Court rules on NPAN vs APCON suit today

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By Innocent Anaba

LAGOS — A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, will today, rule on the propriety of the suit by Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, NPAN, challenging the constitutionality of some provisions of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion, as they affect newspaper houses.

The ruling was initially fixed for December 13, 2012, before it was again adjourned till today. The case is before Justice Musa Kurya.

NPAN had dragged Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria, APCON, along with the Inspector General of Police to court, arguing that the code infringed on the right of members of the association to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

APCON had, in a preliminary objection, prayed the court to dismiss the suit, while NPAN on its part asked the court to dismiss the objection. The court is to rule on the preliminary objection.

NPAN in the suit, is praying the court to determine “whether having regard to the provision of  Section 1(d) of the Advertising Practitioners( Registration, etc)Act CAP A7, LFN 204, Articles 21 and 137 (a) of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion are not ultra vires  the Advertising Practioners’ Council of Nigeria, APCON, in so far as the provisions of the Articles affect media houses who do not engage in the practice of advertising.

“Whether the provisions of Articles 21 and and 137(a) of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion are not  inconsistent with the provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which guarantees the freedom of expression including the freedom to hold opinion, and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.

“Whether having regard to the provision of Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal of Nigeria 1999, it is competent for the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria to create offences and impose penalties as done in the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion.”

NPAN is asking the court to declare that the provisions of Articles 21 and 137(a) of the code is ultra vires as it affects members of the plaintiff’s association; that Article 21 that requires all advertisements except public notices, goodwill messages, obituaries, and vacancies to be vetted by the Advertising Standard Panel before publication is inconsistent with the provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution.

It also asking the court to declare that the manner APCON created criminal offences and impose penalties as done in Articles 137 (a) (b) and (c) of the code and the Article 137, is unconstitutional, null and void.

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