Ambode overrules LASAA over N168Million signage charge

In a historic but yet unprecedented move, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State has overruled the Managing Director of Lagos State Signage and advertising Agency, LASAA, Mr. Mobolaji Sanusi over an excessive signage charge amounting to One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Million Naira (N168,000,000) for Nigerian Breweries billboards at its outlets.
The governor who was said to have initially challenged the brewering company for not supporting his government since he assumed headship of the state was later assuaged when told that Nigerian Breweries Plc spends close to Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N250,000,000) annually on Lagos Countdown. He was however told that a Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) to that effect has been signed.

He expressed dismay at the outrageous bill which was hitherto Thirty-Seven Million Naira (N37,000,000) and consequently prevailed that the amount be drastically reduced to Fifty Million Naira only.

It will be recalled that LASAA under the new helmsman had given a bill in the whopping sum of One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Million Naira to NBL earlier this year without any justification for the astronomical rate increment.

The increment which came to NB Plc as a surprise was initially protested when the company’s top executives made courtesy visitations to the LASAA boss with a plea to review the amount. The NB officials who visited LASAA on two occasions appealed for reduction without luck.

The brewery company, it was reliably gathered was pissed off with the “power arrogance” exhibited by Mobolaji Sanusi, the agency head who it was gathered appeared unruffled and unbothered by “Nigerian Breweries Plc’s pleas that it is a responsible corporate citizen that pays huge sums of money from its annual profit as taxes to both the state and the federal government”.

Besides, the company was said to have informed the LASAA head that for almost three years running now, Nigerian Breweries Ltd has been supporting the annual Lagos Countdown festival through sponsorship with huge amount of money. The company, it can be authoritatively reported invested about Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira on the countdown in its first edition. Despite all these revelations, the LASAA boss was said to have remained adamant and unperturbed, insisting that the beer company should either pay the excess charges or get its signages pulled down.

Sensing high-handedness, undue display of power and ego-trip, the management of Nigerian Breweries Ltd approached the state governor, whom it believed has a listening ears and a friend of the business community for an intervention. This approach worked as governor Akinwunmi Ambode promptly directed that the charges be reduced to Fifty Million Naira by LASAA so as to encourage Nigerian Breweries Ltd to do its business without too much of suffocation.

Confirming the development to MARKETING EDGE recently, a top aide to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the state governor was unhappy with LASAA boss’s attitude to a great corporate friend of the state like Nigeria Breweries “The governor wasn’t too happy with LASAA for the charges and the fact that the helmsman was unyielding to all the company’s pleas, hence he had to overrule the decision by asking Nigerian Breweries Ltd to pay something far lower than earlier charged”.

MARKETING EGDE investigations revealed that Governor Ambode’s intervention may have been informed by series of allegations and petitions of excessive and arbitrary charges against LASAA. Unlike in the past, the rate increment regime by LASAA has become a major source of worry and concern to all advertisers and outdoor advertising practitioners. “Since Mobolaji Sanusi resumed work at the agency, he has been battling with advertising practitioners and the entire Nigerian advertising community who remain disgruntled and unhappy with his alleged high-handedness, uncare attitude and a brazen power arrogance”, said a top industry player.

An outdoor advertising practitioner who learnt about Ambode’s intervention in the case of Nigerian Breweries Ltd expressed hope that “one day, the cries of practitioners in the Nigerian OOH will soon get to the ears of the amiable governor”.

“We have observed and petitioned LASAA to the state government over excessive and arbitrary charges, up till now, we have not gotten any response. We have gone round lobbying, but no result, but with the Nigerian Breweries Ltd case, I want to believe sooner than later, our cries will get to the governor”, he lamented.

Another top outdoor advertising practitioner expressed hope that the state government would soon listen to members appeals for reduction in the arbitrary and excessive charges on billboard hoardings in the state, pointing out that this becomes imperative so that businesses in the state will not be stifled.

Lamenting that OAAN members and advertisers are going through hell under LASAA, the practitioner appealed to Governor Akinwumi Ambode to look into the agency’s operations and the factors that inform its billings.

While LASAA has continued to charge members of Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) arbitrary and excessive charges on land permit, the agency has refused to pay the over Two Billion Naira (N2,000,000,000) allegedly being owed its members during the 2015 election campaigns.

The excessive and arbitrary charges is said to have been responsible for over fifty percent of vacant billboards in Lagos metropolis. Since the new helmsman assumed headship at the signage agency, the outdoor advertising environment is said to have become tougher and tougher with excess charges.

Top industry sources revealed to MARKETING EDGE that LASAA management decided to go tough with Nigerian advertisers when they frustrated its bid to bring Jean Claude Decaux a foreign signage company with a view to concession the whole of Lagos State to the company.

The foreign signage agency was said to have been frustrated by the new Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) rules on setting up of new business by a foreign company in Nigeria.


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