On February 6, Organised Labor organized a demonstration at the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) office in Lagos, led by officials from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria and the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE).
The recent prohibition and closure of production lines for alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles under 200 ml prompted the protest.
Thousands of workers demonstrated at NAFDAC’s office, which is situated near Plot 1, Industrial Estate, Apapa-Oshodi motorway, Isolo, Lagos State. They brandished signs bearing a variety of statements voicing their disapproval of the prohibition and its possible negative effects on the economy.
“NAFDAC, let us breathe,” read one of the placards, encapsulating the plea of the labor force affected by the ban.
Olamide Somefun, Vice Chairman of the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, Ota, Ogun State, lamented the threat posed to jobs and investments by the prohibition. “Many companies will fold up, especially those local industries that serve as raw materials to the producers,” Somefun remarked, highlighting the ripple effect of the ban on various sectors of the economy.
The ban, enforced by NAFDAC under the leadership of Director-General Mojisola Adeyeye, came into effect on February 1st, 2024. The agency’s decision stemmed from concerns about the accessibility of small-sized alcoholic beverages to underage drinkers, prompting a phased-out approach aimed at eliminating such products.
Prof. Adeyeye elucidated the rationale behind the ban, citing the allure of pocket-friendly sizes that make these beverages easily accessible and affordable to minors. “Children easily fall for the packages, only to face the consequences in the future,” she emphasized during a press conference in Abuja.
Despite NAFDAC’s assertions regarding the necessity and timeline of the ban, members of NUFBTE expressed apprehensions about its economic ramifications. A protester highlighted the broader impact on families dependent on the affected industries for their livelihoods, underscoring the urgency of addressing the issue.
The ban, which originated from a multi-agency committee decision in 2018, outlined a gradual reduction in production leading to a complete phase-out by 2024. NAFDAC reaffirmed its adherence to the agreed-upon timeline, ceasing to renew licenses for the banned products after January 2024.