MAN, distillers, others kick against 500% tariff increase

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*As Guinness £12m investment faces risk
MANUFACTURERS Association of Nigeria, MAN, and other major stakeholders, yesterday kicked against the proposed 500% excise tariff increase on local distillers of beverages.

Apart from MAN, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria, DIBAN; and Association of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employers of Nigeria, AFBTEN, among others jointly opposed the proposed excise tariff hike in their separate submissions made at a public hearing on urgent need to review the excise tariff increment in order to save local distillers of beverages from looming extinction, organised by the Senate Committee on Finance.

The various stakeholders said the proposed policy anchored on recommendation to that effect by Tariff Technical Committee, TTC, would, if allowed to be implemented, run affected manufacturers and producers out of business and rendered millions of Nigerians jobless.

In his presentation, the chairman of DIBAN, Engineer Patrick Anegbe lamented that if the policy is allowed to see the light of the day, N420 billion worth of investments would be ruined aside 250,000 workers to be laid off.

Also, the representative of Guinness Nigeria Plc in her submission said £12million worth of investments by the company would be jeopardized along with collateral damages of thousands of Nigerians that would end up in the labour market.

Comrade Mike Olanrewaju who represented the labour unions at the hearing session, said the proposed 500% increase on excise tariff is suicidal and must not be allowed to be implemented.

According to him, the proposed policy is dead on arrival since Labour and other critical stakeholders were not consulted.

“One of the strategies expected fron any responsible and responsive government in preventing crime and fighting poverty is job creation and not job losses through outrageous and outlandish tariff hike that would collapse industries and by extension, rendered millions of Nigerians jobless.

“To us in the labour sector, capital NO to such tariff increase and if any increase is to be made at all, it should not be above one digit

“The proposed increase is counterproductive and would be resisted by all stakeholders because after Dunlop, Micheline etc , we don’t want any industry to collapse or relocate out of the country again”, he said.

Though the Director General of MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi Kadiri in his own submission, admitted that the Federal Ministry of Finance and TTC, consulted them on the proposed tariff hike, but the rate agreed upon on the basis of revenue generation by government was not what the ministry eventually arrived at.

However the Director of Legal Services from the Ministry of Finance who represented the minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said the 500% excise tariff hike was agreed upon by all stakeholders before the ministry issued circular to that effect in February this year.

“Protests and petitions trailing the circular since then from concerned stakeholders are to us, unfortunate”, he said.

The committee at the end of the assured the stakeholders to look into the policy by collaborating with the executive on the needed downward review.

Declaring open the session, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki said: “The major source of concern is the non inclusion of primary stakeholders in the industry such as Manufactures Association of Nigeria, Distillers and Beverages Association in the consultation process that prompted the decision of the executive arm of government to increase the tariff rate of the affected products”.

Saraki, who was represented by his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, stressed the need for government to raise the revenue base of the country and to minimise the effect and dangers posed by the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products on the people’s health.

Earlier, chairman of the committee, Senator John Enoh explained that decision to increase the tariff was based largely on the need to perhaps to increase government revenue generation and reduce the consumption and health hazard associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuses through taxation policies.

He, however, informed that the committee was mandated to carryout further legislative action on it to enable the senate adopt a comprehensive decision and make a proper intervention to mitigate the effect of the excise tariff increment on local distillers of beverages and tobacco manufacturers.