NGO group seeking reversal of pending excise duty rate increase on alcohol, tobacco take protest to NASS

A coalition of Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) seeking to reverse a proposed excise duty rate increase by the Federal Government due to take effect on June 4, 2018 have called on the National Assembly to urgently intervene on the matter.

Business Renaissance Group (BRG) and Sustained Development Collective (SDC), two of the groups leading the protest at the National Assembly said that the excise duty rate increase would cripple the sector if not reviewed and reversed.

Some of the placards displayed by members of the NGO group at the National Assembly read: “Support Local Industries: No To Killer Taxes”; “Save #Made In Nigeria Wines & Spirits. No Killer Taxes”; “Senate Save us from Killer Taxes”; “FG Please Don’t Kill Our Local Businesses”; “President Buhari please save our jobs, #No To The Tax Hike” among others.

Delivering their letter to the senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, President of BRG, Mazi Omife Omife, said “We are here to present our case to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki for urgent intervention. We are calling on the minister of finance to revert the tax increase on wines and spirit. This is because if it is executed it will lead to businesses closing up. It will lead to job losses and thereby aggravate the security situation in the country. If these people are displaced from their jobs some of them will resort to ugly vices like thuggery, armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminal activities.”

“We have made every effort to talk to the Minister of Finance and her officials but unfortunately they were not forthcoming. We had a meeting with major stakeholders who wanted to intervene, but still the Minister of Finance or her officials were not forthcoming.

“We had a press conference in Lagos and Abuja and yet nothing has happened that is why we are asking the Senate to intervene,” Omife said.

Adding his voice to the protest, National Secretary, Sustainable Development Collective (SDC), Dr Ike Ikegbunam said “Our point is very clear. There should be a reversal of the tax increase.

“The increase in excise duty is affecting our companies adversely. A lot of companies are folding up. A lot of companies are moving to Ghana and using Ghana as their corporate headquarters. We are talking of foreign investments, of pulling these resources back into Nigeria. You cannot do this when you try to scare investors away with these tax policies. What we are doing is part of our efforts to ensure that sanity prevails. A lot of thing will go wrong unless the issue of this excise duty increase is addressed,” he said.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government on March 11 approved an amendment to the excise tariff rates for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products which is expected to go into effect on June 4, 2018.

The current excise duty rate at 20% for spirits amounts to N31 per litre while the new excise duty as announced by Mrs Kemi Adeosun amounts to N200 per litre of spirits and N150 for wines. This indicates an increase of over 500%.

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