Connect with us

Opinion

Two top cops, one happy couple

Published

on

Share this story

By Tunde Olusunle

Perhaps the highlight of the recent elevation of senior police officers into higher ranks, was the simultaneous promotion of a married couple of the force, to the rank of substantive police commissioner. Kehinde Patrick Longe, and his wife Yetunde, who were both deputy commissioners of police, moved up to the next rank, as contained in a press release from Police Service Commission, (PSC), Monday December 20, 2021.

Instructively, husband and wife were enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), same day, March 3, 1990, as Cadet Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASP). This was upon the successful completion of training at the Police Academy, (POLAC), Wudil, Kano State. The Longes met at the police academy therefore and developed a relationship which has bloomed into a long-subsisting marriage.

Lifted up the ladder of seniority in the police in that same exercise, was the “better half” of another couple, who also met at the same police institution, at the same time as the Longes, and also became husband and wife! In this second instance, the husband was promoted this same time in December 2020. The wife, however, was recognised in the more recent exercise. Availability of positions or vacancies, in the states of origin of officers under consideration, sometimes becomes an issue when moving them upwards at this level. We therefore have a scenario, which has similarly produced a “police commissioner couple,” from  the police academy, whose relationship and marriage has straddled through more than three decades, thus far.

I have a longstanding relationship with the latter couple, which is as intertwined as it is interesting. I first met Tony Adejoh Olofu, August 1985, at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, (AICE), Owerri, Imo State, which used to be the permanent orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC), in our time. Olofu from Benue State, studied sociology at the University of Jos, while I came from what is now the old Kwara State, having read English, at the University of Ilorin. Trust young people, there would usually be points of mutual intersections, in the kind of atmosphere provided by the youth corps camp. Our network of friends would broaden to include Dede Mabiaku, a top Afrobeat artist who studied theatre arts at the University of Benin, underwent his NYSC primary assignment in “Charly Boy Studios,” Oguta, Imo State, and Armstrong Idachaba, also a theatre arts graduate from Unijos, until recently, acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), among  others.

While Olofu was deployed to the same AICE for his primary assignment, I was posted to Imo State Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri. To this extent, we were both in the state capital, and also in the same Community Development (CD) group. CD groups were constituted by the alphabetical arrangement of the names of NYSC members, which meant that Olofu was in the same group as “Olusunle.” To this extent, we rode in the same truck to the “NYSC Farm” located at Emekuku, on the outskirts of Owerri, every week, for our CD. My accommodation at the time was at Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri, a walking distance from the NYSC state office, so we would typically stroll to my place, upon our return from Emekuku, to have a bite and share the “communion of the bottle.” We exchanged weekend visits between each other, even as I “inducted” Olofu into the culture of watching live football. Till date, he tells our mutual friends that I dragged him to the stadium for the first time ever, those days when “Iwuanyanwu Nationale” shared the spotlight of soccer in the South East, with “Rangers International” of Enugu.

We went our different ways upon the completion of the NYSC in 1986. In the absence of the kind of telecommunications technology we have today, we resorted to exchanging letters, sent through the Nigerian Postal Service, (NIPOST), to keep in touch. And somehow, many of those letters came through, even if they took a little while. I received one such letter from him sometime in mid-1993. By this time, I had been appointed Director of Information and Public Affairs in the administration of the late first civilian governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu. Olofu was serving in one of the police formations in the country. I’m trying to remember some lines from that correspondence now: “… Should you receive this letter, it serves as your formal invitation to my wedding to your sister from Kogi State and I will appreciate your presence and company, please.”

I got into perhaps the largest *agbada* possible on Saturday July 22, 1993 and drove from my base in Lokoja, to Okene for the event. Olofu sighted my grand costume from the high table where he was seated with other dignitaries, as I made my stately entry into the venue of the programme. He promptly directed one of the ushers to guide me to join special guests on the high table. As I exchanged pleasantries with the big people and the couple, I saw in the bride, a face I could remember very well from my alma mater, Unilorin. The mini campus of the institution was so very close knit in our generation, that you would have encountered a broad spectrum of schoolmates in the cafeteria, library, faculty blocks, lecture room zone, *Africa Hall,* the prime event centre of the school, and so on.

