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Alcohol Abuse: Encouraging Need For Responsible Citizenship

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In this report, MARK ITSIBOR writes that besides buoying its customers and boosting national income, the major concern of Nigerian Breweries is that its brands does not harm those it rely on to be in business.

According to available data, about 27,161 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2015, accounting for about 26 per cent of all traffic-related deaths in Nigeria annually. Out of the total traffic deaths in 2016, about 16 per cent involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Like in the United States of America, every day, nearly 15 or more people die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes.

As it stands, Nigeria does not have a robust system for testing level of alcohol consumption by drivers to determine the frequency of drunk-driving.

A survey by CLEEN Foundation had revealed that 74 and 72 per cents of surveyed drivers in urban and rural areas respectively consume alcohol while driving or before driving every day. In its annual National Crime and Safety Survey, the foundation identified abuse of alcohol as a leading cause of accidents across the globe and a leading traffic offence committed by drivers.

However, Drunk-driving fatalities have fallen by a third in recent times with the intervention of the authorities – Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) and stakeholders in the private sector. Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc, the leading player, and its key competitor, Guinness Nigeria Plc are leading the campaign of responsible drinking in Nigeria today. Sometimes, such campaigns are greeted with scepticism. Why should a company that survives on the number of bottles sold encourage drinkers to consume less? But the explanation they give is also simple: “we do not want our brands to harm those we rely on to be in business.” The brewers may have also realised that they need living consumers for them to continue to be in business.

Nigerian brewery industry has emerged from its decades of travail to become a key driver of the economy, creating jobs, stimulating auxiliary industries and boosting national income. But the success story of the industry can only be narrated from the perspective of the enduring and innovative efforts of the operators, especially in building a responsible society.

Facts sheet

– NB sponsors of Golden Pen Award, National Arts Competition, International Poetry Festival and Creative Writers Workshop

– NB contributed 4.6 to N110 non-oil tax revenue in 2013

– NB partners FRSC on Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign since in the past 10 years.

The 2017 edition of Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign edition was the 10th NB, for instance, organised to support an accident-free Nigeria. Organised in partnership with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the programme, held in major cities, is aimed is part of the company’s efforts to promote awareness of responsible alcohol consumption among road users, particularly commercial drivers and riders.

Speaking at one of the rallies held in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory last year, Mr. Vivian Ikem, Head, Government Relations at NB, said the campaign, since inception, had been hosted in 39 cities and engaged over 16,000 drivers.  Encouraging participants to continue to safer roads by drinking and acting responsibly, he said the programme was part of NB’s social responsible to encourage responsible consumption of alcohol. He described the campaign as part of the company’s sustainability agenda of ‘Brewing a Better World’ and a healthy lifestyle.

Also speaking at the flag-off of the campaign in Lagos, Kufre Ekanem, NB’s Corporate Affairs Adviser, said: “The partnership with FRSC is a major pillar of our responsible consumption campaign which is part of our long term strategic sustainability agenda, Brewing a Better World. This agenda also focuses on the delivery of concrete commitments in areas where our company can directly make impact through its operations.”
Commending NB’s role is making Nigeria’s roads accident-free through responsible drinking, Corps Commander Bisi Kazeem, FRSC Corps Public Education Officer, described the initiative as innovative and motivative while calling on other corporate organisations to emulate it.

“The Corps upholds improved consultation and collaboration as one of its core values. This underscores our delight with the sustained motivation by the management of NB to complement our efforts towards ensuring safer roads in Nigeria through responsible drinking habits among drivers,” he said.

Guinness is also active in promoting responsible alcohol consumption in ‘ember’ months. Thierry Henry, a famous football star, was in Lagos in December to draw support for its programme tagged ‘Responsible Drinking Awareness Campaign’, which was held at the Ojota Motor Park.

Speaking at the rally, Managing Director of the company, Mr. Peter Ndegwa, said: “Through our ember month’s campaigns, we aim to play a part in helping consumers make the right choices. The message we deliver to consumers through our annual campaigns is consistent with our values. Consumers are at the heart of everything we do as an organisation and they are the basis for our success. We are therefore genuinely interested in educating consumers on the dangers of alcohol misuse and increasing awareness of the positive role that alcohol can play in society.”

Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign has become an impactful event, bringing stakeholders in the transport sector together to share their thoughts on how to reduce road carnage through responsible alcohol consumption. Apart from the motor park rallies, the media hypes allow different voices to bear in driving home the crucial responsibility of discouraging road users from getting drunk before embarking on inter and intra-city journeys. And there have been testimonies that the rallies have helped to reduce road crashes.

Responsible drinking has become an integral part of the activities of the major brewers. They talk about the need to imbibe the culture in speeches and adverts. At the maiden edition of the Nigeria Beer Festival, held in Victoria Island, Lagos, for example, almost all the artistes seized the opportunity to engage their consumers to shun alcohol abuse. Ekanem, who spoke on behalf on NB at the fiesta, said his company was present at the event to engage consumers on responsible drinking.

Ekanem, explained that the company’s involvement in the beer festival was to reinforce the culture of beer as a social lubricant, which brings people from diverse backgrounds to unite in enjoyment through responsible drinking. He added that the beer festival would impact positively on the nation’s economy through its tourism channels. “As the nation’s foremost brewer, we want to ensure that the Nigeria Beer Festival is rich in various beer brands that would connect with diverse consumers in a unifying and responsible manner. We are also here to promote responsible drinking among consumers and fun seekers,” he said.

Brewers’ involvement in Nigerian affairs as good corporate citizens does not end with this lifestyle and safety. They have also become leading contributors to the national economy through tax payment.  Of the N110 billion non-oil tax revenues generated in 2013, NB contributed 4.6 per cent. In 2016, it paid N16 billion tax to the Federal Government. That was not inclusive of the revenues the government generated from the company’s suppliers and distributors across the country. NB’s major rival, Guinness also paid out a total of N13 billion in taxes in 2016.

For one, NB has literally transformed itself from a corporate entity it was seven decades ago, when it started operation, to an octopus. Thus, one cannot conveniently review the sector without considering the economy of the company and its brands – their quality, market acceptance and competitiveness.

And for NB, it is not about its position in the industry it has held in its grips, it has to do with its leadership role in the Nigeria corporate world. Sitting atop the Nigerian Stock Exchange as the second largest quoted company in term of capitalisation, there is no doubt about the fact it is a pride of the country. Its huge investment portfolio is but one of several other ways it is winning with Nigeria.

In terms of contribution to national income, its records are outstandingly huge. For example, it contributed 0.23 per cent to the economy’s gross domestic product, which is equivalent of 12 percent of the input of the manufacturing sector. Like its brand appeal, its socio-economic investment spreads across the country as its brewery plants are located in Lagos, Aba, Ota, Enugu and Kaduna. From 2011 to 2016, the company expended over N170 billion developing world-class facilities in these locations.

NB has also extended its helping hand to the knowledge and information community. It has consistently rewarded media professionals through its yearly Golden Pen Award. Its intention is to direct the attention of media towards to key areas that stimulate development. At the recent award ceremony held in November, winners and other finalists went home with cash prizes ranging from N500,000 to N2 million, which journalists and publishers said would boost interest in writing on key areas of the economy.

Commenting on the award, Ekanem, said: “As the agenda setters, we believe that the media has a vital role to play in directing the attention of key stakeholders to the role that agriculture, local sourcing and industrial development can play towards the nation’s economic recovery. We are of the opinion that given the huge natural resource potential of our country, it is vital to drive backward integration with a focus on these areas to make our country prosperous.”

Other intellectuals that have benefitted from NB’s social investment are artistes. In partnership with the African Artists’ Foundation, NB organises an annual event tagged National Art Competition to encourage artists to think laterally about social, political and cultural issues and creatively explore them. In addition to cash prizes, winners of the competition are given an opportunity to exhibit their works.

The company is similarly involved in the development of poetry through the sponsorship of the International Poetry Festival. The event, which has been held since 2015, features inspiring programmes such as a night of poems and workshops that make the field appealing to the younger generation.

Apart from calling on others players in the industry to borrow a leave from the Nigerian Breweries, public watchers are calling on the authorities to take preventive steps that would possibly including proscribing sale of alcohol within the vicinity of motor garages across the country.



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