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The lingering face-off between Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) may come to an end soon as the new management of LASAA has finally agreed to a more flexible approach to the crisis that has undermined relationship between the two organizations.
Reliable sources gathered that the decision to soft-pedal on the sector followed intervention of the Lagos State House of Assembly last week, after a clarion call by the OAAN members. The management of LASAA led by Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi was eventually prevailed upon to resolve the issue amicably and agree to a negotiation with the admen with a view to finding a mutually acceptable compromise for both parties.
Disputes began between LASAA and OAAN when LASAA, the organization which was set up by the Babatunde Fashola administration to regulate Outdoor activities in Lagos, was accused of highhandedness and insensitivity to the plight and concerns of OAAN members. OAAN’s complaints centred around the fact that LASAA’s regulatory demands were too stringent and thus unfavorable to the growth of out-of-home business in Lagos. The outdoor advertising practitioners also frowned at the high cost of licensing which was having a telling effect on their bottom-line as businessmen.
Other issues that OAAN wants addressed are franchising as well as the need for a level playing ground for both government and private sector players. “For example, LAMATA gets outdoor adverts on BRT buses without paying levies. They have become our competitors, yet they are not subjected to the same rules as us. That is not a level playing ground,” one of the OAAN members told Brand journalists.
The relationship between both bodies however reached a tipping point after the last elections, when the new LASAA management refused to honour the alleged outstanding debt claimed to have been incurred by LASAA during the tenure of former Managing Director Mr. George Noah. It could be recalled that outdoor regulatory agency under its former helmsman gave billboard campaign to some outdoor companies with the promise of netting off the cost on the outdoor companies rent payment to the state government.
Though OAAN members ran these multi-billion naira campaigns for All Progressive Congress (APC) during the last general elections but they were unable to get LASAA approval for payment because the contract for the campaign was awarded by MEDIA WORTH, a private company believed to have been floated by Noah to handle its private jobs. Consequent upon OAAN members’ companies failure to provide evidence of direct engagement by LASAA on the contract, the new LASAA management refused to honour the transaction. The agency on the other hand insisted that some of these companies should pay up their annual rent as it could not substitute the debt for rent renewal, while the companies refused to pay up, LASAA embarked upon compliance, thereby pulling down billboards of some OAAN Companies.
As the stalemate persisted, a good number of outdoor agencies were driven to the edge, with mountains of debt running into hundreds of millions. Some of the agencies practically fell into comatose as they could no longer operate their billboards and thus could not meet their obligations to their clients and staff. Perhaps seeing that it stood no chance in its battle with government, OAAN recently backed down on its radical posturing as it changed its tone, saying. “We cannot fight government,” OAAN President Tunde Adedoyin said. “All we want is peace. We need them as much as they need us.” Adedoyin told sources that in an exclusive interview that the decision to approach the House was part of its peace move and that it has paid off. “All we wanted was for LASAA to open up a channel of communication with us which they hitherto did not do,” he said.
Adedoyin also blamed the inflexible posture of the new LASAA boss on the handiwork of fifth columnists whom he said have been fueling the misunderstanding between both organisations by telling lies to LASAA about the out-of-home practitioners.
Speaking further, the OAAN President insisted that the demands of the outdoor agencies are germane industry issues that have been perhaps misunderstood by the agents of government, whom he said have refused to see things from their own point of view as businessmen and women. “They seem not to understand us in the private sector because they are in the public service were they are not under pressure to pay salaries and meet other obligations,” he said.
Adedoyin however expressed optimism that with talks now underway between both bodies, and with support from other industry stakeholders like Association of advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), which recently joined the negotiating table, there is going to be a solution to the crisis soon.
OAAN’s first meeting with LASAA took place close to two weeks ago; another meeting is slated for later this week where a resolution will be drafted and sent to the LSHA for endorsement.
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