Controversy of campaign posters…
• Lagosians urge LASAA to stop removal till after general elections
WITH the February 2015 general elections drawing nearer, the political landscape is thickening and politicians are now employing every antics to ensure their candidates carry the day.
Apart from campaign promises pervading the mass media, campaign posters, are also seen as a veritable means of reaching the electorate, especially in a state like Lagos with a large mobile population, and are naturally being exploited by politicians. The entire landscape is awash with posters.
But the indiscriminate manner in which these campaign posters are brandied at every street corner, walls, popular bus-stops and on every available space around the metropolis, thereby constituting environmental nuisance, have become a source of worry to residents.
The situation is even more intriguing with the two leading political parties in the state accusing each other of damaging posters of their candidates, thereby generating undue tension in the state.
Posters of candidates from the two parties have virtually taken over the highways, medians, building fences and bridges across Lagos metropolis, forcing officials of the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, a body statutorily saddled with regulating and controlling signage and outdoor advertisements in the state, to remove the posters.
According to the agency, campaign posters are only allowed within designated zones including designated surfaces on inner streets, walls of public schools, public hospitals and stadia.
But the People Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in the state, has alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is using the LASAA officials to remove posters of their candidates.
APC on the other hand alleged that PDP members have resorted to removing APC’s posters and banners across the state, buoyed by the show of bias demonstrated by the state Police Commissioner.
The State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Joe Igbokwe, in a statement last Tuesday said the open display of outlaw and brigandage in Lagos by the PDP in respect of placement of posters stems from the open show of support, which the state Commissioner of Police showed to PDP in utter disregard of the existing laws of the state.
The party also warned that nothing should be made to breach the peace and security of Lagos by either the PDP or the police “as the state and its law abiding citizens will rise up to meet any challenge thrown to the state by desperate political invaders.”
However, as the two leading political parties struggle to outdo each other on campaign posters, Lagosians believe that if the situation is not arrested on time, it could degenerate into clashes that could mar the elections.
Already, the Lagos State Police Command has warned LASAA to stop removing campaign posters and billboards of political parties in the state.
Lagos State Police Commissioner, Kayode Aderanti, at a press conference warned that the police would arrest anyone caught pulling down political parties’ posters.
According to him, the police had been inundated with complaints from candidates of political parties, except the APC, that LASAA officials were pulling down their campaign posters.
The police boss added that since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has lifted the ban on political campaigns, the Force would ensure a level playing field for candidates of all the political parties.
“Let me restate the resolve of the Lagos State Police Command to invoke the full wrath of the law before, during, or after the elections on any individual or agency of government that conducts himself or itself in any way that is inimical to peaceful campaigns and elections,” he said.
But LASAA through its Managing Director, George Noah, accused the Police of attempting to intimidate the agency.
He denied that the posters-removal exercise carried out by the agency was creating an uneven playing field for parties’ candidates.
According to him: “The removal of posters that deface our environment is a statutory obligation of LASAA.”
The agency boss said over 100,000 political posters have been illegally pasted daily across the state in the last three months.
“The agency had equally received complaints from the public about the indiscriminate pasting of campaign posters and had undertaken the task to remove them “without any favour”.
“We wish to assure all political parties that as long as all election materials are not deployed within our stipulated guidelines, such materials will continue to be removed.”
“Our guidelines have been issued without prejudice to any individual, political party, association or aspirant and our intention is to ensure fairness and equality among all concerned stakeholders while judiciously preserving the integrity of our environment and applying the rules without sentiment or bias.”
“We, therefore, regard the statement issued by the Commissioner of Police indicating that our personnel will be arrested in the pursuit of their lawful duties as an attempt at intimidating the agency from undertaking its statutory function,” he added.
However, a concerned Lagosian, Ayomide Taofeek, who has been following the development, expressed worries that the agency has continued its exercise despite the warning by the police.