By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA-Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on Tuesday gave the Federal government a 30-day grace period to revert the upward review of excise duty on locally produced alcoholic beverages and tobacco to status quo.
The groups, Business Renaissance Group (BRG) and Sustained Development Collective (SDC) in a media briefing in Abuja, announced that they shall seek judicial redress without further recourse to government if the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun refuses to heed to their call.
Recently, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun announced an amendment to the existing tarrif and Excise Duty on locally produced wines and spirits as well as tobacco products.
At present, the current excise being paid on alcoholic beverages stands at 20 per cent and amounts to N31 per litre while the new excise duty announced by the the Minister amounts to N200 per litre for spirits and N150 for wines.
The President of the Coalition for NGOs, Mazi Omife I. Omife while addressing the press, emphasized that nothing should be done to endanger the wines and spirits sector which presently employs about 250, 000 Nigerians with an investment portfolio of about N420 billion.
According to him, “The Wines and Spirit industry is one of the few surviving sectors of the Nigerian economy and all patriots and men of good conscience should strive to ensure that the sector flourishes.
“If immediate steps are not taken to review the new excise legislation, the local wines and spirits industry will be prone to massive job loss of about 25,000 direct employees and over 200, 000 indirect employees and beneficiaries” he said.
He however expressed disappointment that there was no consultation and engagement with the local producers/ distillers and blenders association of Nigeria by the Minister of Finance and demanded that immediate steps be taken to review the Excise Duty with a view to reducing it to be in consonance with present day reality.
“The Business Renaissance Group(BRG) restates the obvious fact that the astronomical increase in the tariff is counter-productive and will lead to massive job loss, turn the country into a dump-yard for foreign products, further pauperise Nigerians and stifle growth in an otherwise resilient sector of the economy.
“In the unlikely event that the Minister fails, refuses or neglects to heed to this call within 30 days from today, we shall be left with no alternative than to seek judicial redress without further recourse to the government”he remarked.
On his part, the Coordinator of the Coalition group, Dr. Ike Ikegbunam while fielding questions from journalists, said the review is not timely and not in the best interest of the country for now and called on the government to immediately review the decision.
Also, the Legal Adviser to the Coalition, Ogbonnaya Agbafo, Esq, stressed that when government decisions jeopardize the economy and becomes negative, businesses will die.
He further noted that, if the Excise Duty is not reviewed, it might lead to protests from the labour unions and a possible unrest in the country.
The groups while noting that a written representation has been sent to the Minister, stressed that the increase must have a human face.