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Ekiti primaries and defeats of the big guns

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

In Ekiti politics, every notable politician claims to be a kingmaker. None, at least openly, acknowledges having been assisted by others to climb the ladder to where they’re politically.
That’s why at every election, they, too, want to be the king, as witnessed in last week’s primaries by the two dominant political platforms, for the June 18, 2022, governorship poll in the state.
So, to keen watchers of the polity, the results of the primaries weren’t much of a surprise, but the bombshell is the free-fall of the big-name and mighty politicians that took part in the processes.
In spite of the larger-than-life image carved for themselves, many of the aspirants, without even casting a ballot, had foreseen defeats, but hoped, like all Nigerian politicians, that a miracle could happen.
In the run-up to the contests, all the boastful politicians had literally written, in their favour, the outcomes of the primaries of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively.
But when the real balloting were held by the PDP on Wednesday, January 26, and the APC on Thursday, January 27, in that order, the politicians, not short of excuses, fell like a pack of cards.
During the campaigns for the primaries, politicians on both divides had complained about the processes being manipulated against them by the state leaders of the PDP and APC: former Governor Ayodele Fayose and Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Specifically, the aspirants, while presenting themselves as “the best man/woman for the job” of governor, had accused the past and current governors of “anointing” their favourites, for whom they’re gaming the processes ahead of the primaries.
The PDP aspirants alleged scheming of the congresses by Mr Fayose, to favour his protégée, Otunba Bisi Kolawole, at the primaries, and to swing the June poll for the rival APC.
They alleged that Fayose had received a princely amount from Governor Fayemi, in order for the PDP to present “an unviable candidate,” for a “walk-over” by the APC at the June election.
Repeated interventions by the national headquarters and South-West branch of the PDP didn’t seem to work, as the allegations continued into the primaries on January 26 in Ado-Ekiti.
For instance, a key PDP aspirant, representing Ekiti South, Senator Abiodun Olujinmi, playing the hot-button gender card, “and an unfair resolution of matters arising from a lingering controversial congress of the party,” pulled out of the primaries before kick-off.
In a press interview, she said the list prepared for the primary election put her at “a disadvantage,” as her local government “is left with only 12 delegates,” as decided by the party leadership.
In other words, Olujinmi, besides seemingly relying solely on the votes of delegates from her local government, had banked on being treated specially as a female, to gain the PDP ticket. And sensing that none of her expectations would materialise, exited the poll.
When the results of the delegate primaries were called, the sceptical aspirants’ misplaced claims to political formidability, rather than their fears, were overwhelmingly debunked.
Fayose’s anointed candidate, Otunba Kolawole, a former member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, who resigned as the PDP chapter chairman to contest in the primaries, trounced former Governor Segun Oni and others, including Senator Olujinmi.
The Chairman of the Primary Election Committee and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, declared Kolawole as the winner of the election, having polled 671 votes against 330 votes by Chief Oni, who placed second.
While former Deputy Governor to Fayose and PDP’s candidate in the 2018 polls, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, came third with 93 votes, Adewale Aribisala scored 56 votes, Kayode Adaramodu 10 votes, Kazeem Ayodeji six votes, Olujimi two votes, and the remaining four aspirants ostensibly got their self-cast ballot of one vote each.
Oni, who succeeded Fayose in his first coming as governor between 2003 and 2006, rejected the results, on the grounds that the delegates’ register was mutilated and many delegates’ names were missing from the register.
Slamming the results, the Director-General of the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, Mr. Yemi Arokodare, accused Governor Emmanuel of threatening to “arrest and lock up some 32 “automatic delegates,” even as the governor “deliberately” allowed Fayose “to sit in the hall after he has voted,” a situation, Arokodare said, was against the rules earlier pronounced by Emmanuel.
“Udom (Emmanuel) allowed aides of Fayose to sit in the hall purposely to intimidate other delegates,” Arokodare said, alleging, as Chief Oni had done prior to the primaries, that Fayose was chairman of the primary committee that oversaw Emmanuel’s election in Akwa Ibom, and that the Ekiti PDP primary poll was “a payback for Ayo Fayose.”
It’s a similar story in the APC, but more intriguing, as seven of the eight aspirants pulled out in the morning of the primaries, over alleged manipulation of the processes in favour of Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, reportedly backed by Governor Fayemi.
The primaries were almost a repeat of the 2018 experience, in which political thugs, engineered by aspirants, who smelt defeat at the poll, disrupted the franchise, with security agents deployed to the venue standing by while the mayhem persisted.
So, the big guns, who called for the stoppage and cancellation of the primaries, were beaten by Oyebanji, immediate past Secretary to Ekiti State, who resigned to contest in the primaries.
The results, as announced by the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee and Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, showed that Oyebanji won in all 16 local government areas of Ekiti, securing 101,703 votes from the 107,877 accredited members.
The breakdown of the results for other aspirants are as follows: Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele, 760 votes; Mr. Femi Bamisile, 400; Mr. Kayode Ojo, 767; Sen. Adedayo Adeyeye, 691; Mr. Bamidele Faparusi, 376; Mr. Ademola Popoola, 239 and Chief Oluwasola Afolabi, 47 votes in the “Option A4” variant of direct primary adopted for the poll.
Governor Badaru expressed shock that the aspirants boycotted the primaries he said were free and fair, noting that, “as we have earlier promised, we have ensured a level-playing ground for all aspirants.”
He denied allegations by the aspirants that they weren’t consulted, saying that 20 names each were submitted by the aspirants, “and added to the list of Returning Officers and they were all captured.”
Badaru explained that a meeting between the committee and the aspirants, slated for the primary morning, was cancelled “because there was security report that the venue was tensed,” and the committee called for security assistance to arrest the situation.
As winners and losers in the PDP and APC await intervention of their parties’ Appeals Committees, either to approve or cancel the balloting, the January 26 and 27 primaries have indicated that when “push comes to shove,” many politicians are mere paper tigers.
Consider the performances of Chief Oni, Senator Olujinmi, Prof. Olusola, Chief Adeyeye, Senator Bamidele and Mr Bamisile (who vigorously canvassed zoning the governorship to Ekiti South), hiding under nebulous allegations of hijacking and manipulation of the processes, to boycott and/or reject the primaries they’d vowed they’re the aspirants to beat.
Particularly noteworthy is Governor Fayemi’s acceding to the agitation for direct primaries in the APC, mostly championed by Senator Bamidele, who expressed optimism that the contest would be credible, only to join six other aspirants to shun the voting.
Finally, the primaries have revealed that there’re “real kingmakers” in Ekiti politics in Mr Fayose and Governor Fayemi. Though Fayose, as incumbent, had “anointed” Prof. Olusola in 2018, it’s the backing, out of power, for Otunba Kolawole that’s proved his political mettle.
Similarly, Dr Fayemi’s crowing of himself as candidate of the APC in 2018 was largely ignored, but this time, he’s deployed the power of incumbency to produce a candidate, who, like Fayose’s candidate, might receive the crown jewel in the June 2022 poll.

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

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Opinion

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

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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

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Dickson Tarkighir at 55: A study in doggdness

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Dickson Tarkighir
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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)

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Opinion

Why FG Must Enforce Graphic Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products

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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.

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