Officials of the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, and the Nigerian Police Force are embroiled in a war of words over political parties’ posters and billboards in Lagos State.
LASAA, the Lagos State agency statutorily saddled with regulating and controlling signage and outdoor advertisements, had continually frowned at the indiscriminate posting of campaign posters by political parties all over the state.
According to the agency, campaign posters are only allowed within designated zones including designated surfaces on inner streets, walls of public schools, public hospitals and stadia.
But as the February general elections draw nearer, political parties, particularly the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, have struggled to outdo each another in campaign posters.
Political posters of candidates from the two parties have virtually taken over the highways, buildings’ fences, and bridges across Lagos metropolis, forcing LASAA officials to embark on a posters’ removal exercise.
However, at a press conference on Sunday, Kayode Aderanti, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, warned that the police would arrest anyone caught pulling down political parties’ posters.
Mr. Aderanti said that the police had been inundated with complaints from candidates of political parties, except the APC, that LASAA officials were pulling down their campaign posters.
The police boss added that since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had lifted the ban on political campaigns, the Force would ensure a level playing field for candidates of all the political parties.
“Let me restate the resolve of the Lagos State Police Command to invoke the full wrath of the law before, during, or after the elections on any individual or agency of government that conducts himself or itself in any way that is inimical to peaceful campaigns and elections,” he said.
On Tuesday, LASAA responded to the police commissioner’s “threats” by accusing the Force of attempting to intimidate the agency.
George Noah, LASAA’s Managing Director, denied that his agency’s posters-removal exercise was creating an uneven playing field for political parties’ candidates.
“Let me state clearly that the removal of posters that deface our environment is a statutory obligation of LASAA,” Mr. Noah told journalists.
“The agency is therefore baffled that the Nigerian police, which is responsible for enforcing the laws of the nation, is, by the statement issued by the Commissioner of Police, encouraging and expressly supporting the flagrant disregard and contravention of environmental guidelines issued to all political parties.”
Last November, LASAA had organized a town hall meeting with all the political parties to create awareness on guidelines on pasting of campaign posters.
In the last three months, over 100,000 political posters are illegally pasted daily across the state, according to LASAA.
Mr. Noah said that the agency had equally received complaints from the public about the indiscriminate pasting of campaign posters and had undertaken the task to remove them “without any favour”.
“We wish to assure all political parties that as long as all election materials are not deployed within our stipulated guidelines, such materials will continue to be removed,” said Mr. Noah.
“Our guidelines have been issued without prejudice to any individual, political party, association or aspirant and our intention is to ensure fairness and equality among all concerned stakeholders while judiciously preserving the integrity of our environment and applying the rules without sentiment or bias.
“We therefore regard the statement issued by the Commissioner of Police indicating that our personnel will be arrested in the pursuit of their lawful duties as an attempt at intimidating the agency from undertaking its statutory function.”