The bride was indeed my sister. Rhoda Adetutu Emmanuel, (her maiden name), was an alumnus of Unilorin where she studied political science. She graduated in 1986, a year after my generation of students. She had earlier attended the School of Basic Studies of the Kwara State College of Technology, (SBS), for her advanced level, and was also a year behind our set. Her erstwhile faculty in Unilorin, “Business and Social Sciences,” abbreviated by students as “BSS,” was the most geographically contiguous to our own faculty of Arts, so it was possible to remember the faces of many people from both faculties. Following the August 27, 1991 creation of nine new states by President Ibrahim Babangida, Kogi Central, Mrs Olofu’s zone, and Kogi West, my senatorial zone, had been extracted from the old Kwara State, and joined with what is now Kogi East, taken out of the old Benue State. She was fittingly therefore, my sister.

The newly wed Mrs. Rhoda Adetutu Olofu, carried herself with requisite dignity and self respect in school. Unmistakably pretty, she was a bit reserved and very selective of her friends and associates. Those of us who were outgoing students, “card-carrying” party freaks as it were, who regularly crisscrossed parties and pubs from “Sawmill,” to “Adewole Estate,” to “GRA,” to “Niger Basin,” on the night time streets of Ilorin, knew ourselves. We also knew our female “accomplices,” who were regularly on the “Groove Train,” with us. Mrs Olofu was not one of them. In fact, we had a nickname for students whose daily itinerary in school, was the regimental route of: hostel, to the classroom and then to the library. We called them “triangular students!” She fitted this profile. The more unserious characters, who lived their lives between the Student Union Building (SUB) a one-stop-shop for liquor and culinary indulgence, and party venues in town, equally had their label. We festooned them with the acronym “NFA,” which translated as No Future Ambition!

With the dawn of democratic governance in 1999, I relocated from my old abode in Lagos, to Abuja, having been appointed a presidential aide by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I had functioned as his media press secretary all through his campaign and he desired my membership of his team. Tony Olofu and I would be conjoined again. He had just returned from a peacekeeping operation under the auspices of the United Nations in Angola. Uncomfortable about the prospects of his family having to move around with him ever so frequently, in the name of routine postings and redeployments by the police, he desired a stable location for them. From his savings from the one-year UN assignment, he put up a modest bungalow in one of the satellite towns around Abuja and moved his family there.

Just like Olofu had anticipated, he got shuffled around fairly much by the NPF, serving as Commander, Mobile Police Squadron 25 (Mopol 25), Azumini, Abia State; Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Garki Division, Abuja, and Area Commander, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Satellite Towns, with his office in Kubwa, among others. He has also been Commander, *Operation Doo Akpo,* a special security outfit in Bayelsa State; Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations (DCP-Ops), Ebonyi State and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Criminal Investigations Department (DCP-CID), Bauchi State. Olofu has similarly been Commissioner of Police, Counter Terrorism Unit, (CP-CTU), at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. He was also Police Director of Operations and Intelligence, National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and Commissioner of Police, Anambra State, respectively.

Rhoda Olofu has been much more stable than her husband, which has enabled her to keep the home properly, in the regular absence of her husband. Except for a brief period during which she served in Keffi, Nasarawa State Police Command, she has traversed various departments at the Force Headquarters, notably serving as Assistant Commissioner of Police in-charge of Establishment, (AC Establishment) and  Deputy Commissioner of  Police, Training, (DCP Training). She has also functioned  as Deputy Commissioner, Research and Planning (DCP R and P), before her recent promotion.

In 2004, my family and the Olofus, visited Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi State, for a weeklong excursion, as guests of the erstwhile governor of the state, Adamu Muazu. Children of both families have taken up the baton of the relationship between their parents, having been joined together in instances, by the educational institutions they attended. They are best of friends, regularly honouring invites to events organised by one another. From Olofu’s Otukpo home, to his village, Opaha, in Apa local government area of Benue State, I have been a serial guest. In the same way, Olofu has been a regular caller to my hometown, Isanlu in Kogi State and to Ilorin, where my parents live. Our families on both sides, have fully been incorporated into one another, such that I can call and relate very well with Olofu’s siblings, notably Dennis, David and Baba, just the way he nicknamed my brother, Toba Olusunle “Oshiomhole,” for feigning modesty, despite being a very senior government official.

