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Who endorsed President Buhari’s ‘APER’ forms? Part 1

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By Tunde Olusunle

Emotions were mixed as we hurled our bags and boxes on our shoulders, shook hands, hugged one another and headed for the various motor parks, en route our various destinations. We had gotten so close knit with new friends we made within the preceding, mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC). In instances, some of these relationships had made virtual siblings of friendships. Our set produced notable personalities like Oby Ezekwesili, (former Education Minister); Sunny Togo Echono, (Executive Secretary of the Education Trust Fund, ETF) and Armstrong Idachaba, (former Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission, NBC). We also had Amaechi Elumelu, Assistant Inspector General of Police, (AIG); Tony Olofu, (Police Commissioner in-charge of Eastern Ports, Port Harcourt) and Dede Mabiaku, (protege of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and established afrobeat artist himself).

Dennis Eboreime, (who rose to the topmost rungs of leadership in the United Bank for Africa, (UBA); Kingsley Jatto, a US-based realtor; Ibrahim Dikko, (a top shot in telecommunications) and Mathew Aligbe, (former Registrar, Federal Polytechnic, Owerri) were also in that NYSC batch. Dateline was July 1986, one month short of the first anniversary of the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida, which advent we heard on the airwaves of the Imo State Broadcasting Corporation, (IBC) August 27, 1985. We were on the playground of Alvan Ikoku College of Education, (AICE), Owerri which had been adapted into a “parade ground” for the purposes of paramilitary drills, a key component of the orientation regimen. Babangida and Company had just kicked out the 20-month old regime of Muhammadu Buhari, yes, this democratically-reincarnated Buhari, which was rapidly sliding into fascism.

Our minds were respectively burdened by the grim and gloomy realities waiting out there for us as young graduates. Prospects of white-collar jobs were already thinning, before we graduated. My mind indeed went straight back to Bode Sowande’s 1979 play, The Night Before, in which I previously acted, which highlighted the apprehensions and concerns of young university graduates on the eve of their convocation. We had schoolmates and friends who graduated before us, whose blistered feet were still pounding the inflamed tar and humid earth of un-smiling streets, in vain quest of engagement in whatever form. Here we were, poised to confront the same grim reality, the same wrenching gloom, like our earlier compatriots.

Some of us were going to get lucky as we returned to our home state, the erstwhile Kwara State. An unusually proactive bureaucracy at the time, had advised the military leadership in the state to mitigate a palpable unemployment crisis, by thinking outside the box. In a rare demonstration of pragmatism and political will, the government of the day terminated the contract appointments of all non-Nigerian instructors in its employ. Indians and Pakistanis variously taught mathematics and science subjects; Ghanaians, English, while Togolese and Beninoise, taught French languages. This opened a window for me to get a job as an “Education Officer.” I was spontaneously deployed to Ponyan a community in modern day Yagba East local government area, (LGA), in contemporary Kogi State, to teach English language and literature in English.

It turned out that Ponyan was the very first place I would sight a document which is abbreviated as, and famously called the APER form, very popular in the lexicon of the civil service. The full meaning of the acronym is: “Annual Performance Evaluation Report.” The private sector indeed has a similar appraisal template used for the assessment of its employees. The APER form has all manner of columns and boxes on a broad spectrum of indices, relating to personnel performance. These include: Key performance areas, self appraisal, performance analysis, performance ratings and counselling.

There are also provisions for comments and endorsements by the Head of Department, (HOD), of the officer being assessed, and the central supervising authority and the overall head of that institution or organisation, among others. Confirmation of appointments, salary adjustments, promotions, deployments to higher responsibilities and recommendation for training, are all influenced by how glossy or grimy your APER form is. I’m told it has worn a new name, the Personnel Management System, (PMS, sounds like Premium Motor Spirit), since November 2020. All extant parameters of assessment remain valid in the new form, notwithstanding. I should also note, that even at the milieu under discussion, Nigerians from other parts of the country, were on the staff of other states. The Principal of Oke-Oyi Secondary School to which I was posted, Basil Ikenazor, was from Anambra State!

