There are indications that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications, may pay a total of N80 million to both the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), as the 2007 subvention that was withdrawn under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

The new development to return the subvention, originally meant for both capital and recurrent expenditure of the two bodies, was reportedly informed by the disposition of the new Information and Communications Minister, Mr. John Odey, who is said to be a member of both APCON and NIPR, to follow due process and respond positively to the plea of both bodies on the subvention withdrawal.

The two bodies had on separate occasions sent a letter of protest to the new minister that the withdrawal of the subvention was totally not in line with the laws that subventions must be given to the two.

They argued further that the withdrawal of subventions should have been passed by the National Assembly, which never happened. 

APCON is the regulatory body in charge of advertising profession in Nigeria, established by the Advertising Practitioners Act 55 of 1988, while NIPR which was established under Decree 16 of 1990 (now an Act of National Assembly) regulates the practice of public relations in the country.

THISDAY also gathered that not too long ago, the National Assembly had had meetings with leaders of the two bodies on the subvention withdrawal, and at a time, prior to the expiration of the Obasanjo administration, summoned Nweke, who insisted that the withdrawn sum was for needy issues in the ministry.

It was reliably gathered that the two bodies have already defended the 2008 subvention at the ministry, an indication that the Federal Government is ready to return to the subvention era for the regulatory bodies established by law.

It would be recalled that in the memo dated April 7, 2006 signed by the former director general of the federal budget office, Mr. Bode Agusto, both APCON and NIPR were informed of the discontinuation of their subvention, based on the directive from the Presidency dated March 9, 2006. The memo also stated that the over N40 million budgeted for each of the two bodies would be channeled towards the upkeep of other needy parastatals in the ministry.

Unconfirmed sources told THISDAY then that Nweke’s decision was informed by the then prolonged internal bickering within NIPR over its last presidential election that ushered in outgoing Professor Ikechukwu Nwosu, and the resistance put up by APCON when the ministry appointed Engineer Ponle as Council chairman for it last year when the federal government announced a change in parastatals of government. 

Some other sources say APCON was used as scapegoat, as NIPR was the one the then minister was really targeting.

THISDAY checks also revealed that the withheld fund with some monies sourced from other parastals in the Information Ministry was channeled into the running of the failed “Heart of Africa” Project of the Obasanjo administration.

It was further gathered that for the withdrawal of subvention to be properly cancelled, NIPR, for instance must come up with a crisis-free leadership, complain to the National Assembly and inform the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, through the Ministry of Information and Communication. The National Assembly may allocate a special fund for such parastatal, if the budget year is still on.

Frank Nweke (Jnr.) had in a memo written to President Olusegun Obasanjo, requested the discontinuation of the subvention to the two bodies on the ground that the laws that established them gave them the power to be self-dependent like other professional associations such as the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), among others.

In the memo, Nweke wondered why the two bodies which have been generating so much revenue without paying anything into government coffers were still coming to the government for subvention.

Source: Thisday October 7, 2007


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