We equally share mutual friendships with the same people in many instances, and relate with each other, as though we were playmates from childhood. Olofu doesn’t need my consent to banter with and “harass” my old friends like Gbenga Ayeni (a professor in Connecticut); Tivlumun Nyitse (chief of staff to the Benue governor), or Femi Ajisafe (a retired director from the federal ministry of transportation). In the same way, I can barge into his long time associates like John Ofotu (in England); Egwurube Obande (a businessman) and Garuba Uloko (formerly of the Nigerian Customs). As different from the vainglorious exhibitionism of many people in the uniformed services, you are not going to find police personnel milling around the abode of the Olofus, who are famous for their simplicity and unassuming carriage.

Mrs. Rhoda Olofu, potentially, joins the growing list of women who have risen to distinguished heights in the police force. Abimbola Ojomo, was the first female Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), appointed by the Obasanjo administration, January 22, 2002. Ivy Uche Okoronkwo is reputed as the very first female officer to head a state command, as one time Commissioner of Police in Ekiti State. She also rose to the position of DIG October 5, 2010. Farida Mzamber Waziri, an AIG and attorney, was the first female to be appointed Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), (a serially male dominated position since the inception of the agency under the Obasanjo administration), in 2008. Aishatu Abubakar, a veterinary doctor, recently became the first woman specialist in the police, to make the AIG cut.

As an alumnus of the “Better By Far” University of Ilorin, Mrs Olofu expands the number and quality of alumni of the institution, who have become top police officers and attained the rank of Commissioner, at the very least. They include Gbenga Adeyanju (who retired at the rank of AIG), Ayo Oguntuase (recently retired as police commissioner), Amaechi Elumelu, Abdulkadir Mohammed, Ayoku Yekini, (mni), Kehinde Longe, Adepoju Ilori, and many others. Erstwhile vice chairman of the Unilorin Alumni Association, FCT Chapter, Sa’adat Ismail, was also elevated Deputy Commissioner of Police, earlier this year.

Tony Olofu was born October 24, 1963, and his wife July 22, 1965. Coincidentally therefore, the wedding anniversary of the couple is the birthday of the wife. I have teased him in the past, that he applied police sense in consenting to having his wedding in 1993, on the day of the week which coincided with his wife’s birthday, because he wanted to escape having to entertain friends so many times, in the year! The Olofu union is blessed with lovely, well raised children.

•Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE).

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (1)

