The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, on Monday, said there was no going back on the ban of the importation, manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of alcoholic beverages in sachets, PET, and glass bottles of 200ml and below.
NAFDAC’s Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, insisted that the ban was for the benefit of Nigerians and to save lives.
Adeyeye’s announcement on January 31 that NAFDAC would begin the enforcement of the ban on alcoholic beverages in sachets had generated repeated protests by distillers and labour unions, who said the move would cost 500,000 workers their jobs.
Asked on Monday whether NAFDAC would review the ban in view of the growing protests, the Head of Public Relations Office, NAFDAC, Christiana Obiazikwor, told The PUNCH that the ban remained.
Obiazikwor clarified that NAFDAC did not ban alcohol production in bigger bottles but alcohol in containers or packing that a child can easily conceal.
“The alcoholic content in sachet or PET bottles less than 200ml is 30 per cent. Beer has four to eight per cent alcohol. The Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers, and Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health and NAFDAC in December 2018 that they will phase out production of alcohol in sachet and PET bottles less than 200 ml by January 31, 2024. The agreement document is available. A five-year phase-out notice should be sufficient.
“They say it’s going to lead to loss of jobs, but it can lead to loss of lives as well. So, which is more important? We are not going back (on the ban). We are doing this to save the lives of Nigerians, and commuters.
“The schoolchildren buy it and put it in their bags, so we are doing it to protect the children because they can’t take responsibility for themselves; so the leaders and adults need to take responsibility for them. Are we going to kill our children because the economy is bad?” she said.
But reacting, the Executive Secretary of the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria, John Ichue, insisted that the MoU signed with NAFDAC in 2018 could not be taken as a policy document.
Ichue said, “The MOU that we signed in 2018 was not really a policy and it was signed under duress because the then Minister of Health attempted to ban the manufacturing of pet alcoholic drinks but he later allowed us to engage in sensitisation effort to encourage responsible drinking and discourage underage access to these drinks, which we have been doing since 2019.
“The MOU is not a policy; the government is currently working on a national alcohol policy which we all agree is the proper way to go. In most countries where a ban on sachet alcohol was implemented, it was not successful. It led to illicit alcohol in circulation.”
Meanwhile, angry drug hawkers, and touts, on Monday, attacked members of NAFDAC’s Investigation and Enforcement Directorate and mobile policemen attached to them in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The enforcement team of the agency was on a raid of fake, unregistered, and counterfeit drugs at the Area One Motor Park of the FCT when they were attacked.
While the enforcement exercise was ongoing, the hawkers and touts at the park began to throw stones and other dangerous objects at the team and journalists who were on hand to monitor the exercise.
It took the intervention of the mobile police who threw tear gas and shot sporadically into the air to disperse the attackers while the enforcement team and journalists escaped from the park.
However, two of the vehicles belonging to NAFDAC were vandalised.
Speaking with journalists after the raid, the Assistant Chief Regulatory Officer, Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, Federal Task Force, NAFDAC, Umar Suleiman, said the raid followed intelligence from the Department of State Services on the activities of drug hawkers at the motor park.
Suleiman said, “This exercise that we just conducted at the Area 1 motor park is a result of intelligence we received from the DSS since last year. A lot of hawkers were there selling their products and many people patronising them and that was why we raided the park.
“The attack is a normal thing for us in the investigation and enforcement department. That is the reason we always go with armed Mopol and Investigating Police Officers in case of any arrest.
“But to my surprise, we had not done half of the work when the drug hawkers absconded but mobilised in full force against us, throwing stones at us and destroying the windscreens of the vehicles.”
Suleiman said NAFDAC officials were able to seize controlled drugs worth about N5m. He identified the seized medications as Rohypnol, Dizapam, Tramadol (500mg and 225mg), Cocodamol, and aphrodisiac, among others.