At a retreat for members of the Federal Executive Council, (FEC), about a week ago, Buhari, Nigeria’s President, awarded his seven-and-half-year-old administration, multisectoral pass mark! I wish he had been more restrained in this vain-glorious acclamation, for a man whose more perceptive wife, Aisha, has repeatedly pleaded with Nigerians to excuse his failings and foibles. She was so very frank on one occasion, that she admitted to the affliction of her husband with “post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) as at when she got wedded to him. The condition she volunteered, has been her lifetime cross, ever since. Let’s hope Buhari was not a victim of an overzealous speechwriter.

Buhari applauded the endeavours of his dispensation in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, economy, security, education, healthcare and anti-corruption, among others. He gleefully surmised that with the nationwide spread of infrastructural projects by his government, he had met the yearnings of Nigerians. His self-adulation was powered by perceived successes in the completion of some projects initiated by previous governments, and the initiation of new ones. The “Second Niger Bridge;” “Port Harcourt-Bonny Road;” “Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road” and “Lagos-Ibadan Expressway,” collectively dubbed “Legacy Projects,” principally inform the chest-thumping by the President.

Immediate past Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta was guest of honour at the retreat. Buhari didn’t speak about some patently relegated, albeit all-important road projects, deserving of the same attention, as the “legacy” souvenirs. The very critical 338 kilometre East-West road traversing five oil-buoyant states in the Niger Delta region, flagged-off by the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, remains uncompleted. Same is the story of the crucial North-South artery, the 270 kilometre Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road, also begun in 2006, amongst many others. Buhari’s administration also rejuvenated the moribund rail sector, availing Nigerians another travel option, different from the more popular road travel. The March 2022 terrorist attack on an Abuja-Kaduna shuttle train which culminated in the killing and abduction of travellers, however, has since dampened national enthusiasm for rail travel ever since.

Without any equivocation whatsoever, it is very obvious that infrastructural development is the sole strong point of the Buhari government. However, it is not the sole index for the holistic appraisal of his period in office. Fact is that his governorship has failed in grand style, in other sectors of our national life and aggregate wellbeing. And this is the gospel truth. Where do we begin from? Against the backdrop of his antecedents as an uncompromising battle-tested general, expectations were high about the decisive resolution of festering security challenges, on his assumption of office. The most disturbing scourge inherited from its predecessor, was the Boko Haram insurgency, in the North East of the country. Under the Buhari milieu, however, virtually every geopolitical zone is contending with one security hydra or the other.

Indeed, never in the history of Nigeria has the country’s vulnerability been as exposed and rubbished, as it has under Buhari. At a time in our political history when the world criticised the USA for posturing as “policeman of the world,” Nigeria was effectively the ultimate enforcer in West Africa. From Liberia to Sierra Leone and to Guinea, Nigerian troops were out there hoisting the national flag with merited aplomb. They commanded the recognition of the United Nations, (UN), and the world at large for novel initiatives in sub-regional peacekeeping. Since the advent of the Buhari years, however, the story has changed for the worse. From the the abduction of officers within their comfort zones in military installations, to watching terrorists violating the serenity of an airport and halting the takeoff of a flight, Nigeria’s security architecture has been serially bludgeoned.

A moving train has been attacked, travellers killed and abducted, while government has had to procure the services of civilian consultants to monitor and unravel leakages in its oil pipeline network! True, the Nigerian navy is primarily charged with the responsibility for the protection of our maritime security and natural resources. It needed third party intelligence, however, to come to terms with the reality of a devious decade-long pilferage of of crude oil, within its area of responsibility. This has long impacted Nigeria’s attainment of its daily quotas of crude oil export, and by extension drastically affected the nation’s earnings from sales of the product.

