Dr. Babagana Adam is the Director, Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signage, an agency of the Federal Capital Territory Authority. Appointed in 2019, Adam was able to raise the revenue profile of the agency from N160 million to N500 million and targeting N1billion by the year-end or early next year. The director speaks to Kingsley Nwezeh on his strategies to ensure orderliness and maintain the scenic beauty of the nation’s capital
What role does you agency play?
My name is Dr. Babagana Adam, the Director, Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signage (DOAS). I was appointed to this office just about 17 to 18 months ago, I actually was appointed on the 20th of May 2019. We have made progress. Unfortunately, along the line, early this year, we encountered this COVID-19 pandemic.
Since I took over the office, I have reviewed the existing situation. I found out that there are a lot of challenges. The office is a dynamic one and is part of the process to beautify the city and ensure orderliness and also curb proliferation of illegal and substandard structures on our highways, streets, roads, boulevards, etc.
How did DOAS come into being?
It’s a laudable objective. The history started a long time ago. It started as far back as 2003 when the regime of Malam Nasir el-Rufai made an attempt to improve on the signage and outdoor advertisement platforms in the FCT. It also yielded great results in 2007 when some consultants were identified and appointed, about 14 of them, but later on, around 2012, the then minister, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, set up a committee to look into the possibility of establishing an agency just like the Lagos State Signage Advertisement Agency.
The committee submitted a report where there was a representation of almost all the stakeholders. You know, constitutionally, the responsibility of outdoor advertisement and signage is the responsibility of the area councils in Abuja, which is maybe similar, not same, similar to local government areas in Nigeria and they endorsed it and they all endorsed a memorandum of understanding between the area councils, all the six area councils of Abaji, Bwari, AMAC, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali, endorsed it. Now, later the MOU signed by the six area councils and the honourable minister resulted into a bylaw. The legislative arms of each of the area councils enacted a by-law. And the by-law was gazetted in March 2013, which now empowered and delegated their responsibility to the Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage to carry out the activity of outdoor advertisement and signage systems, which has three components.
What are the components?
We have the first party, those signage and advertisement that are within the premises of business owners, five meters within the premises of business owners.
And then the second party, the charity organisations, government agencies, warning signs and other non-governmental organisations. The third involves the big billboards that you see on the highways, streets and road corridors that carry large platforms, where different forms of platforms are used to attract the attention of the public and you know, the outdoor advertisement and signage plays a greater role in stimulating the economy and it gives the right of choice. You may have THISDAY, you may have other newspapers, on the platform so people can see and make their choice.
And it’s been established via research that 71 per cent of persons that make a decision on what to buy are influenced by what they see when the outdoor advertisement platforms are on display; I mean 71 per cent of persons that leave their homes.
You know and the outdoor advertisement is very important, because lives are mostly outdoor, you must drive from your home or working place and within that period of driving, knowingly or unknowingly, a lot of issues, play on your psyche, and you make some decisions knowingly or unknowingly on what you want to buy, where you want to go and what next, that you intend to do, whether immediately remotely or in future.
So, this is the role of the department and for us to ensure a regulated control and standardised form of our outdoor practice in FCT, you need a regulatory body, which is the Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage so that you don’t display signage anyhow, anywhere in wherever you want it. And then at the end of the day, also to protect the environment.
Abuja has rocks with different visitation, beautiful scenery, buildings, and what have you. So if it is not regulated, and people are allowed to put their signage anyhow, anywhere, whenever wherever they wanted, it affects the city. So we have to put it at the right places, due to the standard regulation that says this is how it is done, how you set it out, and that so this is what we’ve been doing.
How have you improved the revenue profile of DOAS?
After environment protection, we should have a form of constant stream of internally generated revenue. After standardising and regulating, the most important thing is revenue. Not for profit but at least to pay the bills, to make sure the citizens are protected from the harm of substandard bill boards.
To do that, you need to ensure that the bills are paid and that it is done.
Our core values are people, service and stewardship. When you look at it, we are value-driven and task-oriented people to guarantee a balanced work environment.
We also aim to consciously exceed service expectations and our stewardship is to optimise available space to increase stakeholder value
You see, for whatever you do, even in your print, you want to maximise space, sort out any little space, you have to maximise the outcome as like information load, as well as the impact it will make on its readers.
So also the department is equal to that task. So this is the journey so far in brief, but the potentials we see in this department is great. Before my appointment, the department in three years was making N167 million annually. In three years, it generated about N333 million.
But upon assumption of duty, within five to six months, I was able to realise about N500 million with a committed re-mentored dedicated staff that the team spirit was reignited. And if we could so within five and six months, we could realise N500 million and aiming at N1billion by year’s end or early next year as compared to what used to be, so you ask the question; in those three years what has been happening?
What did you do differently?
You see first and foremost for you to be at a location, you must be punctual. You must be disciplined. Yes, discipline. So first and foremost, I looked at the discipline aspect of the workforce.
When you talk about discipline, there are a lot of things like coming to work at the right time. It is a key thing. Closing when you are supposed to close is another and then seeing to it that the job that you have come to do whether it is well-done or it needs remediation for you to go on is another thing.
Then monitoring and evaluation, when you plan your roadmap, then it gives you that opening to always strategically plan what you intend to do so when I came on board, I looked at it from this perspective that I just told you.
But at the onset, people just do what they like. They come to work at 11am and they close by 2pm. Sometimes they don’t even come.
