LASAA: Undaunted in Regulating Outdoor Advertisement

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Gboyega Akinsanmi

Recently, an enforcement team of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) came under assault. At least, two of the agency’s enforcement operatives, Mr. Julius Apoboyen and Mr. Onus Clifford, were affected while enforcing compliance with the LASAA Law, 2006.

But their lawful assignment incurred anger in some parts of the state. In one instance, a private guard, Mr. Uche Napoleon, attached to Emglo Suite, Festac to provide basic security for customers and staff members of the hotel, reportedly unleashed the assault, against the enforcement officials.

Apparently, Napoleon went beyond his job description the day he assaulted the enforcement officials. He went out of his primary assignment and attacked LASAA’s enforcement officials, an act which violated the provisions of LASAA Law, 2006.

However, on whose directives did the private guard act really? Obviously, the private guard was acting on the directives of Emglo Suite’s management, which according to reports, might have emboldened him to treat LASAA’s officials with disdain.

The victims of the assault did nothing to warrant such treatment, according to LASAA’s Head of Enforcement, Mr. Siraj Bello. He explained that the enforcement officials were operating within the regime that set up LASAA. Legally speaking, he added, LASAA is a legal entity primarily set up to manage the state’s outdoor advertisement.

Even though the mission of LASAA’s enforcement officials was not unclear to Emglo’s management, Bello acknowledged that the attack on LASAA’s enforcement team was led by the private guard. He said the private guard descended on the state’s officials when the enforcement officials attempted “to remove illegal banners placed on Emglo’s frontage.

“Our enforcement officials are empowered to discharge responsibilities as provided for in the LASAA Law, 2006. But they were attacked and assaulted in the course of doing their jobs. From our finding, they did not go beyond their brief. They were removing illegal banners and billboards in line with the provision of LASAA Law,” Bello explained.

But Bello said the rationale for the aggression against the state agents is not far-fetched. He ascribed it to Emglo’s indebtedness to LASAA. He said Emglo Suites “is indebted to LASAA with outstanding due for advertisement permit fees.” He thus explained that the visit by LASAA’s enforcement team was part of effort “to ensure quick settlement of all the outstanding debt owed the agency.”

The private guard did not just assault the state officials, according to reports. Also, the agency’s head of enforcement disclosed that the private guard also threatened LASAA’s enforcement officials with “a pump action rifle which was later seized by the mobile police team attached to the agency.”

In a strongly worded statement, Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi, the agency’s managing director, condemned incessant attacks on LASAA’s enforcement officials, who he described as the representatives of the state. Consequently, he warned members of the public “to desist from physically attacking the state’s officials in the course of discharging their responsibilities within the state.”

He therefore described the incessant attacks on LASAA’s enforcement officials as barbaric and crude. For any reason, he argued that it was illegal for any private guard or resident “to descend on the officials of the state in their effort to remove an illegal banner within Emglo Suite premises.”

Sanusi noted that an attack on LASAA staff members “is an attack on the state. The last attack or any subsequent ones on the agency’s officials will be accorded all seriousness it deserves.” By implication, he explained, the state government will not entertain any form of illegality.

The managing director pointed out that there “is consequence for every act of illegality in the state.” Already, he said those behind the recent attack on the agency’s enforcement officials “have been arrested and handed over to the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement Unit) for necessary legal action.”

Likewise, Sanusi revealed the resolve of the state government “to prosecute any individual or corporate bodies that violate the state’s extant laws.” He thus noted that an attack on LASAA’s staff members “is an attack on the state. It is unacceptable and we will not condone such act of illegality.”

The recent attack on LASAA’s enforcement team was not the first the agency would experience since its establishment under the administration of former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Incessant assault on the agency however became rampant during the last electioneering process.

Before the general election, the campaign organisation of former President Goodluck Jonathan arbitrarily placed posters, billboards and hoardings on the advert spaces that had been paid for in different parts of the state. As a result, attempts to enforce the LASAA Law, 2006 were resisted with the use of political thugs apparently working for the then ruling party.

The state government described the decision as a violation of LASAA Law, 2006. The decision compelled some advertisers to terminate their contracts with the agency. It thus cost a colossal loss of over N500 million. Consequently, it triggered legal action, which sought to determine the institution with requisite power to regulate outdoor advertisement and recover what the state government had lost due to contracts that were terminated.

Despite what the agency had suffered since its establishment, Sanusi has put in place some strategic measures for effective outdoor advertisement. Sanusi said the agency “has deployed warning signs at strategic locations in the state.” He also explained that any apprehended person deploying posters illegally “will be referred to the state task force.”

On the cleanup, the managing director said the agency “has already achieved 55 percent cleanup on major and minor roads weekly across the state.” However, he admitted that the agency could have achieved more in the area of cleaning up Lagos megacity if not because of the poor attitude of some residents to the management of outdoor advertisement

The managing director thus observed that the recalcitrant attitude of those pasting posters “has been a real challenge. As soon as posters are removed from a spot and the cleaning team leaves the spot, another set of posters is deployed on the cleaned surface by faceless individuals.”

Commending Governor Akinwumi Ambode for his continued support to the agency, Sanusi assured that LASAA was determined to achieve the purpose of its enabling law.