Published

on

By

Share this story

By Ehichioya Ezomon

Abia State Governor Alex Otti’s the rave of the moment among his peer governors, and most Nigerians, for “infrastructural development,” and particularly for signing into law a Bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA) to repeal life pensions for former governors and deputy governors of the state.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were paid lifetime salaries, and got houses in Abia and Abuja, prompting ex-Head of State and former President Olusegun Obasanjo – on a visit to Dr Otti to commend his novel move – to describe the life pension laws by state governors as “rascality” and “acts of daylight robbery,” and urged other governors to emulate the Otti example.
But did retired Gen. Obasanjo, Ph.D, also send similar entreaty to President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly (NASS), to repeal pensions and entitlements for former presidents, vice presidents and heads of state? Or only former governors and deputies should curb their appetite for free money and materials after “retirement” from government?
Obasanjo’s advocacy should touch all former elected or appointed executive officeholders, as we shouldn’t have a “special breed” of Nigerians: former military heads of state, presidents, vice presidents, governors and deputy governors, who enjoy government’s freebies, and live in luxuries at the expense of toiling Nigerians in need of the bare essentials of life.
It’s as well to recall that in a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council at the State House, Abuja, on May 24, 2023, then Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called for an upward review of pensions for former presidents and vice presidents.
Osinbajo, referencing President Muhammadu Buhari’s “personal integrity,” said: “Part of the problem with that is that sometimes, you and I end up getting the very short end of the stick. If you look at the laws today, our retirement benefits, yours (Buhari) will be N350,000 a month by law and mine will be N250,000 per month.
“Those, of course, as you can imagine, are very tiny amounts of money. And I think that one of the things that we must do is to, perhaps, see how we can amend that law so that I will not come to you in Daura (Buhari’s hometown in Katsina State) and ask for some of your bulls to sell in order to survive.”
As Sunday PUNCH findings, first reported on May 28, 2023, indicate, “severance packages for Buhari and Osinbajo, state governors and other political appointees leaving office in 2023 might cost the country about N63.45bn,” adding that, as stipulated by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC), “President Buhari will get a severance pay of N10.54m, which is 300 per cent of his annual basic salary, while Vice-President Osinbajo will receive N9.09m.”
In a manner of, “What a man can do, a woman can do it, and even better,” then First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, also solicited increased out-of-office benefits for ex-presidents and vice presidents, and for the incorporation of former first ladies “among the beneficiaries.” She spoke on May 25, 2023, in Abuja, at the launch of a book, ‘The Journey of a Military Wife,’ written by Mrs Vickie Irabor, wife of then Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor (retd).
Mrs Buhari’s plea: “The Federal Government should consider us as people that need help not as magic makers. And on the privileges given to the former presidents of Nigeria, they should do more. It is still not enough considering what people go through in that house (Presidential Villa). And at the same time, I want them to incorporate women, the former first ladies, among the beneficiaries.”
Many Nigerians have lent voices to the Otti gesture, especially coming at an time of economic strangulation of the average and below-average citizens since the advent of the Tinubu administration, following the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol, and floating the Naira, which’s crashed against major foreign currencies, and sent inflation and the cost of living sky-high.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Tinubu to swiftly obey a court judgment, which orders the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Following a SERAP suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in a 20-page judgment on November 26, 2019, granted “AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.”
“Justice Oguntoyinbo also granted ‘AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.'”
Then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had argued that “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged.” But Justice Oguntoyinbo differed, saying, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, adding, “I have considered SERAP’s arguments that it is concerned about the attendant consequences that are manifesting on the public workers and pensioners of the states who have been refused salaries and pensions running into several months on the excuse of non-availability of state resources to pay them.”
Justice Oguntoyinbo didn’t expressly pronounce on the legality of awarding life pensions to former governors and deputy governors. Perhaps, the plaintiff, SERAP, didn’t include that in its averments and prayers. Which somehow left the judge to push the responsibility to the Attorney General – “being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation” – of finding out the “legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians.”
But the National Industrial Court – as posted on the African Law eJournal on March 25, 2020 – had ruled that pensions for former governors and deputy governors are legal, as nothing in the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria precludes or prevents state houses of assembly from enacting laws to give such benefits to former state chief executives.
Michael Dugeri of University of Ottawa, Canada, posted the court’s ruling in the case of Incorporated Trustees of Human Development Initiatives & 39 Others v. Governor of Abia State & 73 Others, which borders on “legal validity of state pensions laws for political office holders in Nigeria.”
“The National Industrial Court, in this case, was invited to determine the question of whether any law, especially by the State Houses of Assembly, that stipulates pension of such public officials already covered by the constitutional mandate of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation & Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), is ultra vires, null and void. The Court answered in the negative,” the report said.
Yet, as first reported by Vanguard on March 24, SERAP, while noting inaction by the Buhari administration on the Justice Oguntoyinbo judgment, urges President Tinubu, in a March 23 letter by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, “to emulate the good example of Governor Otti by urgently obeying the judgment.”
“Unless the judgment is immediately obeyed, former governors and their deputies, including those now serving as ministers in your administration and members of the National Assembly who receive pensions, would continue to evade justice for their actions,” SERAP says.
“Immediately obeying the judgment would show the sovereignty of the rule of law in Nigeria and go a long way in protecting the integrity of the country’s legal system. Obeying the judgment would also show you (Tinubu) as a defender of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the rule of law, and public interest within government,” SERAP adds.
SERAP lists former governors, “who continue to collect double emoluments and large severance benefits” from 22 states, including Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Ekiti, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi, and Katsina.
As reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on March 20, the Abia pensions repeal law isn’t the first, as a few states had moved to abolish the law, but “many states showed nonchalant attitude toward doing so.” Still, the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors’ (Repeal) Law 2024,” which took effect immediately on Thursday, March 21, 2024, after Governor Otti signed it, forecloses former governors and deputy governors earning pensions.
But did the Abia repealed pensions law include other perquisites of office, which make the pensions per se to look like pocket money for a boarding-house student, who doesn’t really need extra money, as their parents or guardians have settled accommodation, feeding and provisions for them?
This and more will be explored in part 2 of the series, amid denial by two former governors of Abia State, Sen. Theodore Orji and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, of receiving pensions since they left office, even as Governor Otti continues to enjoy the limelight of abolishing pensions for former governors and deputy governors of Abia State!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Continue Reading

