By Kabir Alabi Garba
WITH its headquarters in Lagos, the mandate of promoting responsible and ethical advertising practice across the length and breadth of the country may not be an easy task for the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON).
But in the spirit of ‘using what you have to get what you want’, the council is deploying every available resources to ensure that its duty as “conscience of society and watchdog for consumers, while managing the needs and interests of the stakeholders in Nigeria’s advertising industry” is not compromised by whatever obstacles.
Specifically, the council’s efforts to move its operations closer to people received a boost on Tuesday in Kano, when the advertising regulatory agency commissioned its Northern Zone Operational Base.
The occasion featured the Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau among other top government functionaries from federal and state levels, stakeholders in the marketing communication industry as well as traditional establishments led by the son of Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero who is also Sarkin Tsakar Gida.
In his address, APCON chairman, Chris Doghudje, described the commissioning as a milestone in the development of advertising profession in Nigeria.
In Doghudje words, “it is also a visible manifestation of the resolve of APCON to bring the benefits of responsible advertising practice to every part of Nigeria.”
He chronicled the historical background of the council, saying that APCON was established by Act number 55 of 1988 as amended by Act number 93 of 1992 to regulate the practice of advertising in Nigeria in all its aspects and ramifications.
“Its mandate includes the determination and enforcement of acceptable standards in advertising to ensure that consumers and the society at large are protected from the consequences of irresponsible commercial communication.
“APCON also has responsibility to ensure that commercial communication conforms with the principle of fair competition and safeguards the interests of practitioners and investors in the Nigerian advertising industry.
“APCON has assiduously discharged these responsibilities since 1989 when it commenced operations but has been constrained by inadequate funding to concentrate its operations in the Lagos area, in which over 70 per cent of organised advertising practice take sphere place.”
He said it was not until 2003 that serious attention was paid to expanding the scope of its operations to cover other parts of the country, by establishing zonal offices in Kano and Owerri. At the moment, efforts are being made to open more offices in Jos, Enugu and other major cities.
The support accorded APCON by the Kano State government since its inception, through the provision of temporary offices, hosting of its council meetings for a record four times and generous donations in support of its various projects, enabled the it to establish a firm footing in Kano from where it oversees its operations in most parts of Northern Nigeria.
It is therefore not surprising that Kano has become the first city, after Lagos, where APCON has a purpose-built office complex and study centre.
The complex, which is being commissioned today, stands on a large double plot of land donated to APCON by the Kano State government. Construction of the complex started in 2005 with a donation of N9.5million made to the Council by the British America Tobacco, Nigeria. It is therefore my delight to express the appreciation of the APCON Council to the Kano State government and to British-America Tobacco, Nigeria for their very kind and generous gestures without which this commissioning ceremony would not have happened today. I also place on record my appreciation and that of the current council, for the vision and unwavering commitment of the previous APCON Council, particularly the immediate past council headed by Dr. May Nzeribe, which initiated this Kano Zonal office project.
While thanking the governor of Kano State, His Excellency, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, for accepting to perform the, commissioning ceremony, and hosting the 116th meeting of the APCON council, said the kind disposition of the governor to APCON “gives us confidence that our mission in Kano will remain a resounding success and a reference point for other states and zones where APCON is venturing into.”
Doghudje solicited the cooperation of public and private institutions and corporate organisations, which invariably utilise advertising to enhance their corporate performance with APCON “in ensuring the integrity and public confidence in advertising communication. I implore them to acquaint themselves with the regulations on advertising practice in Nigeria and ensure compliance with them all times. With the commissioning of this complex today, APCON will intensify its monitoring and enforcement operations in the zone to ensure that all forms of abuses are eliminated.”
Just as he commended “members of the local organising committee for this commissioning ceremony for their sacrifice of time, and effort to make this event the success that it is. Also, I would like to commend all registered practitioners for their enthusiastic commitment to the advertising profession and for their determination to give the profession a good image.”
Earlier, the APCON Registrar/CEO, Alhaji Bello Kankarofi, said the journey to the event started in 2003 when the APCON council, under the leadership of Nzeribe, established zonal offices in Kano and Owerri as a first step towards creating operational offices in all the six geo-political zones of the country.
The significance of this very visionary and courageous step which was taken in spite of the poor financial position of the council, lies in the fact that APCON could not be expected to regulate and control the vast and growing business of advertising in Nigeria with a single operational office n Lagos.
In pursuit of this vision, the council succeeded in persuading the Kano and Imo State governments to provide it temporary office accommodations, which enabled it, commence operations in the South East and North Central zones. The Kano State government went a step further to provide the council with a suitable land for the construction of its permanent zonal office.
The Minister of Information and Communication, John Odey, who was represented at the event by a Deputy Director in the ministry, Alhaji Yusuf Isyaka, said the commissioning of the facility was an evidence of progress so far made by APCON in discharging its mandate of determining and enforcing acceptable standards in the practice of advertising in Nigeria.
“It is also a demonstration of the council’s commitment to discharging this mandate throughout Nigeria contrary to the thinking that advertising is practised only in Lagos.”
He continued, the Federal Government believes firmly in the necessity of controlling the nature of commercial messages given out to consumers of products and services because of the potential harm, which unwholesome messages could do to the society.
“The government believes that advertising, as a social phenomena, exerts strong influences on the lifestyles, consumption patterns, attitudes and behaviour of members of the society and that unless advertising is practised with a high sense of social responsibility, it would exercise this influence in a manner that could threaten the social and economic wellbeing of the society where it is practised.”
The minister noted that as the country gradually consolidates its democracy and free enterprise economy, advertising will face greater challenges in informing, persuading and mobilizing the consumers and the general populace towards better qualitative economic and political participation and choices.
“Because public confidence in advertising could easily be eroded by commercial message that offend the rights, wellbeing and sensibilities of consumers and other members of the public, it is important that advertising is rid of deceitful, misleading, indecent and disparaging contents and allusions.”
While commending the initiative of APCON in spreading its operations to all parts of Nigeria, as demonstrated by the construction of this zonal office in Kano, enjoined the council and practitioners to see the opening of the Kano office as a challenge to improve on the prevailing standards of the practice and compliance to the set standards.
“I expect that the council will take advantage of its physical presence in Kano to engage in more comprehensive monitoring and enforcement of best standards of practice in this part of the country and by so doing, bring the benefits of responsible advertising to the citizens,” he noted.
The governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who was represented at the commissioning by his deputy, Engr. Abdullahi T. Muhammad Gwarzo, while commending the laudable contributions of advertising to the growth of the country’s economy and the social wellbeing of Nigerians, is, however, appalled by some of the unwholesome and distasteful advertisements which are sometimes exposed to the public in the various media.
He said, “our experience about 1999 when the Kano State government had to prohibit the advertisement of tobacco in all state owned media, and the proactive intervention of APCON to resolve the issue in contention to the satisfaction of all parties.”
He continued, “APCON’s mediation on occasions when the state had had to take action against advertisement hoardings that were erected distastefully in some parts of the Kano metropolis.
“The Kano State government firmly believes in responsible advertising practice. It believes that advertising can and should be utilised, not only to increase the perception and profitability of companies and their products, but also as a tool for the promotion of societal values and the wellbeing of the people who are exposed to the advertisements.”
The governor added, “advertising must, under no circumstance, be used to debase a people’s culture and morality or exploit their vulnerabilities. Sufficient professional care must be exercised to ensure that a people’s social inheritance, be it language, religion, cultural behaviour, etc, are not distorted or debased. Indeed advertising must be seen to respect the sensibilities of the target audience.”
* Source: The Guardian