Some stakeholders have applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for increasing tax on tobacco and its products across the country.
The stakeholders commended the president in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at a one-day meeting of the Tobacco Taxation Working Group (TTWG) held in Abuja on Tuesday.
NAN recalls that the president recently approved an amendment to the excise duty rates for alcoholic beverages and tobacco with effect from June 4.
The new excise duty rates were spread over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020 to moderate the impact on prices of the products.
Dr Toma Malau, a participant at the workshop and Branch Head, Tobacco Control Unit, Federal Ministry of Health, described the decision as `a step in the right direction’ and a move that would deter rampant patronage of tobacco products across the country.
“I am very pleased with the development. The new increment in excise rate on tobacco is a welcome development and l hope we can do more.
“The new increase will help in generating more Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that could fund some tobacco control activities and other things,” he said.
Mr Bashir Abdulkadir, another participant at the workshop and an Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Finance, said the move by the president was a welcome development but falls short of the 50 per cent stipulated by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“The increase is long overdue. The 20 per cent ad valerum on tobacco is not realistic considering the current economic realities. It is still far below what is expected by the ECOWAS directive on tobacco.
“In line with the ECOWAS tobacco directive, there should be a minimum of 50 per cent ad valerum excise rate on tobacco.
“So you see that Nigeria still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, my appeal to tobacco users is for them to quit for their own health and to help government save some revenue that goes into healthcare for those with tobacco related diseases,” he said.
Mr Okeke Anya, Programme Manager, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a n NGO, said the development was a good starting point, though the rate approved ran short of stakeholders’ expectations.
“We are happy with the President’s move, although it falls short of ECOWAS standard and Nigeria as a leading country in ECOWAS, should be showing exemplary leadership.
“Nigeria should be at the forefront of implementing any decision taken by ECOWAS,” he said.
He appealed for more concerted efforts in reducing the influence of tobacco on Nigerians especially youths, adding that government and other relevant stakeholders should not fall into any blackmail of tobacco companies.
“Nigeria is where people pay the lowest on tobacco. Tobacco is almost free because the tobacco industry gives different kind of incentives which helps to push their prices down.
“So those incentives should be removed and prices raised because we need to protect the lives of citizens,” he said.