Opinion

Dickson Tarkighir at 55: A study in doggdness

Published

on

By

Dickson Tarkighir
Share this story

By Tunde Olusunle

Many of his kinsmen and friends had a good laugh the day he was inaugurated into the eighth assembly of the House of Representatives, June 2015. Most probably unsure how to pronounce his surname, the Clerk of the “green chambers” as the lower deck of the national parliament is described, opted for a spontaneous improvisation.
Rather than set his tongue against his teeth, the Clerk after correctly pronouncing his first names settled for a simpler *Takiri!* By some coincidence, Tivlumun Nyitse my brother from our university days and cousin to *Takiri* and I watched the live telecast of that ceremony together. We had a very sumptuous laugh and called to congratulate him later that day. We reaffirmed he would have to don his new “baptismal necklace” for times to come and could hear his guffaw in the background. He took it in good spirits and has never made a fuss about it.

Dickson Dominic Tarkighir on that occasion was inaugurated as Member Representing Makurdi/Guma federal constituency of Benue State. I have been privileged over time to have met and developed relationships with sections of the Benue State middle class and political elite. I had encountered the amiable George Akume, (incumbent Secretary to the Government of the Federation), and the departed Ogirri Ajene his deputy, when they both governed the state between 1999 and 2007. Governors, (and their deputies when assigned), regularly had engagements in the State House where I functioned from under the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar government. As “groundsmen” in Aso Villa, there was always the possibility of meeting dignitaries at that level. They were equally delighted to have you as a “strategic ally.” I’m also a friend of the affable Gabriel Torwua Suswam who succeeded Akume as governor in 2007 and Samuel Ioraer Ortom who took over from Suswam in 2015.

Four friends have also impacted my integration into Benue State where I’ve developed a broad network of friendships and acquaintances. Nyitse, my classmate since my first day in the University of Ilorin who is presently an associate professor of journalism has been most catalytic in this regard. He served as Permanent Secretary in the Benue State civil service for about 10 years and commands quite some respect in the Benue system. Through Tony Olofu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, (AIG) with whom I went through the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) in Imo State between 1985 and 1986, I’ve also made friends from that sociocultural space. Shiaondo Aarga, alumnus of the University of Ilorin like Nyitse and I who also retired Permanent Secretary in Benue State, has also aided my acculturation. Shima Ayati was my colleague in the Obasanjo/Atiku government and we remain best of friends today.

I met Dickson Tarkighir through Tivlumun Nyitse when Nyitse was Permanent Secretary, Government House Administration, (PS-GHA) in the Suswam administration, almost two decades ago. Tarkighir was Managing Director of *Triggar and Gibbons Ltd,* an advertising and logistics support service company which was foraging for business opportunities in Benue State. I was a regular face in Benue State those years because I had a consultancy liaison with the government. Tarkighir’s outfit may rightly be described as the precursor of electronic billboards in Benue State. Tarkighir had successfully experimented with the concept in Kaduna and found new grounds in his home state. Nyitse’s office was the engine room of the Suswam administration which processed the governor’s instructions and conveyances to the various ministries, departments and agencies, (MDAs). The personable, outgoing Tarkighir was a regular caller in Government House, Makurdi ensuring alignment between the vision of government and the electronic copies that were displayed for public consumption.

