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Reps, NAFDAC agree to lift ban on sachet alcohol

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The House of Representatives and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control have decided to lift the ban on the sale and consumption of sachet alcoholic beverages.

This decision is temporary and aims to give manufacturers time to adjust to economic realities.

Philip Agbese, the deputy spokesman of the House, announced this during a briefing in Abuja.

He explained that NAFDAC had previously banned the production of small sachets and bottles of alcoholic beverages due to rising cases of drug abuse, especially among young Nigerians.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives tasked its committee on NAFDAC to investigate the circumstances surrounding the ban.

Agbese noted, “The resolution to temporarily lift the ban was reached after a meeting between the House Committee and NAFDAC officials.”

“We all agreed at the meeting that at a certain stage in history, we must move on with our counterparts across the globe. Nevertheless, at the moment, we agreed with NAFDAC that there would be a temporary lifting of the ban until the economy regains its strength,” Agbese stated.

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Agbese, who represents Ado/Ogbadigbo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency in Benue State, recounted the investigation process: “There was a motion before the parliament to investigate the activities leading to the ban placed by NAFDAC on the use and sale of sachet beverages in the country. The parliament delegated the House Committee on NAFDAC, led by Hon Regina Akume, to investigate the matter and report back.”

“We had engagements with stakeholders including NAFDAC and the organized private sector. Resolutions were reached based on submissions from stakeholders, civil society organizations, and other interested parties. Part of the recommendations was that the ban was not timely given the current economic realities and the five-year moratorium granted by NAFDAC to the private sector.”

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“The parliament adopted the House Committee Report as a whole. After our final meeting with NAFDAC’s leadership, we all agreed to suspend the ban in the interest of the masses and the nation’s current mood,” he added.

Agbese mentioned that by July, the modalities for the removal of the ban would be made public. “We agreed that in July, we will meet, and NAFDAC’s Director General would have worked out the modalities for the temporary removal of the ban,” he said.

Responding to concerns about health risks from sachet alcohol, Agbese said, “If you pick up a packet of cigarettes, you will see a warning that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health. People still buy cigarettes to smoke. It is within people’s fundamental human rights to decide what they consume, especially adults who can make their own decisions.”

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He also addressed the complaints from low-income earners who felt their rights were violated by the ban. “Those who earn lower incomes raised issues of fundamental human rights, discrimination, harassment, and victimization. If it is within people’s rights to buy choice loaves of bread, we should allow people to afford their Agege bread.”

Agbese concluded by stressing that the health implications were not the primary reason for the ban.

“The health implication was not the reason the ban was placed. As for children consuming sachet drinks, what about codeine and other cough syrups consumed by the children of the rich? This policy targeted the poor,” he lamented.

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