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Quick thoughts on CBN ‘Action Plan’ for Nigeria’s Economy

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Olayemi Cardoso
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By Bolaji Afolabi

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu recently appointed a new management team for the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN). Expectedly, there were pockets of complaints and murmurs about the state of origin and geo-political zone of the new CBN czar, Olayemi Cardoso, who hails from the very same state with the President. Many Nigerians acknowledged the competence, expertise, and integrity of the Lagos-born professional and seasoned boardroom guru. Majority of players in the financial sector posited that the appointment of the one-time Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Development was well-thought and commendable. It seems to signal positive direction in the management of the country’s ailing economy. Many stakeholders likened his appointment to installing a round peg in a round hole. Bankers, economists, capital market operators, industry top-players, and other stakeholders unanimously saluted the choice of Cardoso and his immediate lieutenants. It was widely acclaimed that Cardoso and his deputies will not only bring a breath of fresh air to the bad and battered image of the CBN, they will collectively uplift Nigeria from the throes of avoidable economic disequilibrium.

Majority of Nigerians, however, doubted the role the CBN would play in the Tinubu administration. This apprehension was triggered by the inglorious and infamous role played by the past CBN leadership under former President Muhammadu Buhari. With Godwin Emefiele as the chief executive of the CBN, the apex bank dipped it hands into numerous programmes that were clearly out of its  operational mandate. The CBN rolled out initiatives that were not only “un-CBN,” but totally outside it’s purview. Worse still, it got enmeshed in the puddle and dynamics of Nigeria’s complex politics. It got so bad that most of its programmes were overtly politicised. With this, competence and capacity were substituted by crass sectionalism and ethnic considerations. Professionalism and ethical standards took the backseat as incapacity, incompetence, and indulgence took centrestage. Massive indolence, multi-layered ineffectiveness, multi-faceted inefficiency, and outright impunity became the new normal. The CBN under Buhari’s administration shamefully, and shamelessly went millions (if not trillions) of miles outside it’s core monetary policy mandate. At some point, it appeared the CBN was lost in focus and direction, as it got involved and piloted just any initiative that caught the attention of Emefiele or the powerful cabal in government.

That Nigerians had genuine doubts about the new CBN management is understandable. Some analysts opined that since the executive arm of government, the presidency in particular played stealthy but crucial roles in the “un-making” of CBN under Emefiele, Cardoso and his team may toe and take same negative route. At some point, the CBN under Emefiele almost became a direct appendage of the presidency. Following their successful clearance by the Senate, Cardoso and his team, from inception had challenges of how best to wean themselves off the Emefiele baggage they inherited. The integrity deficit medal that Emefiele and his team wore for years with shamless arrogance was still hovering and dangling. To many Nigerians, under Emefiele’s superintendence, the CBN through its languid, lethargic and lackadaisical governance regimen, gave window for many unethical practices, culminating in the brazen buffeting of our commonwealth. Encouraged and emboldened by CBN’s spineless, languorous, impassive tendencies, and it’s failure to assert it’s independence, widespread malfeasance and outright chiseling of national economy was rampant. The CBN, under an obviously fearful, insouciant chief executive became an “offspring” of the famous “cabal” which denominated the Buhari presidency. The institution was in eternal dalliance to the whims and caprice of the insatiable “power bloc.”

Inheriting such strategic institution with inherent failings and frailties can be disheartening. The discoloration and disfigurement of the almost-sanctimonious status of the CBN was huge. The integrity deficit, and negative competencies which the old order transmitted to the new management of CBN was humongous. While Cardoso and his deputies decided to “hit the ground running” accepting the sorry-state of CBN’s operational failings as challenge, Nigerians watched with bated interest and moderate enthusiasm. There is palpable expectation about the new CBN’s capacity to deliver change in the nation’s monetary system.

Cardoso made some bold moves upon assumption of office, as they stepped up some internal changes, vis-a-vis its activities, and vision-outline, even as Nigerians have adopted a “let’s-wait-and-see attitude. Cardoso’s tentative steps are still construed as “initial gra gra” a popular street expression. The new CBN leadership has come to the inevitable conclusion that it requires strategic and time-specific actions. The herculean challenge of restoring confidence, trust, and belief in Nigeria’s economy is daunting. Refocusing the negative mindset of Nigerians and re-directing the shrinking morale of CBN staff will not be a tea-party. The free-fall, and continued nose-dive of naira has made the task more troubling and prodigious for Cardoso and company. The systemic impunity and graduated incompetence showcased under the Buhari administration which birthed stunted economic growth, unimaginable unemployment, fast-paced inflation, galloping poverty, near-economic-paralysis and hanging debts are issues that Nigerians expect the CBN to tackle and swiftly too.

The Emefiele years as the chief executive of Nigeria’s apex bank will arguably go down in history as the worst. Under his watch, the CBN posted negative ratings in all areas of operations. The negative perception of the CBN was total, and complete across the country. It was so bad that even those who benefited from Emefiele’s discordant, dissonant, and incongruous leadership made scathing and scratchy remarks about some disturbing bureaucratic bottlenecks and atrocious policies of the CBN. The CBN displayed unbridled insensitivity, professional incapacity, and gross incompetence in some of its operations. This led to wanton financial mismanagement, deliberate misapplication of funds, outright corruption, and large-scale pilferage of our commonwealth. According to reports, the CBN under Emefiele wasted about 10 trillion naira on quasi-fiscal activities. The CBN, with Emefiele as “captain of the ship” embraced unorthodox uses of monetary tools and lack of corporate governance. It plunged into development finance activities; non-effective and in-efficient forex rules which stifled access by those who truly needs it; lacked proper delineation, and understanding of monetary and fiscal policies.