A multitasking entrepreneur, Tarkighir had previously setup *Dasnett Mobile Services Ltd,* with the coming to be of GSM services to Nigeria over 20 years ago. He impacted the entertainment space of Makurdi the Benue State capital by establishing a classy, integrated nightclub and services outfit. Located at the very heart of Makurdi, he christened it *District 4 Lounge.* Its ancillaries included a functional restaurant and a bakery. He developed it into perhaps the most sought-after hangout in the city, a preferred destination for high octane visitors to the state, previously pampered ostensibly, by mouthwatering options in bigger cities. Tarkighir is a notably hands-on executive whose presence and subtle guidance of his staff on reminds of the doting style of Ken Calebs-Olumhense, the iconic proprietor of *Niteshift* those good old days in Lagos.

Governor Gabriel Suswam took special note of Tarkighir’s exertions and innovative strides and engaged him as Senior Special Assistant, (SSA) on Industries, in 2009. He was reappointed in 2011 following Suswam’s reelection. Tarkighir resigned his appointment in 2014 to contest for a seat in the federal parliament. He dared unfamiliar grounds in his quest for the House of Representatives office when he defected from the better established Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP), to the fledgling All Progressives Congress, (APC). He triumphed at the polls as part of the countrywide *tsunami* which displaced the PDP from the centre of national politics at the 2015 general elections. It seemed well advised therefore that he took the gamble of defection to and running on the platform of the APC.

Despite being a first timer in the congress, Tarkighir was proactive. First, he was keen on learning the ropes. He was listed to serve in nearly a dozen committees of the parliament which was good for requisite exposure. He was in the appropriation; defence; petroleum (downstream); population; navy; health services; Niger Delta affairs; inter-parliamentary; integration in Africa and the ECOWAS parliament committees in the House. With the hindsight of creeping unemployment in the country, he advised that the 25,000 ghost workers discovered by the federal government at the time, be replaced with genuine job seekers. He imposed upon himself the responsibility of unearthing vacancies in MDAs and assisting his primary constituents wherever he could. He soon donned the alias of “Mr Employment” amongst his constituents as attestation to his efforts.

Tarkighir sponsored several bills and motions. Agonised by the ravaging Fulani incursions into his state for example, he sought the creation of a cattle ranching department in the federal ministry of agriculture. He also sponsored bills on healthcare; internet security; need for special attention for hydroelectric power producing areas, among others. His motions encompassed those requesting support for his flood-devastated constituency; the need for the rehabilitation of the Makurdi-Gboko federal highway and the imperative for the declaration of a state of emergency on deadly attacks by herdsmen across the country. Tarkighir prosecuted a plethora of projects in his constituency for the betterment of the lives of his people.

Solar-powered street lights; electric transformers; boreholes; sewing machines; cassava processing equipment; submersible pumps; bicycles; tricycles and laptops were some of the life-improving accessories he availed his constituents. Medical outreaches were organised for mass enlightenment, even as skills acquisition programmes were also prosecuted. Tarkighir equally facilitated the completion of the *Akaakuma* dam, and the construction of residential quarters for the divisional police officer in *Gbajimba* within his constituency, and a primary school in *Ngban* in *Guma* local government area. Tarkighir didn’t win reelection in 2019. He refocused on his core entrepreneurship concerns always never forgetting the adage about charity beginning at home. He rehabilitated and expanded his *District 4* model through which he rescued a few more youths from the hungry streets. “I’ve been there, Oga Tunde,” he tells me about his experiences growing up, his mien suddenly sobering. “It’s not easy out there.” Dickson Tarkighir won the Makurdi/Guma federal constituency seat at the 2023 polls and has since returned to the 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives.

He was born April 12, 1969 in Makurdi and attended St. Thomas Primary School, *Ibume* between 1976 and 1981. He proceeded to *Nongov* Community Secondary School in *Tse-Kyo,* in *Guma* LGA. He obtained a bachelors degree in business administration from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State in 2003. He thereafter consolidated his thirst for knowledge in this specialty by earning a masters also in business administration from the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria, in 2008. An indomitable quester for new vistas, he previously cut his career dentition with Mojo Electronics, Umuahia, Abia State, between 1988 and 1991. He also worked in the Kaduna station of the now defunct *Okada* airlines from 1992 to 1995. These were cross-country toughening experiences which have profited his worldview.

