Our attention has been drawn to a most repugnant advertorial published in the Punch newspaper on January 16th 2015, by GOODLUCK LAGOS GRASSROOTS PROJECT (GLGP), where it was alleged that the Lagos State Signage & Advertisement Agency (LASAA) removed billboards and issued directives to outdoor site owners to remove all campaign billboards or signage material installed by GLGP (for the President Goodluck Jonathan Presidential campaign).
We have neither removed any billboard legally erected by registered outdoor agencies in the state nor issued directives for the removal of political campaign materials on same. Consequently, we condemn this alarmist, irresponsible and most reprehensible allegations in its entirety, and wish to reiterate (for avoidance of doubt) that:
We operate within a democratic construct and the notion that “no person is above the law” is a fundamental tenet upon which our democracy (and indeed every great society) is built.
There are laws guiding the practice and erection of structures for signage and advertising purposes in Lagos State and prior to the commencement of election campaigns, LASAA invited all political parties and all stakeholders to a town hall meeting on November 7, 2014, at Planet 1 Hotels, Ikeja, Lagos, where the guidelines for advertising during the 2015 elections were explained. These guidelines were subsequently published and circulated widely for the benefit of all stakeholders in five newspapers: Punch, Guardian, Nation, Thisday and PM News.
LASAA regulates signage and billboard structures only, and does NOT interfere with the content of the advertising on these structures. LASAA has no influence on the content these structures carry and cannot not be held responsible for the inability of political aspirants or their political parties to secure space from the autonomous business men and women who own, operate and maintain these billboards. Therefore, all registered political parties are at liberty to approach outdoor advertisement agencies registered to practice in Lagos, to seek usage of their billboards that are duly approved by our Agency.
It is a malicious falsehood calculated at inciting peaceful Nigerians to violence and “crisis” to suggest that, by insisting on adherence to the provisions of the laws and guidelines regulating advertising during the elections, LASAA is acting in the interest of any individual, political party or groups of persons. Our primary preoccupation and obligation is to maintain the integrity of our environment, to protect the citizens of our state and country from the adverse effects of outdoor advertising and to ensure that all advertising during this period is done in accordance with established guidelines, laws and precepts.
To suggest that the law be suspended for the benefit of a privileged few is an invitation to chaos and anarchy. All laws MUST be obeyed by ALL persons (irrespective of political affiliation or financial ability), especially during a season where members of the public are invited to elect their leaders. It is also our unbounded duty to remind members of the general public and aspirants to political office that no representative, agent, business, man or woman has the authority to tear down the constitution and rebuild it in their own image, anchored on the platform of intimidation, lawlessness, blackmail and rascality.
While recognizing that the truth is the greatest stumbling block to those who do not wish to be ruled by the law, it is our contention that the purpose of government is to ensure law and order, and not to fan the embers of anarchy and crisis. We shall continue to err on the side of the law and common sense, and will discharge our obligations without fear or favour, and in spite of the severe harassment, intimidation and blackmail we are confronted with.
In light of the above, and against the background of the Peace Accord endorsed by all political parties in Nigeria, we call on security and law enforcement agencies, as well as the President (and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) to effect the immediate arrest and prosecution of these individuals, who expressly threaten to incite violence amongst our people and ensure the breakdown of law and order in Lagos and across the entire nation.
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