By Iyema David
The World Bank Group has called on the Nigeria’s Federal Government to impose special taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and sugar-sweetened beverages to improve the Primary Healthcare Centres in the country.
World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri made the call on Friday in Abuja, at the special National Council on Health (NCH), meeting, organized by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
Health Reporters reports that the 2014 National Health Act recognizes the NCH as the highest policy-making body within Nigerian health sector.
The responsibilities of the NCH include the protection, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the citizens of Nigeria and the formulation of policies.
The Council is also tasked with ensuring the delivery of basic health services to the people of Nigeria.
Chaudhuri noted that taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages would reduce health risks and expand fiscal space for Universal Health Coverage post-COVID 19.
The country director stated that investing in stronger health systems for all would contribute to tackling rising poverty and inequality.
“This observation brings to the fore once again the imperative of universal health coverage (UHC).
“If we want to improve health in Nigeria, we need to tax the things that are killing us. The economic rationale for taxing these products is strong if we want to save lives and make a better and healthier Nigeria,” he stressed.
He added that these health tax increases would have the additional advantage of reducing future health care costs by curbing the growth of the non communicable diseases that tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages can cause.
In his goodwill message, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, World Health Organisation (WHO), representative in Nigeria, said having visited up to half of the States in less than two years of his stay in Nigeria, he can attest to the enormous health needs of Nigerians and the effort made so far in meeting these needs.
Mulombo, noted that although COVID-19 like an x-ray exposed the weaknesses in the global economy including health, I rather choose to consider it a unique opportunity for a thorough evaluation of existing resources and mechanisms and build back better towards a more resilient system for the future.
He pledged that the WHO would continue to lead technical support to Nigeria in the development and implementation of Nigeria’s home-grown policies and plans in the context of the global health agenda as reflected in the country’s Cooperation Strategy.
“This we have taken into consideration even as we currently review our operational plan and budget for the next 2 years (2022-2023),” he added.
The WHO rep advised that the duty of achieving the SDGs through building resilient health systems was a collective responsibility which requires incremental steps in the right direction and continuous improvement.
“I am most optimistic that tracking implementation of the resolutions of this Council in line with Nigeria’s and global health agenda will strengthen this ongoing journey towards promoting health, keeping the world safe, and serving the vulnerable in Nigeria,” he said.