Tarkighir chairs the House of Representatives Committee on “Constituency Outreach,” created early in the life of the Fourth Republic in 2003. Among other responsibilities the committee exercises supervisory oversight on the implementation of Zonal Intervention Projects, (ZIP) by members, and addresses the interests of congressmen. In the ranking of House committees in the order of importance, Tarkighir’s brief is adjudged a “Grade A” outfit. He is reportedly the first parliamentarian from the north central geopolitical zone to chair his present brief. Tarkighir speaks impeccable Hausa which privileges him in our still largely parochial ethno-politics. He is happily married and blessed with children.

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

Continue Reading

Opinion

Why FG Must Enforce Graphic Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products

Published

on

By

Share this story

By Paul Ashibel

Tobacco consumption remains a significant global health challenge, with dire consequences for both individual users and society at large.
In combating this epidemic, one policy tool has emerged as a potent force for change: graphic health warnings.
These stark visual reminders of the dangers of tobacco use serve not only to inform but also to deter, making their implementation on tobacco products a critical step in public health initiatives.
Also, graphic health warnings have been shown to have a profound impact on consumer behaviour.
Research indicates that prominently displayed warnings on tobacco packaging not only increase knowledge about the health risks but also motivate smokers to contemplate quitting or reducing their tobacco intake.
By confronting users with the stark reality of the harm they inflict upon themselves, these warnings serve as a powerful catalyst for behaviour change, nudging individuals towards healthier choices and ultimately saving lives.
Tobacco products such as shisha, cigars and smokeless tobacco have often evaded the graphic health warnings requirements.
This enforcement gap not only undermines the effectiveness of public health efforts but also allows tobacco companies to continue marketing their products with impunity, targeting vulnerable populations, including youth and marginalized communities.
Section 20 of the National Tobacco Control Act stipulates that “every tobacco or tobacco products package shall contain in writing and graphics, every health warning signs prescribed in this Act or any other law which shall cover not less than 50% of the total surface area of the package.”
In June 2023, the rotational graphic health warning of a contrast image of healthy lungs (non-smoker’s lungs) and diseased lungs (smoker’s lungs) with the text warning “smoking causes lung cancer was phased out after two years, and at the same time, the Federal Ministry of Health approved an image of mouth cancer caused by tobacco use with the text warning reading “smoking causes mouth cancer”.
The tobacco industry is expected to comply with this provision on all tobacco products, including shisha, cigars and like products, not only on cigarettes where skeletal compliance has been recorded.

The fact is the tobacco industry knows that these health warnings work, and in many cases thwart the effectiveness of the policy by delaying compliance, using poor resolution images that do not meet approved standards, and avoiding its application on all tobacco products.

The warnings are effective because they speak a universal language, transcending barriers of literacy and language.

Through compelling imagery and minimal text, these warnings communicate the grave health risks associated with tobacco use in a manner that is easily understood by individuals across diverse cultures and educational backgrounds.

Whether it’s a photograph depicting diseased lungs or a graphic illustration of the impact on oral health, these visuals leave a lasting impression, fostering greater awareness and understanding of the hazards of tobacco consumption.

There is no justifiable reason to why there are still tobacco products in the Nigerian market not complying with the approved set of pictorial and text warnings.

Between June 2023 and November 2023, the tobacco industry as provided by the Act had 150 days to sell tobacco products with the old warnings alongside those with the new warnings, after which every tobacco product sold without the new warnings and messages would be in violation.

The Act stipulates that non-compliant products are to be seized, and other penalties meted on the sellers.

A survey conducted by the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance at the end of the 150-day moratorium period showed that while there was some compliance on cigarette packs, other tobacco products had almost zero compliance to the policy.
Accordingly, all tobacco products currently being sold without the approved health warnings are sold under direct violation of the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, and the relevant agencies of government; Standards Organization of Nigeria, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Nigeria Police Force, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, etc., must step up to their responsibility of enforcing the graphic health warnings policy on all tobacco products as required by law.
Paul Ashibel works with the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance and writes from Abuja.

Continue Reading

Trending