Poster war gets messier


• As FG, state resume tango on federal roads

A SUBTLE battle of wits over the pasting of posters on Lagos highways and streets is pitching the Federal Government against the Lagos State government. 

   And unless a high wired tact is deployed, furour over pasting and removal of posters in the heightened days before February’s general elections could set the grounds for bitter and fierce confrontations between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Party (APC) in Lagos.   

   On Monday, the Federal Government joined the fray of the poster tussle between the Lagos Command of the Nigerian Police Force and the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) when it suspended all approvals for the use of its right of way for advertisements in Lagos State.

   The Federal Controller of Works in the state, Mr. Godwin Eke, said the suspension was directed by the Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen. Eke said the regulation would be effected nationwide in due course.

   According to him, advertisers had been served notices and given seven days to comply by removing all advertisements in the government’s rights of way. “We have written letters to advertising agencies to remove all advertising hoardings on all federal roads in the state within seven days, effective from January 23.

   “The suspension affects approvals on use of rights of way, setbacks, clover leaves, loops, among others on all federal roads and setbacks. The aim of serving the advertising companies notices is to reclaim our rights of way and rebrand them,” he said.

   Eke said the government observed that some structures standing on its rights of way were not properly done. “We do not want advertisement billboards that will collapse like the one that collapsed near Third Mainland Bridge in 2014. We want to review everything,” he added.

   But political watchers see this move as a reaction to LASAA’s directive given last week, which ordered President Jonathan’s campaign group, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) to remove the campaign posters of the president “illegally pasted on street lamp posts in the state.”

   Moreso, while the state government through its agency, LASAA, is giving a hoot about the state of its environment through indiscriminate pasting of posters, this newfound resolve of LASAA to enforce its laws, the PDP says, is targeted at opposition parties in the state.

   The chairman, Lagos State PDP South-South Forum, Sunday Ekanem, said: “We find it bemusing that the state government has deem it fit to make Lagos clean during this electioneering campaign and the only mess they could clear is all PDP posters pasted at strategic areas of the state, while leaving out those that belong to the APC. The government’s hostility is so loud that everywhere you turn, it is the APC campaign poster. 

   “All 57 council secretariats have been ‘beautified’ and branded with only APC posters, same for all other government infrastructure like the BRT buses and BRT bus stops. There seems to be no space left anywhere for the PDP. Yet, the little TAN has done is rattling the state government. I think they are doing this because they are jittery about the choice of Jimi Agbaje as the governorship candidate in Lagos.”

   Last week, LASAA had irked the likes of Ekanem when its managing director, Mr. George Noah, said if the concerned parties refused to heed to the order, the agency’s enforcement team would remove them in line with the enabling law. “In the last 48 hours, two advertisers in the outdoor sector had terminated multi-million naira contracts with outdoor agencies registered by LASAA to operate in the state.” 

   According to Noah, the contracts were terminated as a result of parallel and illegal mounting of Jonathan’s campaign materials on posts paid for by the advertisers. “The two advertisers in question are a Chinese telecoms firm, Huawei, and Globacom. The outdoor agencies affected are Touch Point Limited and Clearedge Limited. Both agencies have lost N350m.

   “The illegal and brazen act by agents of the Peoples Democratic Party is unjust, inconsiderate and therefore unacceptable at a time outdoor advertising is facing stiff competition from television, radio and the social media. The illegal act is capable of destroying outdoor agencies in our state. It will almost certainly lead to lay-off of workers and loss of revenue for our stakeholders,” Noah said. 

   However, the Director General of the Lagos Goodluck-Sambo Independent Campaign Group (LGSICG), Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, has warned LASAA to desist from allowing itself to be used by the Lagos State government as a tool to muzzle the opposition in the state. 

   In a statement on Monday, Pearse, a university don and former PDP Lagos gubernatorial aspirant, decried the removal of posters, billboards and other outdoor campaign materials of opposition candidates in the state, particularly those of the PDP.

   “Henceforth, anywhere our posters and outdoor campaign materials are removed by LASAA, we will do the same to materials belonging to the ruling APC government in Lagos State in a bigger magnitude. We will no longer condone this reckless abuse of public institutions for the selfish interests of those who want to perpetuate themselves in power at all costs.”

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