LASAA vs OAAN: A truce at last?

Members of the Outdoor Agencies Association of Nigeria, (OAAN) were already used to being masters of their own terrain and ‘warlords’ in their fiefdom, operating with little or no stringent regulations, but the establishment of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) in 2006 put paid to this unrestrained freedom for the outdoor operators.

With the coming of LASAA, the table turned against OAAN, and the body was no longer the master; that role consequently shifted to LASAA. The new regulatory body rolled out fresh rules of engagement that shook the outdoor sector to its marrows and turned the screw so hard; it almost brought the outdoor segment to its knees.

For example, instead of paying some hundreds of thousands as billboard permit fees, LASAA suddenly raised its fees to an astronomical level, and followed up with a set of ‘harsh; rules. “LASAA was sharing our profit with us. For example, if you sell your board for N6million, LASAA will ask for almost N3million,” one outdoor operator said.

The relationship got to a boiling point during the last election in 2015 when OAAN members were lured into a gentlemanly agreement to give up their boards for the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) campaigns, and reject overtures from the other parties. Till date, the over N700million debt burden incurred from that deal is still a subject of dispute as the new LASAA boss, Bolaji Sanusi, has allegedly refused to honour the agreement, rather he has referred the association to his predecessor, George Noah.

“The problem started when Makanjuola Alabi was appointed LASAA General Manager. He started on a wrong footing by arbitrarily hijacking the rate by more than 2000 per cent as at that time, and we have been complaining that the rate will kill outdoor,” OAAN President Tunde Adedoyin said.

“The issue of paying for vacant boards was also a problem. What that meant was that if you have 10 boards and only five were occupied, then you have nothing, because the money you collect from the five may not even be enough to service the 10,” Adedoyin added.
Of course, the dispute led to many back and forth, accusations and counter- accusations from both parties, until many gave up any chance of peace and feared the industry was on the brink of total chaos.

But now there seems to be relative calm and stability as the new LASAA boss, Mr. Sanusi, who had hitherto stuck to his guns and rejected any overtures for negotiations has now soft-pedaled. According to him, it’s in the best interest of the industry for both parties to remain cordial.

In the new atmosphere of peace, LASAA has now set up a committee made up of LASAA staff and OAAN members to jaw-jaw on the way forward for the industry. The committee has already made some instant impacts and its is expected to meet on a monthly basis to deliberate of some of the issues that have provoked frictions. With the committee in place, OAAN now has LASAA’s ears on a regular basis.

One of the early achievements of the body is the fact that LASAA has now given OAAN some respite on the payment for vacant boards. For the first year starting from 2016, the operators get a 30 percent discount, and by the second year the discount rises to 50 percent and later 60 percent.

LASAA has also ensured that Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) pays some taxes on its BRT adverts revenue, which was a major sticking point in the relationship between both parties. OAAN’s grouse was that government should not be both an operator and regulator at the same time, as that amounted to unfair businesses practice. It frowned at a situation where LAMATA paid no taxes to government and did not face some of the other imperatives that regular businesses come up against.

While this is indeed a good step forward, OAAN has insisted it is not good enough; they want greater concession from LASAA. “This change in terms of concession is very good because it wasn’t there before. We say thank you but it is not good enough. LASAA cannot be sharing our profit with us,” the OAAN President said.

Other members of the association have also expressed their misgivings about the unwillingness by the regulatory body to understand their concerns and make necessary changes. However, Adedoyin has cautioned about the need to avoid confrontation and take advantage of the new atmosphere of friendship to continue to dialogue and woo LASAA to concede to OAAN’s demands.


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