Understanding the Role of LASAA

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Hakim Hadhza  

Of recent, a phantasmal depiction of the relationship between the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) is being erroneously created in the media. And this unnecessary ember of discord is avoidably being fanned, sadly from unexpected quarters and personality that ought to know better.

This writer, being a practitioner with experience of over two decades, considers it impolite for any observer of the industry to remain quiet in the face of this uninformed propaganda against one of these two bodies.  This writer has, as a matter of professional obligation, taken it upon himself to state that the purveyors of these untruths about the legal roles to be played by LASAA and APCON deserve to be healed of their legal and professional ignorance. And what better way is there to do this if not by educating promoters of needless mudslinging and illegal arrogation of induced powers about what LASAA and APCON were created to do by law.

For the avoidance of doubt, it is pertinent to state that LASAA was established by the Lagos State Structure for Signage and Advertisement Law, 2006 (as amended), and saddled with functions, which include: control of outdoor structures to be used for signage and advertisements; issuance of licenses and permits for the construction and placement of outdoor structures in any part of the state; protection of the environment from potential adverse impact from visual blights; and control of the number, size and location of outdoor structures. There are other functions but this will suffice as the fundamental ones.

Also in the case of APCON, the body was established by Decree No.55 1988 as a body for advertising practitioners and charged with determining who are advertising practitioners; determining what standards of knowledge and skill are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as members of the advertising profession; securing the establishment and maintenance of a register of persons entitled to practice as advertising practitioners; and regulating and controlling the practice of advertising subject to the approval of the Minister of Health, where the advertisement relates to matters of foods, cosmetics, beverages and drugs.

From what has been spelt out thus far, it is wrong for anyone to say that LASAA that has strictly restricted itself to performing the above listed functions has ventured into regulating communication contents in outdoor advertisement structures and signage. The jurisdiction of the agency is clearly entrenched in its enabling law to control and regulate structures for advertisement in Lagos State, which it is doing diligently without acting ultra vires in exercising its powers in the performance of these functions. The operative words here are advertising structures and their impact on the environment, not the contents which in large advertising make-ups remain within the purview of APCON.

Further to the above is the need to restate that the jurisdiction of the authority of APCON is not ambiguous to warrant the distasteful avoidable empty noise being championed by some people. Permit me to state that this, in relation to APCON powers, does not include encroaching into the terrain of business signage because clients deploying such signage are not advertising practitioners and are not involved in the practice of advertising. More importantly, most registered business names in shopping malls, markets, stalls ought to have been vetted by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) through searches at the point of registration. It is the inscription of approved names in signs that concerns LASAA and not APCON.

This new twist by APCON leaves a flurry of questions begging for answers. Will APCON now decide to register and issue certificate of practice to all potential small scale businesses with sign inscription as advertising practitioners? Will APCON now insist that a practitioner must execute the sign writing displays for all small scale businesses affected by this new move? Is this really about regulation of practice or just a new revenue model?

Decree No.55 of 1988 does not confer on APCON the powers to regulate and control advertising and advertisement businesses in all aspects and ramifications. To say otherwise is fallacious and could lead to sheer manipulation of the law. It could also lead to rigmarole of the law establishing APCON. APCON can simply be said not to have the power to compel small scale business names in the Lagos Metropolis that install signage as an accessories to their businesses to register for vetting with the body because it is only empowered to regulate the practice (which according to Oxford Dictionary means to carry-out or exercise a profession) of outdoor advertising in Nigeria.

LASAA, on the other hand, is responsible for regulating structures for signage and outdoor advertisement in the state. Hence there is no ambiguity or conflict in the Laws that established the duo.

This writer equally noticed a curious and sad twist in the warped picture painted about LASAA regarding the legality of the office of its Managing Director by insisting that LASAA MD must belong to APCON.  Those behind this sick joke simply missed the point. I am sure those behind this misplaced position are ignorant. So, let us educate them. Part IV privileges of registered persons and offences by Unregistered Persons (Advertising Practitioners (Registration, etc) Act C Cap 7 LFN 1990 (Act Cap A7 LFN 2004), which those behind this campaign of calumny bank on to justify their position, refers only to a public office holder who engages in an act pertaining to the profession (running an outdoor advertising company) for gain without obtaining the license of APCON. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, gain means profit and to show the ignorance of those traducers; they have forgotten that LASAA was established solely as a regulatory body for advertising structures and signs to ensure friendly environmental aesthetics and not for the purpose of profit making as epitomised in the APCON law classification.

None of LASAA workforce engages in outdoor advertising business let alone the head of the institution. His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, in accordance with the law that established the agency, graciously appointed the Managing Director. A sign of correction to mischief-makers is that the salary and other emoluments received by the head of the place can never be termed a ‘profit’ as being touted.

Let us even assume for argument sakes that the head of LASAA ought to have joined APCON, it should be on honorary basis because the heading of the opening page to the section clearly states that the provisions below it are privileges and not a compelling duty or right. I must say that it is elementary Constitutional Law that privileges and rights differ.  According to black’s law dictionary, “privilege means a particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person or company”.  And “right is defined as the power, franchise or immunity held by a person or class, against or beyond the course of law”. The noise about the Head of LASAA, Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi, being forced to register with APCON has no legal basis being a mere privilege with no compelling force of law; incase the advocates of this erroneous position do not know, it is a legal right/duty that could only be legally compelled. The public should stop being fooled with the alleged APCON arrogation of power that is not legally given to it.

Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi, a journalist and lawyer, is not an outdoor practitioner, but an appointed regulator who has the rare foresight and understanding of the duties conferred on him. The duties, which the public and the state at large, confirm he has been doing assiduously.

I advise its sponsors to desist from mudslinging and character defamation. It is simply irresponsible to use misleading facts to gain cheap momentum from members of the public who, I believe, are much enlightened to decipher accurate facts from deceptive and entertaining comic strip.

I know for a fact that LASAA as a responsible agency of the state is not out to foment conflict. I also believe it should not sit back and watch any agency unduly encroach on its jurisdiction whenever such wants to occur.

––Hakim Hadhza is an Abuja based advertising practitioner