Speaking as Guest of Honour at the 58th Annual Dinner of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria, (CIBN), which held in Lagos recently, Cardoso, rolled out his team’s “action plan” for the economy. The turnout at the classy, quality event was impressive which was no surprise considering the personality and office Cardoso occupies. Leveraging on his major interface and interaction with key stakeholders in the economy, many of whom are his friends, colleagues and associates Cardoso enunciated his plans for the economy. For many, it was an opportunity to “hear him out.” For few others, it was to “put a face to the name.” Aware of the dwindling economic fortunes of Nigeria, these key stakeholders were eager to know Cardoso’s plan to pull Nigeria from the woods and re-order it to gradual recovery, and sustainable growth and development. Many of the dignitaries came to the event with cautious optimism. They had no doubts about Cardoso’s well-known, and celebrated qualities. They were fearful, however, of the nation’s messy economic situation.

Olayemi Cardoso, an accomplished economist was honest, sincere, direct, and candid in his address at the event. Like most Nigerians, he regretted the painful negatives and hardship Nigerians had experienced, over the years. He assured that though the state of Nigeria’s economy is worrisome, he was confident that it can come on the rebound and experience growth provided necessary steps and actions are taken. He counselled experts, industry players and Nigerians to wake up to the realities of the difficult situation that will lead to gradual, and positive development. According to him, the CBN is up to the herculean task of re-tooling, re-focussing, and re-engineering the economy. He declared that tough but necessary decisions will be taken to   ensure the overhaul of our economy. Nigeria will also be repositioned for meaningful growth and development.

While one commends Cardoso’s forthrightness, the CBN should realise that it must go back to basics as it relates to monetary policy. Going back to proper, orthodox and result- driven monetary policy that has a “human face” will drive Nigeria’s economic transformation. Also, if the CBN focus and deepen it’s feedback mechanism, the core of monetary policy the economy will be energised and strengthened. To restore, sustain, and deepen macro-economic stability, the CBN must ensure proper co-ordination between fiscal and monetary policies. As a matter of necessity, the CBN must be focused and deliberate on price stability, and resolving threatening inflationary challenges.

The move by the CBN to embark on new recapitalisation of banks is needful and timely. The planned increase of banks deposit base to achieve the 1 Trillion dollars economy within seven years as projected by President Tinubu is courageous and encouraging. Fact is, the value of naira in 2005 when the last recapitalisation took place under Chukwuma Soludo has dropped significantly. The value of 25 billion naira in 2005 is not the same in 2023! With some Nigerian banks opening and operating branches in some African countries, it has become necessary and strategic for the CBN to increase the capital base of banks. In doing this, the CBN, must not only get the buy-in of relevant stakeholders but ensure the exercise is done in strict adherence to ethical standards and terms. It must not be rushed but done systematically such that margins of error and complaints will be very minimal. Transparency, firmness, fairness, and credibility must be the guiding principles.

In 2005, there was general consensus by all stakeholders that banks recapitalisation was imperative. Top-players and practitioners in relevant sectors of the economy agreed that it became necessary to re-position banks and financial institutions for strategic contributions to national development. As the CBN is considering further increase of banks capital base, it is advised that given the negative perception index of the apex bank, the fragile national economy, corrosive poverty, and other pervasive economic challenges ravaging the country, Cardoso and his team should involve relevant stakeholders, MDAs, the legislature, media, and others in the exercise. Also, the CBN must attempt to know  the real capacity of our banks to “take shocks.” The apex bank needs to verify and ascertain the proper position of Nigeria’s economy. The CBN must immediately and as a matter of necessity be pre-emptive in it’s operations to enable banks have the required capacities to “meet shocks.”

One is happy that Cardoso has promised not to do things that are clearly out of CBN’s mandate. This is heartwarming and encouraging. This will be a break from the past where the CBN got enthralled, entangled, and enamoured with confounding relish in activities that were outside it’s core mandate. This in turn brought untoward hardship and hunger to Nigerians. It is very puzzling that the immediate past CBN management allegedly  pumped 10 trillion naira into the economy through bogus, nebulous and ludicrous intervention programmes. These,  however, has led to  mind-boggling hunger and escalating hardship, even as  increasing-inflation, and monstrous poverty encompasses the nation’s geographical space. It is sad that few Nigerians in the comfort of their homes and offices emplaced immoral, illogical, and selfish programmes as conduits to fleece our commonwealth with reckless ferocity and throwing the country into economic jeopardy.

The CBN has been making some of the kinds of soundbites Nigerians want to hear. Cardoso and his team are taking courageous decisions geared towards stabilizing and improving the economy. Some of these policies include the unification of the exchange rate, minimal moderation in forex pricing which has reduced the rot-rate in the economy, evolving measures to improve liquidity in the forex market, focussing on it’s core monetary mandate towards ensuring price and exchange rate stability. As outlined by the CBN chief executive at the event, the apex bank must ensure restoration of corporate governance, anchor explicit inflation-targeting on proper interest rate; emplace result-driven and results-yielding policies and frameworks for economic growth and development; strengthen regulations in the sector towards building trust and confidence. When these and other pragmatic policies are conceptualized and implemented, the economy will experience reasonable stability. The CBN must deliberately roll out and enforce policies focussing on Reforms and Incentives. These reforms and incentives must target foreign direct investment, diaspora and the non-oil exports. With determination, political will, and realistic collaboration with critical stakeholders, the CBN can turnaround Nigeria’s dwindling, sliding, and sinking economy.

BOLAJI AFOLABI, a Leadership and Governance Strategist writes from Abuja

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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