Grabby Fulani herdsmen have largely unsettled parts of the North Central, engendering recurring skirmishes between indigenous landowners and the Sahelian adventurers. Worst hit are Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states. One time Chief of Army Staff, (COAS) and Defence Minister respectively, Theophilus Danjuma on Saturday re-echoed his former concerns about the complicity of the establishment in the worrisome security situation in the state and the country at large. He spoke at the installation of the new Aku Uka of Wukari, Taraba State, Manu Ishaku Ada Ali.

Danjuma, a war-tested general not given to flippancy or frivolities, expressed genuine fears about the sustained prosecution of a neo-colonial agenda by unrestrained foreign invaders. He advised Nigerians to brace up in self-defence, given the inexplicable failure, maybe complicity of government in this regard. Lives have been lost in hundreds, nay thousands, aborigines forcefully displaced from their homesteads and herded into camps for internally displaced persons, (IDPs), in their own home country! Subsistence and commercial farming have been savagely impaired and the earth-sustained local economy of the people, discombobulated. The tepid disposition of the federal government to the routing of the menace, has fuelled suspicions of acquiescence on the part of the state.

Swathes of Niger State, also in the North Central, and the luminous North West of the country are contemporary nests of kidnapping and banditry. Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states are the epicentres of this mortally dangerous specie of criminality. Seizures of highways even in broad daylight by gun-toting upstarts, abductions-for-ransom and the killings of the innocent, have become customary and emblematic of these areas. A flustered Aminu Masari, helmsman of Katsina, echoed Danjuma urging his constituents to defend themselves. Remember the emboldened audacity of these ragtag criminals in engaging in a firefight with personnel on advance party, to Buhari’s hometown, Daura, a few weeks back. That is how daring, how fearless these brigands have blossomed.

The news from the South East is not any inspiring. From Anambra, through Enugu and Imo states, the East has effectively metamorphosed into a functional abattoir. Here, unknown gunmen, who have won for themselves the acronym “UGM,” and similar bloodspilling ogres, reign supreme. Political adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak; a former High Court Judge, Stanley Nnaji; and Sam Ndubuisi, professor and chief executive of Scientific Equipment Development Institute, (SEDI) were murdered on the streets of cities in the South East. Phillip Udala, a billionaire businessman and Chike Akunyili, medical doctor and spouse of the late amazon, Dora Akunyili, among others, were similarly extinguished in vivid daylight, in the East. Ifeanyi Ubah, a serving Senator, only a few weeks ago, survived assassination by the skin of the teeth. His convoy of vehicles was brutally attacked by gunmen, culminating in at least half a dozen deaths.

South easterners, in a manner of speaking, are in the eternal dilemma of adherence to pronouncements by state governments on one hand, as against “directives” from the “alternate government” of the “Indigenous Peoples of Biafra,” (IPOB), and it’s equally lawless ally, the “Eastern Security Network,” (ESN). IPOB and ESN, decide, decree and enforce days, dates and times people should be on the streets. They also determine when they must remain in their homes. On his recent visit to Imo State, Buhari was welcomed by vacant, echoing streets. The people complied with the pronouncement of IPOB, not to venture out of their homes to receive a President who they believe, loathes them with a passion. Violation of this faceless directive, could result in bloodshed. Such is the biting siege imposed on the region, which, expectedly, has impacted the socioeconomic regimen of the people, famous for business, innovation and industry.

Reports from the “Nigerian Security Tracker,” a project of the “Council on Foreign Relations of the USA, suggests that about 55,000 Nigerians have been killed since the inception of the Buhari regime. According to the report, non-state actors were responsible for these casualties between May 29, 2015 and October 15, 2022. Herders-farmers’ conflicts, altercations by religious groups, as well as attacks by insurgents and bandits, accounted for this wanton waste of invaluable resources. On the aggregate, about 20 Nigerian lives have been lost every single day since the coming of the outgoing government.

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

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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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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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