As LASAA, OAAN Move to Resolve Rift

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The rivalry between the Lagos State Signage & Advertisement Agency and Outdoor Advertising Practitioners will soon become a thing of the past as the two organisations move to resolve lingering issues, Raheem Akingbolu reports

 

The management of the Lagos State Signage & Advertisement Agency (LASAA), made another bold step recently to deepen the relationship between the state and the outdoor practitioners operating in the commercial city under the aegis of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, OAAN. The move was the decision of the agency to host stakeholders in the industry with the aim of resolving issues in the industry as it relates to rates and vacant board discount policy, among others.

To say the relationship between the two bodies has been frosty in recent time is like stating the obvious. Though they are expected to be partners in progress, some carried over issues, which could be traced to the early years of the agency have not made them best of friends. Hence, it has been relationship built on suspicion and mistrust.

The current Managing Director of LASAA, Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi, must have seen it coming on his assumption of office three years ago. To bridge the gap between stakeholders and the agency, he met members of the Outdoor Advertisers Association of Nigeria (OAAN) on Friday, October 15, 2015. At the meeting, relevant issues were discussed towards ensuring harmonious relationship between both parties. He also reeled out his plans to breathe a fresh air into the agency.

As part of the moves to make the agency more interactive, Sanusi and his team increased LASAA’s social media engagement. This explains why the Agency has consistently engaged the public on its various social media platforms, especially facebook and twitter. In a way, this and other customer relation approaches have improved the agency’s customer service delivery and enhances professionalism.

The 15-man committee and Task ahead

When the stakeholders met recently, it was not just talk but action. To show the world that they were ready to resolve their differences this time, they both agree to setting up of a 15-member committee to resolve knotty areas in the industry and chat a new way forward.

Issues to be addressed by the committee include media buyers, agency rate review, vacant board discount policy; 12.5 percent in the harmonised law, health and safety concerns, structural stability, among others.

The meeting held at the head office of LASAA in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria and had major outdoor advertising practitioners in the state present. The constituted committee had seven members from OAAN and eight members from LASAA.

Addressing the meeting, Managing Director, LASAA, Sanusi said that in the agency’s effort to improve the relationship between it and outdoor advertising practitioners, it visited some organisations with a view to understanding their challenges and the various problems in the outdoor advertising industry.

He said the meeting was the outcome of the various visits, as LASAA had collated some of the concerns of the outdoor advertising practitioners.

“In our efforts to ensure sanity in the industry, it is important to find lasting solutions to some of the issues that have bedeviled the industry,” he said, adding that the meeting should be an opportunity to strengthen “our relations so that in the end, it is going to be a win-win for all of us.”

One of the critical issues discussed at the meeting was media buyers. The outdoor advertising practitioners decried a situation whereby major brands, such Glo, Nigeria Breweries, among others, frequently owed the practitioners after their advertising campaigns have been displayed.

Challenges according to OAAN members

President, OAAN, Tunde Adedoyin, lamented that the inability of the advertisers to pay members what was due to them had been a major reason why they had not been able to pay LASAA what was due to the agency.

Adedoyin appealed to LASAA to intervene in the matter, which had been so frequent, saying that as long as the advertisers, especially major brands, refused to pay the practitioners, it would be difficult for them to meet up with their commitment to LASAA.

Mrs. Ify Onukwuba of the Nigerian Advertising Service Limited also lamented that the advertisers did not always pay the outdoor practitioners as at when due, saying that was the reason many practitioners were owing LASAA.

“It will be good for LASAA to hold meeting with these brands so that they can pay us on time and for us to meet our obligations to LASAA,” she said.

Another practitioner, Mr. Kayode Situ of the Optimum Exposures collaborated his colleague’s view that major brands, such as Glo and other’s delay in paying for their exposures had been a clog in the wheel of progress in the industry.

“LASAA can put a stop to this. LASAA should sanction the media buyers for refusing to pay on time,” he said, saying that the agency could stop the practitioners from exposing the adverts of these brands to serve as deterrent to others.

Responding, LASAA MD, Sanusi said if the agency must assist the practitioners on the issue of media buyers, it must do it within the ambit of the law as LASAA only act as regulator of the industry structure.

“If we are going to come in, there must be a Memorandum of Understanding. If you want the regulators to come in, that is a private arrangement. We can make this industry a working one, we are ready to partner with you,” he said.

The LASAA MD also wanted OAAN to sanction its members who were both practitioners and media buyers at the same time, adding that OAAN should be more open with the agency if it must assist

 

Expectation

Since the day the committee was inaugurated, not a few observers have commended the move, in the hope that it would create a symbiotic relationship for both the regulator and the practitioners.

Deputy Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Ogba, Lagos, Dr. Jide Johnson, said the recent development will make both parties winners.

‘’Considering the controversy that has continue to overwhelm LASAA since inception and the cat and mouse relationship between the agency and LASAA, if this new move resolve the crisis, then Sanusi and his team would write their names in gold. It is going to be a win win situation for both parties as practitioners will be sure of conducive atmosphere for business while LASAA will also be able to regulate with ease and generate revenue accordingly,” he said.

 

Under the new regime

With the assumption of office of the current Governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, a thoroughbred public administrator and accountant, many innovations were infused to the system. Sources close to the governor revealed to THISDAY that Ambode confided in some of his closest allies on the need to get tested hands and disciplined individuals to head strategic agencies of government to improve on the state’s internal revenue generation. That was how the name of the current MD of the agency, Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi, a lawyer and journalist, came up and he was appointed about three years ago. Years after, Sanusi and his team have not only consolidated on what was met on ground, they have raised the bar on all fronts.

Few days ago, this reporter went to the agency on a fact finding mission and discovered that a lot of steps had been taken to prune down the excessive spending of the agency. This, according to sources was necessitated by the need to cut cost and respond to current economic crisis bedeviling the nation. As a result of this the new Managing Director, promptly reduced the departments in the Agency from seventeen to seven, with just three units. And as a leader, who wanted to lead by example, Sanusi was said to have jolted many staff when he began to get to office before 8am every day. For those, who were used to walking in around 9am or 10am, the early resumption of the CEO sent a message of change. He followed this up by creating a day for sanitation exercise.

With this approach, the new MD succeeded in improving on staff ethics, attitude and approach to work. It also rubs on positively on the improvement of staff appearance, outlook and dress code. The sanitation day, which commenced towards the tail end of last year, has also impacted well on the operation of the agency considering the fact that it has helped in the identification of poster and banner black spot. It has also helped to develop zero tolerance for indiscriminate pasting of posters. For effectiveness, all staff allocated official vehicles were assigned work areas within their local government of residence; to identify areas of visual blight with respect to signage.

Among other reformative approaches, the Agency’s internal processes have been improved while a seamless business processes have been put in place to bring about improved service delivery, revenue generation and debt recovery. For easy accessibility, the agency’s branch offices have been realigned. Internally, Sanusi and his team are said to have invigorated the procurement office.

In a country where sustainability is always a challenge, pundits believe that if the current leadership of the agency can maintain the track, the activities of LASAA can be a major boost to the Ambode’s administration in Lagos State.