By Princewill Ekwujuru

The Acting Regis-trar of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON,Mrs. IJedi Iyoha spoke on the challenges of working without a governing    council, as well as other topical industry issues.

Why is APCON embarking on sensitisation on campaign adverts because the perception is that government does not obey laws and rules guiding advertising in this country?

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Our mandate is to regulate advertising in all its aspects and ramifications, and based on that, we found out that in the last political era, there were lots of hate speeches and hate campaigns all over the place. So we decided that this year, we will do more sensitisation so that people will know the essence of bringing their material to APCON for clearance. We advised them against the use of hate speeches because it is against our code.

The council will hold a programme with regards to that or has it been held?

We held one late last year in Abuja, but because of paucity of funds, we are unable to hold another this year. What we decided to do is to go through media appearances, press releases and interviews such as this.

What has been the response from political advertisers?

A good number of them have been complying, our only challenge is these so-called groups that we cannot identify, may be the political party has a soft spot for a person in the party, and a group of persons will  want to impress them by creating a campaign, even unknown to the politician(s). So most times when we write to the political parties or to the politicians themselves, they claim ignorance.

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We do not know them, so that is one of the challenges we are having right now, otherwise for the parties that are registered and for the politicians that are contesting, they have been forwarding their materials for vetting.

How do you address the issue of campaign boards with unidentified owner?

Normally, what we do is when we capture such scenario, we enforce it on the materials. There was one enforcement that was carried out last week; we had to blank some boards we saw that we couldn’t identify the people behind it, they later came to say we didn’t know that there were laid down rules or have to do this or that, so we took our time to explain to them, and they complied at the end of the day, so that is just the only mechanism we are adopting for now.

APCON has been without a Council for about four years now, though government has reconstituted the board and council of other parastatals. How is this affecting the operations of the council?

Not easy, but the stakeholders in the industry, the practitioners, agencies and elder statesmen in the industry, have all been very supportive, advising here and there and encouraging us.

We contact them, seek their consent before we can do anything, and they have been co-operating, they too know that we do not have a council and without a council, we can’t do much, so everybody is trying to make sure the industry forges ahead. You know without the council, we cannot regulate the industry properly. There are some issues we cannot work on.

What are those things the members are doing to help the situation?

They have really done a lot. I do not think there is anything they have not done to ensure the council is constituted, but whatever is making the council not to be constituted is beyond us.

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It is not something we can say yes, this is what should be done or not to be done. It is left for the government to decide when to constitute a council; it is not for us to dictate to them, but we have made appeals and submissions. The practitioners and the sectorial groups have done all that.

What is APCON doing to address the reoccurring issue of industry debt?

As I talk with you, nobody has sent us any bill that they are being owed and if they don’t send, there is no way we can go into it, but when they send, we always intervene where necessary.

What are those things you require from government that are not forthcoming?

A lot! Apart from the council, we need equipment to do our work, especially monitoring equipment. If we want to sanitize this industry, we need monitoring equipment; that is just the major thing. Right now, we are doing monitoring manually by going  through the papers, watching television, listening to the radio and how many of them can we capture that way? How many staff do we have to do that? But when we have this equipment that can capture as many as possible, we will be glad to have it.

In terms of subvention to the council from government, what is the situation?

So far so good, in terms of subvention nothing is too small, nothing is too big. Whatever they give us, we try to work with it, but it can be improved.

What are your   plans   for the elections which are just around the corner?

Apart from the sensitization programme, we have our staff all over the place, especially in zones were we have offices and we have mandated them to be on the lookout and we are also calling on the public, if you see any material that you feel is offensive, call our attention to it.

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We have also appealed to media houses to ensure that they do not carry materials that do not have APCON certification, they should always insist on the certificate. It will save us a lot.

Advertising managers in media houses are members of APCON Council. Does this rule still apply?

Yes, what we do is that if we know of any organisation where we have people that are registered, we write to the management of such organisation and let them know our proclamation that they cannot hold advertising related position if they are not registered. And for those that are registered, they should ensure they pay their practice fees up-to-date to enable them  practice. We have been doing that and some of them have been complying.

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