Nigerian Billboards: Advertisers should sue AMA – Lecturer

General News of Sunday, 1 February 2015

Source: Public Agenda

Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpuye 301009

A lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Legon, has described the recent pulling down of some Nigerian political billboards in certain parts of Accra by alleged National Security operatives, and officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) as a fruitless and needless exercise.

Dr Kobby Mensah, a political marketing expert, contends that the mounting those billboards do not violate any law in Ghana and that all the arguments forcefully advanced to justify the action were purely emotional.

“Erecting those billboards did not flout any law and therefore their removal does not make sense. The arguments being made for the removal are completely baseless,” Dr Mensah drove home his point.

He has this analogy to elucidate his point. “If the ROPAL becomes operational, will it be wrong for Ghana to advertise in a medium in the UK to Ghanaians about an activity related to ROPAL?” he rhetorically posed.

ROPAL is an acronym for Representative of the People’s Amendment Law, and it gives Ghanaians outside country and of voting age the right to vote. However, its full implementation was deferred. It was passed in February 2006 under President John Agyekum Kufuor

According to Dr Mensah, there is a significant number of Nigerians in Ghana here with varied needs, including political needs. And therefore advertisers have every right to provide them with relevant information about those needs, provided such information is within the confines of the law.

He is at a loss about the security element that has been introduced into the discourse and wondered how those billboards adversely affected Ghana’s national security. “How do those billboards affect national security? All the arguments I have heard are purely emotional.”

Dr Mensah finds it mind boggling to understand how those who have concerns about the Nigerian billboards find it comfortable to accommodate all those billboards with copy (text and visuals) that is an affront to public decency with some of them talking about orgasm and related matters. “I expect them to rather decry those billboards,” and not those innocuous billboards.

In his view, the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG) can take the AMA to court on the matter since by dismounting the billboards, contracts have been abrogated.

In a related development, Mr Bernard Anaba, a Policy Analyst (Economic Justice, ISODEC), has described the pulling down of the billboards as a knee-jerk approach. Besides, he says calls for the dismissal of officials who gave approval for the mounting of the billboards are absolutely untenable.

In an article on the subject, published on page six of this paper under the heading, ‘Heads Must Roll Over Niger Billboards in Accra?’ Absolutely Untenable!’ Mr Anaba laid bare his thoughts: “Now let’s look at it this way: the Nigerian community is growing in Ghana, and so is the political interest. This also means the political and economic interest of Nigeria in Ghana is bigger than before. Whose advantage, Ghana or Nigeria? Who can say this is bad for Ghana? I would have expected Nigerians whose social-economic fate is going to be decided in Accra to be the ones complaining and not Ghanaians.

“It actually means any Nigerian National Policy towards Ghana will take into consideration the political capital to be gained in doing that. Is this negative as we are told to believe? It will only be negative if we Ghanaians fail to see the opportunity to leverage and do not see the probable strategic and economic gain in this. Of course, there are security dimensions like there will always be dangers to anything. And we don’t stop living because of perceived risks, which can be dealt with, anyway.”

Last week concerns were raised about the Nigerian political billboards relative to the security threat they pose in Ghana. The concerns were spearheaded by vociferous Kennedy Agyapong, MP for Assin Central in the Central Region , and reputed academics including Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso of Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) and Dr Emmanuel Annin of Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre, Teshie.

Hon. Agyepong said the practice was totally outrageous and urged the security agencies in the country to be up and doing by tearing down the advertisements as that is improper and inconsistent with international conventions.

Dr. Antwi-Danso, particularly, cited the dangers of the shifting the political turf wars from Nigeria to Ghana by these Nigeria politicians and with Boko Haram lurking in the dark. He also talked about the frosty political differences between some Ghanaian and Nigerian politicians and the likely import of Nigerian politics to Ghana.

Subsequently, alleged operatives of the National Security and AMA officials went to pull down the billboards.