The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunimbe Mamora, has assured that the imposition of N10 tax per litre of soft drinks by Federal Government was meant to raise intervention funds for the health sector.
Mamora made this known during a “Pro-Health Tax in Nigeria” Webinar Series entitled: `Does Nigeria Need a Sugar Tax?’.
The seminar was organised by the Nigeria Health Watch (supported by Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, Nigeria Cancer Society) in collaboration with key sector stakeholders.
Mamora said that proceeds from the tax would be used as intervention fund for the treatment and prevention measures for Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had at the public presentation of the 2022 budget in Abuja announced a N10 per litre tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
He said that the idea was to create a pull of intervention fund for the care and treatment/preventive measures of NCDs such as Diabetes, Cancer and Cardiovascular ailments.
According to him, to treat NCDs, such as cancer, costs a lot of money that many Nigerians have lost their love ones due to their inability to afford the treatment.
“The idea is to create an avenue for sustainability of health financing for Non-communicable diseases.
“Earmarking such additional revenues for critical population-based health interventions may contribute to rapidly rebuilding a resilient Nigerian health system,” Mamora said.
Dr Ngozi Azodoh, Director, Health Planning, Research and Statistics, Federal Ministry of Health, said the tax per litre of carbonated drinks and beverages was intended to encourage investment in the health sector.
Azodoh said the motive was to ensure that those who consume these products contribute something to promote the health system.
“The government is trying to see how to move fund from those who have to those who could not afford their healthcare bills.
“Tax revenue can be used to curtail the rising burden of disease on the poor and on the nation’s healthcare system.
“When the consumers/producers of the products contribute the fund through taxes and the money is earmarked for the treatment of major diseases that are too expensive to treat, invariably they are catering for the medical bills of those who may not afford their treatment,” Azodoh said.
Dr Pamela Ajayi, President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, said that it was unfortunate that 99.9 per cent of the cancer patients fund their treatment out of their pockets.
Ajayi said that a lot of the patients had lost their lives due to inability to pay the bills, adding that cancer remained one of the most expensive non-communicable disease to treat anywhere in the world.
She also called for the provision of health insurance coverage for some of the major diseases ravaging the population.
According to her, with the insurance coverage, more people will have access to healthcare, thereby saving their lives and reducing rate of deaths from NCDs.
Dr Zainab Shekafi-Bagudu, Founder, Medical Cancer Foundation, said that late presentation was a major contributing factor to casualties, deaths arising from cancer cases.
Shekafi-Bagudu said that 80 per cent of cancer patients present their cases at late stages.
According to her, if patients can present their cancer cases early, it will help to have better treatment and care, leading to more successful outcomes.She, however, called for proper utilisation of the funds toward the treatment and key preventive measures for non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, cancers among others.