Many times, the smooth running of the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) has been hampered over the years. This advertising control house has come under the hammer of recurring breaches. A variety of contraventions by successive governments have infringed upon APCON subsequent to the enactment of the law establishing the regulatory body by a preceding administrative era.
Twice at different instances, with the commencement of the democratic rule in 1999, APCON had been disowned as an agency of government under the premise that government could not continue to fund “a professional institute,” as APCON was depicted.
According to industry bigwigs, it took assiduous representations to government by the then governing council, spearheaded by late Dr. May Nzeribe and Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi (the chairman and registrar, respectively), with the support of their contacts in the National Assembly, to secure the reinstatement of APCON as an agency of the Federal Government.
For 18 months during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, government did not appoint a chairman to constitute the APCON council even though Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi had served out his tenure. After the long wait with APCON immersed in a crisis of leadership, Mr. Udeme Ufot, an advertising chieftain, was appointed the chairman of APCON. Stakeholders breathed a sigh of relief but it was to be short-lived.
Barely four months after the Ufot- led board was constituted, President Muhammadu Buhari’s blanket dissolution of the boards of agencies, commissions and parastatals dealt a mighty blow on the APCON council and the marketing communications industry. A letter dated July 16, 2015, signed by the then Head of the Federal Civil Service, Danladi Kifasi, vacated the council and relinquished its powers to APCON registrar/CEO.
Stakeholders cried foul as they protested strongly that the dissolution contravened the APCON Act. Objections filled the air.
“APCON council is a regulatory council with professional seats. It should not be treated as a parastatal for political seats,” the practitioners complained across board. That move returned APCON to coma.
On three occasions, the Federal Government is believed to have goofed in nominating politicians and non-advertising professionals into the board of the council. The latest of this controversy was in January last year when the government announced Hon. Jacob Sunday (chairman), Chief Dayo Abatan , Alosius Okafor, and Sani Tulu as APCON council members two years after the dissolution of the Udeme-led APCON board.
According to the advertising practitioners, the appointment was contrary to the Nigerian Advertising Rules, Laws and Regulation Act 55 of 1988 (as amended), which states that a chairman, who should be appointed by the President, shall be a distinguished fellow of the profession. The APCON council has remained in limbo till date.
Players in the marketing communications industry are confused over government’s seeming nonchalant attitude towards the reconstitution of the governing council of APCON. Four years down the line, there is still not a functional APCON council and this is said to be affecting the growth of the multimillion-naira industry. Advertising stakeholders have taken every opportunity to engage directly and indirectly with State House, Abuja, and the office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, but government is yet to yield to their demands.
The stalemate of the industry occasioned by recurrent breaches that have continued to deny APCON a council has provoked debates to resolve the issues at stake. Advertising practitioners are now divided over divergent as well as radical views in averting these challenges. While some are advocating that APCON should be uprooted from government’s control, others hold a contrary view.
Perhaps, out of frustration over the impasse, some of the industry players are clamouring for the removal of APCON from government control, to enable it run as an institute, which would be managed by professionals, free from government interference.
An advertising chieftain who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that, initially, he was of the view that APCON should remain under government because of subventions to support the council, but not anymore.
“The advertising industry is structured geographically. It is purely private sector-led and predominantly based in Lagos and the South-West. Almost 65 per cent of ad spend is around Lagos and South-West. This is where the agencies operate from. If you look at the AAAN membership list, about 90 per cent are Lagos-based. So, if APCON is private sector-driven, the operators of APCON will also focus on where their interest lie, which is Lagos/South-West. If you look at the tripod, agencies, media and the marketers, all of them are located down South. This says a lot about the scope of APCON’s operations and infrastructure.”
He further stated that, if the industry really appreciates the need for growth and for the right thing to be done, APCON should disengage from government’s parastatal structure as it actually has capacity to raise enough funding for self-sustenance.
“To be honest with you, when I see how much my agency spends in a month for vetting, for example, for just one brand alone, it was about half a million naira. So, if you ask me, I think APCON has grown appreciably. If they decide to vet all ads, they should have enough money to run it and take off the yoke of government and I think they can do it now.
