A few years ago, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had described Lagos as a jungle city. Expectedly, the comment drew instant bitter criticisms from leaders of thought in the state, especially as it painted a picture that the state government, led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which was arguably the best governor then, on non-performing platform.
But in a retrospect, Obasanjoâ€™s remark was a reminder of the perennial traffic congestion and growing number of slums in the state.
The situation then was made worse by the plethora of advertising signage and billboards that dotted every available space in the metropolis.
It also bringsÂ to mind the multitude of uncoordinated signboards and bill boards at virtually every road junction, street corner and event centre in the state.
As small and big firms competed for space at road junctions, the signs/billboards began to spread from one end of the road to the other.
Erected in different sizes and height, the boards dotted street kerbs, abandoned vehicles. And many compounded the road situation, blocking road signs and obstructing free flow of traffic. This has led to a number of avoidable accidents.
Organisers of conferences and social events, such as weddings, naming ceremonies and carnivals hardly obtained any permit whatsoever before rolling out all manner of banners, which were hung precariously to abandoned telephone and sometime electric cables along the road.
Those that could not afford the cost of such boards employed the services of sign writers to inscribe names and descriptions of their businesses around their office buildings. Religious organizations and politicians outdid one another with graffiti made with paints on bridges and every available wall to advertise their programmes.
Some also went further to print posters, which were pasted indiscriminately on walls and sometime to deface big billboards erected by outdoor agencies and obliterating the messages advertisers had used their hard earned resources to put out. A few individuals who could no longer tolerate the way their houses were being disfigured with posters reacted with â€œPOST NO BILLâ€ warning.
The Tinubu administration, obviously appalled by the unwholesome sight and the unhealthy rivalry among outdoor advertisers, created the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), which has been sustained by Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the current governor of the state LASAA, which was established to regulate and control outdoor advertising and signage, wasted no time in moving. Its officials combed all streets, cutting down erected boards and carting them away.
Another group of people from the agency went after posters washing them away.The action of the agency drew some applause from concerned members of the public who were already choked with the gamut of awkward display of posters and boards.
Mr. Idowu Abiodun is a community leader at Egbeda who expresses pleasant surprise at the speed with which the agency has been able to drive sanity into the signboard war in the city.
â€œThe way the thing was going then, I was afraid it would lead to open confrontation. The intervention of LASAA came at the right time.
Today, the roads are better looking. The signboards are few, standard and better arranged,â€ he says.
While many have continued to commend the state government for setting up an agency, which has ensured the improvement in the look of the city, the earlier dismantling of billboards that did not meet its standards and its current revenue generation mechanism have drawn the ire of outdoor advertisers.
Prices of renting billboards have shot up.
The advertisers claim the activities of the agency have gone beyond regulation. They say rather being an impartial regulator, it has become an interested party and express they may soon be out of business if LASAA is not checked.
Specifically, Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) accuses LASAA of high-handedness and harassment.
It alleged that some members of the agency seize billboard spaces and allocate them to favoured organisations.
It claims the rules for demolishing billboards are not clear; adding that some demolished spaces have been speedily filled with other billboards.