That changed. And then, I now initiated a strategy that every Monday, we carried out surveillance, we have a meeting, and carry out action on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then we sit down on Friday and review what we’ve been able to achieve the four days passed. And then if we needed to do any remediation, we also occasionally engage on Saturdays, to follow up on that thing that we could not finish on Friday. Then we now had sessions where we were mentoring, reviewing issues, looking at what was going on, how can we improve on what is being done? So I am sure some of these efforts that we made to look back and look at what we are doing when or what are we not doing?
Well, you know, we applied a three review process, knowing where you were, and knowing where you are. And then knowing where you want to be gives you the impetus because if I am going to drive travel to Onitsha this morning, my speed will be different from somebody who is going to Okene so the farther you go, the earlier you start, and the more dedicated and prepared you will be.
But if your journey is very short, you see sometimes, it even makes you lazy. So I know the task of running the outdoor advertisement and signage with all that it entails. So in a nutshell, I think these are some of the things and then that we did, and then the Almighty God bless our efforts with His blessings as usual.
Let’s look at the charges and the different parties…
You see, the first party, you deal with us directly, you deal with us directly. Because when you come to the office, there are seven steps, when you come to DOAS, that is, the Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage, either you just visit the office, but now we are bringing it online. You visit the office if you have the time. But these days, you know the traffic congestion the distance, so we do all these are becoming digital. So then you fill Form A that was the second step. When you fill it for me that you are looking for new billboard sites, you are looking for a location where you want to put up, let’s say you have a THISDAY office in Asokoro. And you want people to know that this is THISDAY signage. So you first come to the office.
Second, you pick Form A that’s the first party, because you can deal with us directly. That’s why it’s called the first party for new bill board sites. So we now look at it and you pay the sum of N2,500. And then we register you, then in the form that you had to fill you tell us the kind of signage that you want. Then after filling the form, if somebody follows the administrative protocol to follow you, and see where you want to place it so that it conforms with the control standard and the relation we are talking about.
So after vetting, if it is approved, you are asked to pay certain stipends. And then you set up but according to the specifications as requested, but if it is not approved, we’ll tell you why it is not approved. And if you improve on it, you come back and we now give you approval. When we say it is not approved, we tell you why. Because we consider safety appropriate and other smaller details then when you pay your initial and annual bills to a bank account only because we don’t collect cash under any circumstances, you pay to the bank and that aspect also we have tried to get some POS and USSD code so that with your handset you can pay to us, because as much as possible what we try to do, what we also discourage that gave us that leapfrog within five months is the fact that we discourage cash payment you know when you collect cash, you have a lot of temptations. There are a lot of leakages that may happen.
And then then you collect your permit after you have paid that is step seven.
With permit, you can proceed. When you collect your permit and enjoy the public patronage and enjoy your business once you pay. As you know, this advertisement gets you noticed. I am happy am talking to a media person. Advertisement gets you patronage and it gets you more money. If you are not known, you make little money so once you do advertisement, you make more money. And then at the end of the day, you look for a bigger sign board and then you will you pay big money if it conforms with our standards.
So at the end of the day, government makes more money and opens up business spaces. If you have a shop in Maitama now, provided maybe there is vacancy for a mall at a new place with more money, we can open up another location for another private sector or private public partnership.
We build another place, you set up there, you want to do more billboards, and you earn more money. And so the more we open up, the more money government makes and the more money the citizens or the private sector make. And that helps us.
What is eligible for Form B?
The form B is for the third party. Why we call it third party is because we have practitioners, we used to have about 100 of them. For instance, we could have a media consortium for advertisements and as a consultant. Once you register with APCON, you are a member of OOAN and that’s voluntary, but you have a corporate certification, then you can collect advert from people and get licensed from DOAS in Abuja that you want to be putting billboards. So if you look at the trajectory, it’s three. There is a consortium, DOAS and then your client. This is why it’s called a third party.
They have three units involved in that, you, me as DOAS and then the client, it can be Coca Cola, it can it can be any company, so you carry the bigger billboard on the street that they want. Not the one that is first party just maybe a smaller relatively one, then the second party is you know, you are now dealing with another party different from the first and the third. These are mostly Police, Road Safety, Fire Service, the Non-governmental Organisations (NGO) inclusive charity organisations that serve the people. So you see, we only register them or we don’t charge them for annual fees or anything is just a registration fee.
They pay and then at the end of the day, we keep the database and then you see they have directional signs and other things across the city.
Our primary objective is to control the business of out-of-home advertisement in Abuja to discourage illegal signage and like I told you to promote orderliness, and aesthetic on the display of signage at malls, plazas, shops and other private businesses and also to be very good source of constant internally generated revenue.
Is there a map of particular places where these bill boards should be?
What we do for now is digital. We are also trying to put them on a dashboard. Like you’re seeing these ones here that I am proposing. Just right behind you is an Android phone. It carries display, it’s an indoor advertisement thing. And then, that television too can be used where or some of these dashboards, and then, I used to have map here behind me where you have pinpoints of what we have, and what we are doing now. But we want to have a real time dashboard on a screen like the size of the window.
Are there new things you are introducing to improve your work situation?
We are trying to have a real time dashboard on a screen, like the size of the window. So as I’m seated here we are seeing who is with approval, who is without approval or who is due for renewal of his permit. So we have a three color representation green, yellow, and red, if you are red it means it is either illegal or it is not up to date with the subscription, if it is yellow, then I think the subscription is about to expire, if it is green then it is good to go.
So that on the dashboard, we have something we call the mobile advert, which is part of the first party people like THISDAY that have branded vehicles either partial or total like Julius Berger that have only B, but they have blue color and white was added to it or SAGETU of RCC or DANTATA and SAWOE and several other companies.