“From the days of Alhaji Garba Kankorifi, government has been cutting the subventions to APCON and all that they do now is give them just the salaries of the staff. Can APCON generate enough money to take care of those salaries? I think they can. The same answer I will give for the question of institute. If we really want to professionalise the industry, let the institute come, let it be funded by members through the vetting fees. It may be difficult initially, but so much advertising is not going through the right channels, by the time even state governments are compelled to do the right thing, because state governments advertise, you would be amazed at how much APCON can raise and can fund its activities across the country. That’s my answer.”
On the other hand, some practitioners claim that APCON was established by an Act of parliament (Act 55 of 1998 and Act 93 of 1992). According to this group, the APCON act created a council, not an institute, but then endowed it with a dual role of a practice regulator as well as a professional body.
This line of thought stresses that it is important to note that regulatory councils are, more or less, agencies of government. They are not only creations of the law, like all incorporated entities, they are also creations (and agencies) of government. That explains why the then Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, which was the supervisory ministry, facilitated the take-off of APCON, providing it a temporary secretariat at the National Arts Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, long before the present APCON House was conceived.
APCON has always been an agency of government with its operational policies and guidelines superintended by a governing council appointed as stipulated in its establishment Act under the supervisory oversight of the Minister of Information.
This school of thought stated that inspite of the limitations of the APCON Act, which has necessitated the urge for amendment of the Act to strengthen its regulatory enforcement capacity, APCON to an appreciable extent, has succeeded in enforcing suitable standards in commercial communications across the segments of the advertising industry.
“A professional institute stripped of the powers of a government agency, will hardly be able to exercise effective control over the operators outside the mainstream practice.”
But the opposing group is the view that if APCON transforms into an institute, it will still retain its regulatory power because it is backed by law.
APCON is a regulatory council. The governing council of a practice regulatory council such as APCON is appointed by the government, according to the provisions of the council’s enabling law. The best way to resolve this bottleneck once and for all is to persuade government to amend the APCON law in a manner that the council remains strictly a regulatory council under the management of government and also establish an advertising institute. This proposal would not only resolve the enpasse but also take care of the interests of both the government (and the Nigerian public whom it represents) and the members of the advertising profession and industry.
Nigeria Advertising Association, an umbrella professional association of all qualified advertising practitioners similar to the Nigeria Bar Association, the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, among others, should be set up. The advertising industry is craving for one. APCON cannot sufficiently fill this vacuum.
All has not been well in the advertising industry since July 2015, following the dissolution of the board of APCON. A regulatory government-owned APCON and an advertising institute is the right antidote to this impasse that is threatening the growth of the multibillion-naira advertising industry.
We know what the streets’re saying –RED
• Company unwraps new direction with consulting, cultural focus
RED | For Africa, the company with the largest number of youth-focused media brands on the continent, has unveiled its new strategic consulting direction themed, We Know What the Streets Are Saying.
With over 15 years of experience inspiring large audiences of Africa’s youth to think, act, and grow – in verifiable, track-able ways, RED For Africa boasts of boots-on-the-ground culture experts and a content and project eco-system across sub-Saharan Africa that allows for deep connection and unrivalled credibility with audiences across sectors, industries, and nations.
Speaking on the announcement, co-founder/CEO, RED, Adebola Williams, described the company as the inroad to the culture, the company that knows what the streets are saying.
“We understand that formal structures don’t guarantee real change. PowerPoint presentations and bloodless data points don’t tell real stories. Change happens in, around and at the edges of the culture, and can only be leveraged authentically and effectively by connectors who have a grip on all the moving parts. Connectors are the ones who build ecosystems, creating and sustaining the conditions for informal actors to take the stage, and thus ensuring momentum.
“We know what moves people, what pulls them to act, what makes them raving fans. And we don’t just know it, we have the expertise, through storytelling, to articulate it, curate it, champion it, accelerate it, transform it, and then present/connect to those who need to make decisions that move nations and communities forward. We know what the streets are saying,” said Williams.
With unrivalled experience, insight, unmatchable track record and endless networks across 36 Nigerian states, and 26 countries in Africa, RED | For Africa (which has YNaija, The Future Project, Creo, Red Media Africa, StateCraft Inc. etc as part of its constituent companies) has built a strong reputation among Africa’s youth, and across trend-lines in music, movies, development, television, institutions, fashion, technology, politics, and lifestyle.
RED | For Africa is a content, consulting and data company that deploys cultural intelligence from the streets across Africa to help companies, governments, investors and change-makers solve problems, shape narratives and build movements.