Concerned Consumers (CC), an organization that advocates for consumer rights, has called attention to the staggering N104 billion that Nigeria loses each year to the importation of energy drinks.
Messrs Olufemi Odebunmi, Convener, and Rufai Rimi, Co-convener of CC, citing statistics to back their proposal for a ban on imported energy drink brands, claimed that over 300,000 Nigerians would have been completely and gainfully employed if the industry had been allowed to develop domestically.
They calculated that the average yearly importation of energy drinks into the nation is between 1,800 and 2,000 containers. At the market rate of between N18,000 and N20,000 per case, each container has 2,600 cases, therefore the projected yearly loss to the nation is greater than N104 billion.
In a statement addressed to relevant agencies of government, Messrs Olufemi Odebunmi and Rufai Rimi, Convener and Co-convener of CC respectively queried the continuous exclusion of imported energy drinks from Import Prohibition List (Trade), which described it as “a case of healthy and unhealthy drinks branded together.”
The statement titled, ‘The Importation of Energy Drinks into Nigeria Despite the Proven Health Hazards and the Various Ban on Imported Juices,’ a copy of which was seen by the media, explained that “If fruit juice in retail packs are banned, then energy drinks ought to have been banned and should by now be included in the Import Prohibition List as its exclusion is actually inimical to the local industry growth and to the health of the citizenry including financially with the engagement of scarce Dollars in the pursuit of such Importation.”
The CC officials drew attention to a circular issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance on March 20, 2015 titled Import Prohibition List (Trade) Annex III which states goods and products whose importation into Nigeria are prohibited.
“Curiously, fruit juice in retail packs were banned along with water, mineral water, aerated water containing added sugar or sweetening matter flavoured, other non-alcoholic beverages and beer and stout and the only exception was energy or health drinks.”
According to the CC officials, “We are amazed that our health and regulatory and standard organizations are still allowing imported energy drinks into the country even after the debilitating nature of the damage to our health from these imported energy drinks and most importantly, why would it be exempt along with health drinks?”
Messrs Odebunmi and Rimi argued that “Part of the interest of import prohibition is to lead eventually to local production of same, which can be seen from the burgeoning fruit juice industry in Nigeria which has grown in leaps and bounds from 2015, following its import prohibition, whereas, there are actually a few multi-national companies in Nigeria who have now engaged in local production of energy drinks but alas, they are considered inferior and therefore suffer poor and very low patronage in comparison with the imported ones that leads one to ask when is Nigeria going to protect its territory and its citizenry?”
Energy drinks fall into the category of ready-to-drink fruit juice, which importation of same in whatsoever mode and means remains banned in Nigeria since 2003.
Condemning the massive influx of imported energy drinks into the country, Odebunmi and Rimi called on agencies of government including Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Customs Service, the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Consumers Protection Council of Nigeria, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) “to be vigilant and discourage the unscrupulous importation of energy drinks into Nigeria which will jeopardize the interest of the local industries and sabotage the national interest of the country.” For about 20 years now, product HS Codes 2009.11.0012 – 2009.11.0013 – 2009.9000.99 have been on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) list of prohibited products.
The CC officials disclosed that more than 85 per cent of the market is dominated by imported energy drink brands. The locally manufactured brands are all struggling as they don’t have international brand name and recognition to match imported ones.
They are therefore disadvantaged and even considered inferior. Failure to enforce ban on restricted products is a clear demonstration of government’s lack of support for local industries. By not check mating smuggled energy drinks, government and its agencies have done a great disservice to local manufacturers of energy drinks.
“Concerned Consumers are perplexed by various developments in our polity which do not augur well for the health of the citizens and which is also discouraging local production at the time when the country should be looking inward and saving it’s scarce foreign exchange.”