By Abanobi Eku-Onyeka
A coalition of non-governmental organisations, yesterday, gave a 30-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse increased excise duty on locally-produced alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
The groups, Business Renaissance Group (BRG) and Sustained Development Collective (SDC) in Abuja, said that they would seek judicial redress without further recourse to the government if the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun refuses to heed to their call.
Recently, Mrs. Adeosun announced an upward review of the existing tariff and excise duty on locally-produced wines and spirits, as well as tobacco products.
At present, what is being paid on alcoholic beverages stands at 20 per cent and amounts to N31 per litre, while the new excise duty announced by the Minister is N200 per litre for spirits, and N150 for wines.
The President of the Coalition, Mazi Omife Omife, speaking with journalists, 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 over N420 billion.
According to him, a�?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.
a�?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 beneficiariesa�? he said.
He however expressed disappointment that there was no consultation with the local distillers and blenders association by the Minister of Finance and demanded that immediate steps be taken to review the excise duty with a view to reducing it in consonance with present day realities.
a�?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.
a�?In the unlikelyA�event that the MinisterA� fails, refuses or neglects to heed to this call withinA� 30 days from today (yesterday),A� we shall be left with no alternative than to seek judicialA� redress without further recourse to the government,a�? he remarked.
On his part, the Coordinator of the roup, Dr. Ike Ikegbunam while fielding questions from journalists, saidA�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 of the Coalition, Barr. Ogbonnaya Agbafo, 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.