Home Advertising ADVAN fumes as ARCON drags over 50 firms to advertising tribunal

ADVAN fumes as ARCON drags over 50 firms to advertising tribunal

by Kikelomo Oyenuga
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The Advertisers Association of Nigeria has said that the move by its regulator, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria to arrest the Managing Directors of firms under its aegis for advertising infractions is a ‘travesty of regulation.’

The President of ADVAN, Osamede Uwubanmwen stated this during an exclusive interview with The PUNCH.

According to him, in January 2024, ARCON issued notices to law abiding organisations in Nigeria on various unclear charges of infractions, with fines up to N1m per infraction.

He said it was critical to note that these organisations include multinationals, indigenous conglomerates and various levels of businesses that serve as the backbone of the Nigerian economy.

Uwubanmwen said ARCON has now issued notices to the CEOs of these organisations to face the ARCON ‘Tribunal’ on various claims of infractions.

He said, “They are even threatening to arrest their MDs. These are about 50 companies. They have issued a bench warrant because the firms refused to come and face their tribunal. Even my own company, I went to court for an injunction against them. They now said that it does not matter, that they are also a high court. So, I’m waiting for them to issue the bench warrant to come and arrest us.

“So, we took them to court. We had our grounds, part of our grounds was inability to have a fair hearing. The Supreme Court even has a judgment that says that any tribunal set up outside the court, that you feel you will not have a fair hearing, you have to run to the court. So, we are allowed to run to the court.

“But, they (ARCON) are saying that they are like a high court. But being like something is not the same thing as the real thing. They have carpeted several of our members, like BUA, Seplat and several others.

Articulating the position of the advertisers, he said ADVAN vehemently opposes the harassment of its members who are corporate entities that utilise advertising and marketing to promote their goods and services.

He said the invitations to CEOs of reputable Nigerian brands to stand ‘trial’ is a huge embarrassment and humiliation of law-abiding corporate entities, and has caused a total loss of trust for ARCON as an institution.

He added that the harassment and threats of criminal trials to CEOs of both local and multinationals is antithetical to the reforms being proposed by the Federal Government through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council on Ease of Doing Business, and the need to remove all forms of bottlenecks in driving the Nigerian economy.

Speaking further, Uwubanmwen argued that many of the charges levelled against its members go against the conventional and acceptable definition of advertisement, which is meant to be ‘a paid form of communication.’

He said, “What are the clearly articulated guidelines for digital advertising, in view of the fact that digital advertising cannot be regulated as traditional advertising?

“What constitutes online advertising? is it paid communication, is it all and any posts on corporate social media pages and websites? Do all these fall under the same category and payment structures?”

The ADVAN president insisted that regulation should not be ambiguous or selective in its applications, it should be clearly defined with stakeholders continuously engaged in a quest for seamless implementation.

He queried why ARCON would clamp down on firms with huge fines at a time many companies are grappling with the effects of the current economic austerity.

He said, “Some people got up to 20 infractions, and you have to pay for each of them. Go and read a report by MAN on how many companies shut down last year. At this rate, more will shut down. Didn’t you see a lot of multinationals declaring losses in their financial statements?”

When contacted, the Director-General of ARCON, Olalekan Fadolapo could not be reached for comments. The DG did not also respond to WhatsApp messages sent to him as of the time of filing this report.

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