The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has assured the manufacturers of non-alcoholic beverages in Nigeria that the National Assembly will address their concerns with respect to the implementation of the Finance Act 2022.
The Finance Act 2022, among other things, imposes 10 percent tax on non-alcoholic beverages.
Top officials of major players in the industry, drawn from Seven-Up Bottling Company Limited, La Casera Company, Rite Foods Limited and Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, complained to the leadership of the Senate on Wednesday that the tax burden could lead to the collapse of the sector.
Receiving the visitors in his office, the Senate President assured them that the parliament would look into their complaints particularly with respect to the excise duty.
He said: “I have listened to your submissions. I want to assure you that everything that we do as a government, an administration, we do so to promote, to support, to protect and foster businesses in our country.
“You are the owners of the businesses. You invested in the soft drink industry in Nigeria. But Nigerians are the beneficiaries because in addition to drinking the soft drink, our citizens also get jobs and for those reasons, it is always at the forefront of our considerations and focus that we must enhance the business environment in Nigeria and create ease of doing business in Nigeria.
“Besides, we are also conscious that the world is a global village. There are so many other areas to which somebody could easily move out. We don’t want to lose businesses in Nigeria to our competitors. So we have to have a competitive environment here.
“I have taken note of how long you have been in Nigeria. The fact that you have stayed for 70 years(NBC) tells a story that the Nigerian environment has provided you the opportunity to invest and also reap from your investment because it is a symbiotic relationship. While you are making profits from your business, we are also getting jobs and other benefits.
“I want to assure you that when the Finance Act 2022 was passed into law, we did so unconsciously, trying to address the issues, not to trying to overburden your businesses.
“Actually, the Finance Act is one way of responding to global situations that every country today faces and it is not peculiar to Nigeria. But, of course, when you pass law, you find how efficacious the law is when you started to implement it.
“Maybe we are talking about the 10 percent tax. I have noted what you have said about it. You think It is a heavy burden that can make your businesses difficult to survive. And that is not the kind of consequence that we anticipated or hoped and as a parliament that passed the law, we will look at the law and see how everybody will be protected.”
Earlier, the spokesman for the delegation, Ambassador Segun Apata, Chairman of the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, appealed to the Senate President for urgent intervention to save the sector from total collapse.
“We have come to you, that the sector is about to collapse. We don’t be want to go into the public to announce this is happening to us without placing it before you as leaders of this country.
“The Finance Act imposes an excise tax on all non-alcoholic beverages. In our sector, the taxes we pay – company tax, VAT, education tax – are in excess of over N300 billion.
“Our appeal is to ask the National Assembly under your leadership to completely remove the excise tax and return to status quo ante before first of June this year,” Ambassador Apata said.