The president of Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) Babatunde Adedoyin stated in this interview with MARKETINGSPACE that the association is compelled to practice in all the states of the federation. ‘’We have some of our members that practice only in the east, we have some that practice only in the west and we even have some that practice only in Lagos. Whatever policy that we have, it should be safe whether it is in Lagos or anywhere. That is why we try not to put our annual general meeting in Lagos all the time.’’- Excerpts…
With the hard time facing your industry, what is your relationship with the regulators?
Unfortunately, the regulators are looking for money; they will tell you is all about environment, but not in all cases. Primarily is about money for them and that is why now that they are not getting much money from the centre, their governors and finance department are looking inward and they are putting more pressure not only on our members, but other people. If you are a landlord in Lagos, you will understand what I am talking about from tenement rate to ground rate and it has been all kind of charges. Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) is trying to collect money at all cost and everybody is looking for ways to get money from operators because allocation coming from the centre is little or nothing therefore, most of them are now thinking that there are internally generated revenues and unfortunately those of us they are trying to get the money from are having the same problem. Our clients are not doing well, they are not giving orders they are not paying. This is not peculiar to Lagos, it is all of them. As we speak our boards are being pulled down in Kaduna, Rivers, Abuja and we have been to all these places and the story is all the same except that charges in Lagos is higher maybe because they are the pioneer of these agencies. For sure we don’t have any sympathy from them that is the truth.
What is your assessment of out-of-home industry in the last 3 months of 2016?
It won’t be out of place to say that economy is in total recession and in a situation like this there is no way it would not affect our industry. This first quarter of this year is not rosy at all. In my short introduction I was trying to say that clients are cutting budget. Some clients are not sure what they want to do this year and some can’t even access foreign exchange to bring in raw materials and since they do not have raw materials they can’t produce hence they can’t advertise. The problems are there and we are hoping that next quarter would be better.
But for the first quarter of this year, as we speak there are no media orders from most companies, some of them are still trying to put it together because of the uncertainty that we are facing today. That is the basic truth and I can’t start mentioning organisations. some are even owing the last two quarters of last year; I am talking about multinationals.
In Lagos OAAN have been able to establish a certain level of rapport with LASAA but how about outside Lagos?
First and foremost we have not settled anything with Lagos, we are still discussing. We are trying to arrive at an amicable solution. We are praying and hoping that in a short time this would come to an end. You realise that this is a professional association and as a company you are compelled to practice in all the states of the federation. We have some of our members that practice only in the east, we have some that practice only in the west and we even have some that practice only in Lagos and whatever policy that we have, it should be safe whether it is in Lagos or anywhere. That is why we try not to put our annual general meeting in Lagos all the time. As I speak someone is in Kaduna and Abuja doing some discussion with the regulators there. It is a professional association and the policy is the same whether you are in Lagos, Abeokuta or Uyo their problem is our problem here. Because today it might be in Lagos and tomorrow you may want to practice in Uyo.
Is it true that Lagos State is aiding a foreign company to come and practice in Lagos?
We are not sure but we are hearing it as rumour. Because we don’t have fact and if we do not have fact it becomes speculation. We have asked the LASAA MD that we heard from a reliable source that this foreign company came to their office and a meeting was held, he neither denied nor confirmed. To us is still a rumour and we also asked the registrar of APCON who told us that to his best of knowledge they have not been to him and they cannot practice in Nigeria without going APCON.
There is no smoke without fire as I said earlier on. We need a partnership that will work. If my friend has heard about it, it can only come through sources. If they are coming into Lagos LASAA must be involved and also you can ask LASAA and let’s have the input of what they want to say. It is difficult for us to seatback and watch things happen. I want to say that we are endangered specie, and we are endangered specie because today clients are not doing business with us not because they are not also trying to sell their products but it is because our medium suddenly not meeting up in terms of costs. And that is because of the transfer cost from regulators and so if they chase us out of business we may never come back and clients would have also found new ways of selling and if they try those new ways and those new ways are cheaper for them so they won’t come back to us. Therefore we are endangered specie.
What drive your rates; it is a regulator’s fee?
Of course that is a fixed cost that we must take in to account. All of us are old enough to know what were charged in those days before the advent of LASAA. LASAA came and the price went by over 1000%. So, the regulators want to make money but like we keep telling them. Today, Nigeria have oil but we don’t have anywhere to sell. A Lagos state government does not go to the federal government and say give me what you were giving me before, they will share only to the extent of what they have received. We are telling them allow us to pay to the extent that we have also received and they are not reasoning and we must get them to understand that. If they can take what has been received then they should also allow us to pay what we have also received.
Does this instant only take place in Lagos?
No, that is why we are not talking about Lagos alone. As we speak we are having issues in Kaduna, don’t forget governor of Kaduna State was the one who did what he did in Abuja. So he wants to do the same thing in Kaduna. They started by saying beautify the environment and at the end of the day it is rate increase. And so it is very clear we need to come down to address this issue.
The debt and payment on vacant hoardings
We have been battling with LASAA on the issue of vacant billboards, like I said earlier we are the endangered specie. Whatever money we spend come from the advertisers. And when the advertisers do not release this money more also they cut their budget. The regulators still insist that we must pay them the same amount money that we pay when the billboard is occupied. Where do they expect us to get the money from? Is actually the cost of the debt they say we owe? It is not possible for us not to owe because we can’t walk into the bank and take a loan to pay for vacant billboards.
We believe as regulators they must understand the environments that they regulate and they must also know that a percentage of what we give to them come from advertisers and they have the right to take their money to anywhere they want to take it to. We are here today talking about this rate being too high and we are asking them to bring it down and let us pay as we received but they say no. if these billboards are vacant we must give them same N3million that we paid when occupied. It is something that every other state has copied. It all started from Lagos and anywhere you go they will say they are paying in Lagos. Therefore they can’t blame us because that has been the major debt they have in this industry.
And when this new people come on board we try to engage them, the same thing in Calabar. We had a stakeholders forum and it was very fruitful forum and they understand that money cannot come the way it used to come, so they brought down their rates and even told us instead of paying for vacant billboards we should pay a token like a tenement rate and that is what we expect every regulator to copy and not just say this is Lagos if you cannot pay you quit. The rate that we pay in Lagos is 40% to 50% of our income.
Do your members owe LASAA?
Yes, we owe LASAA and the debt is a result of charges on vacant billboards. When there is a doubt or conflict that should not be the subject of what should make it a force. We are saying to LASAA that we did a job and we had an agreement with people that gave us the job and LASAA is saying that they do not know that agreement and we believe that government is a continuum and very soon this present management of LASAA will be a thing of the past. I do not know why people do not learn from the past. I don’t know OAAN will enter agreement with somebody and when the current leadership departs and another comes in and it will begin to say it doesn’t know anything about such agreement. We are still talking about this thing and we expect LASAA to set aside those debts until we resolve them.
We are claiming that money and LASAA is saying that they don’t know about the money and they are still dealing with us on the account of the money that we expect them to pay us. I rather would say that we have told them clearly that we should set it aside until we resolve this issue and all hands are on desk to resolve this issue.
Read about Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA The Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency as established by the Lagos State Structures for Signage and Advertisement Agency Law, 2006 and the Amendment thereto is responsible for regulating and controlling outdoor advertising and signage displays in Lagos State.