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NAFDAC ban on sachet alcoholic drinks

By Babatunde Ayedoju


To some people, year 2024 is still young, while others may think that the year is running already. Nevertheless, a lot of events have marked this year already, and one of them is the ban imposed by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on the production and distribution of alcohol beverages in sachets, PET and bottles of 200 ml and below.

These drinks are very common in motor parks, though they can also be found in some shops within the neighbourhood.

NAFDAC commenced enforcement of the ban nationwide on February 1 after a moratorium that expired on January 31. The regulatory body argued that its action was in the interest of underaged children, commercial motorcycle riders and commercial drivers who are mostly affected by such drinks.

Risk factors highlighted by the federal agency as justifications for the ban include health, road safety, maternal and foetal health, alongside environnemental concerns. Such alcoholic drinks are believed put consumers at the risk of diseases like cancer and liver cirrhosis, among others, just as pregnant women who take them can jeopardise their health and the health of the baby in the womb. Drivers and motorcycle riders who take them can lose concentration while driving. Likewise, the PET bottles and satchet a contribute to the accumulation of single use plastics and nylon waste.

Since the announcement of the ban and its enforcement by NAFDAC, a lot of protests from groups whose business interest is at stake have greeted it. Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association and National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees stated a protest in Lagos, saying that over 5,000 employees would be sent back to the already overwhelmed labour market because of this decision by NAFDAC, with the businesses of producers of raw materials not left out of the danger.

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The unions which spoke through one of their leaders, Emmanuel Idogien, recommended that instead of an outright ban, there should be emplaced by NAFDAC strict regulation and public enlightenment, saying that the ban would only encourage counterfeits with serious health implications.

Speaking at a public hearing by the House of Representatives, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director General, NAFDAC, said, “We tried to protect the market, and that was why we agreed to a five-year moratorium for the manufacturers to phase out alcoholic drinks in sachets and pet bottles in December 2018.”

Adeyeye who said that her organisation did not take the decision unilaterally but carried relevant bodies along expressed surprise at the protests that followed.

While saying that the agency was not against the production of alcoholic drinks but alcohol in sachets and pet bottles, to wade off children from unnecessary access, the NAFDAC chief said, “The World Health Organisation had a resolution in 2010, in which Nigeria was a co-signer, that each country will have alcohol that is less reachable and less accessible to the youth, and nothing has been done about that until now.

“It is very unfortunate we are where we are now because the children who are used to taking alcohol will also become vulnerable to drug abuse.”

Adeyeye lamented that as a result of the alcohol in sachets, about 30 per cent of children now take alcohol casually, adding that the market that is going to be lost, as expressed by the producers, would be about 30 per cent because such can easily be hidden in the pocket.

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Unfortunately, despite this ban and the concerns raised by NAFDAC, the sale of the satchet and PET bottle alcoholic drinks has remained unabated. A visit to some parks and some other shops from Oke-Emeso to Ijomu Junction in Akure showed that the ban has hardly had any effect on its sale and consumption, as sellers still display them publicly and the consumers do not hide their action as they drink boldly by the roadside.

One of the sellers who agreed to speak with The Hope but did not disclose his name said that there is no cause for alarm as his patronage has not dwindled a bit. He said, “There is nothing to worry about. People still come to buy and I am still selling. In fact, a customer of mine who is a law enforcement agent just left here. He brought the drinks for everybody before he left.”

A driver, Mr Taiwo Adeleke, blamed the continued intake of satchet alcohol despite the ban on the failure of government to enforce it. His words: “It’s the fault of the government. It’s not enough to make a law. It has to be enforced. They have made a law to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol packaged inside satchets. They are supposed to enforce the law, but because it was not enforced a lot of people still sell, buy and consume it.”

Talking about the difference between PET bottle and satchet alcohol and other types of alcohol not affected by the ban, he said “Whether it is in a bottle of any kind or in a satchet, everything goes down the throat and it has the same effect on the body.”

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Likewise, Dr Chris Ofonyelu from the Department of Economics, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko said that the ban is not going to be effective because NAFDAC as a regulatory authority has not been firm.

He said, “If they had been firm, the proliferation of substances would not have been these rampant. Again, the average youth is already used to taking alcohol and other illicit substances. That means no matter the ban that is imposed, they will still continue to find their way to get these drinks, and NAFDAC can’t be everywhere at the same time.

“How many of the distributors have they apprehended? A lot of shops within the neighbourhood are still selling these drinks. Go to all the markets, motor parks and other popular places, you will see that they are still very much available,” he added.

The seasoned economic expert suggested that NAFDAC should be more concerned about proper orientation of youths, noting that six out of seven youths are already exposed to illicit substances and nothing tangible is being done to salvage them.

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