has wider implications than what the government is envisaging. What we are saying is that the disadvantages far outweigh the government envisaged advantages. The ban took us by surprise because there was a discussion between government and other stakeholders on how to address the challenges of under-aged or children having access to alcoholic beverage and the issue of littering of the environment with used sachets and small bottle.
“On the issue of under-aged drinkers, it is the responsibility of the government to enforce the ban. Just like in the case of tobacco, despite the warning that smokers are likely to die young, it has not stopped people from smoking. It is entirely the responsibility of the government or the law enforcement agents to ensure that these products are not sold to children or sold at the motor parks and bus stops as the case maybe. The government and the law enforcement agents should live up to their responsibilities and look for a quick fix of throwing away the baby with the bath water.
“On the issue of littering of the environment, the government ought to have been creative and put up its thinking cap to convert the waste into wealth generation as done in other climes. Go to Europe and Americas, they are heavier producers of sachets and small bottles. But you can never see used sachets or small bottles flying around or littering the environment. These wastes are recycled to create wealth. In fact, some people are engaged to gather these wastes and they earn their living as waste collectors. What we are saying is for the government to be creative, invest in recycling of these wastes into wealth generation. Recycling will create employment and provide raw materials for other products. In some countries, waste can be used to generate power.
“So, we reject the ban and call for its reversal. The ban if not reversed, the consequences will be enormous. The manufacturers have invested billions of Naira on machinery for production, raw materials and so on. It will also impact negatively on employment. As we speak, over 45,000 direct and indirect jobs are at risk. These include employees of distillers, manufacturers of the sachets and small bottles, distribution chain of the products, retailers and hawkers. We are lamenting the worsening insecurity across the country. It is a common knowledge that most of the crimes are being perpetrated by able-bodied idle hands. What will happen when over 45,000 persons are thrown into the unemployment market? The government will also lose revenue in excise duty.
Today (yesterday), we are protesting the ban at the Lagos office of NAFDAC to tell the agency’s leadership that we are not accepting the ban. By tomorrow (today), we will be at the National Assembly to present our case and implore our representatives to wade in. For now, the protest is restricted to Abuja and Lagos. But if the authorities fail to listen to us we shall spread it to other parts of the country.”
Recall that NAFDAC’s Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye had Monday in Abuja announced ban in the production of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles below 200ml.
Adeyeye at the briefing said the move was aimed at discouraging its consumption by youths who easily accessed the products in such containers at an affordable cost.
She noted among others, that the decision aligned with recommendations from the World Health Organisation, WHO, for policy-makers to regulate the marketing of alcoholic beverages to young people, with the goal of controlling and restricting the availability of the products.
She explained that the alcoholic products had an adverse negative impact on the younger generation, who should be safeguarded by necessary regulations, such as the ban.
According to her, the WHO had established that children who consume alcohol are more likely to use drugs, get bad grades, suffer injury or death, engage in risky sexual activity, make bad decisions and have health challenges.
The NAFDAC boss recalled that the agency in January 2022, suspended the registration of alcoholic beverages in sachet and small volume PET and Glass bottles below 200ml.
She said that the decision was based on the recommendation of a high powered committee of the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC; the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, and other relevant agencies.
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