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Ijedi Iyoha… tender touch of amazon at APCON

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It seems safe to assume that the Acting Registrar of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Mrs. Ijedi Philomena Iyoha, has breathed so much life to the regulatory body in just a few months as the head. 

The ever smiling and focused lady, whose penchant for perfection comes next to nothing always glows wherever she is.

Evidence abound that she has discharged her duties in the last one year to the admiration of all stakeholders including the head of the agency’s supervising Ministry of Information and Culture.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed is full of praise that in spite of the absence of the APCON Council, the agency has lived up to expectation, especially in this electioneering season. “APCON is working. I should also add that when I became minister, not many agencies had their boards. I took responsibility for these boards. If tomorrow, the Registrar of APCON says they want to do APCON Day, why not?” Alhaji Mohammed said in response to the fear that one of the cardinal programmes of the regulatory agency, ‘Advertising Day’, could become victim of non-inauguration of the APCON Council.

On this sunny afternoon, when The Guardian had a chat with the amiable lady, it was all excitement, without a recourse to drawn faces or the issuance of warning code.
 
A thorough-bred, seasoned advertising practitioner whose vast experience spans over two and a half decade, Iyoha noted that one of the ways the non-composition of the council is affecting regulation is in the area of sanctioning practitioners. 
   
The amiable lady noted, “we have a mechanism involving Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) and Disciplinary Committee, but since we don’t have a Council, those committees cannot function effectively. But we are compiling the names of violators and sanctions will be administered as soon as the council is constituted.”
   
On the claim by some bodies that representation in the council is schemed towards a particular group and thereby putting them at a disadvantage, she argued that except the law is changed, it would remain the same way for long. “If the law says a particular sector should produce 20, 10, 5 members, we’ll have them. If they want the law changed, they can sponsor a bill and get it changed.” 
   
Despite this challenge, the agency under her leadership has ensured cordial relationship with all stakeholders.
   
“Last year, APCON scheduled courtesy visit to some of the sectorial groups and shall continue this year.” 
   
Asked why there are always gaps when a council is dissolved before another one emerges, she disclosed, “the law states that it is only the minister that can constitute a Council after it has been endorsed by the President. We write them and they look at it and appoint whoever they feel is competent.”
   
Iyoha’s journey in APCON started on a humble note. And over the years, she has traversed every section in the regulatory agency. Now, she could tell what exactly has happened and should have happened to the body.
   
“There used to be APCON Day but since we don’t have a council, we couldn’t continue. But this year, we have resolved that whether there is Council or not because our law says a minister can approve anything waiting to be approved, if they don’t give us a Council, we can go to the minister and say this is our opinion and tell him what we want and present it to him for approval. But if the stakeholders say no we can’t do anything until we get a Council, then we will put it on hold,” she said.
   
Iyoha holds a Masters of Science degree in Mass Communications from the Lagos State University in 2005, having earlier bagged a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the Bendel State University (now Ambrose Ali University), Ekpoma, Edo State, in 1990. 
 
Her other qualifications include a National Certificate in Education from College of Education, Abraka, Delta State in 1984, APCON Diploma in Advertising, in 1999.
   
She began her career as one of the few staff of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, in November 1992, as Assistant Education/Training Officer. Her career then began to rise steadily. In 1994, she rose to the post of Education/Training Officer, to the year 2001, when she became the Principal/Training Officer. A position she held for about four years before rising to become Assistant Chief Registration & Enforcement Officer, in the year 2004 through 2008. 
   
In the period 2008 to 2014, she became the Chief Registration & Enforcement Officer. Still in the employment of this federal parastatal, she was upgraded to the post of Assistant Director/Head, Regulation, Monitoring & Enforcement Directorate.
   
With such an intimidating background, she is sure to know how the non- composition of a council will affect the regulatory agency.
   
She, however, retorted, “that is how it has always been. At the tenure of a council, we write to the ministry that this particular tenure is ending in three or four months’ time, kindly approve the new council. So, the delay is not from APCON but our supervising ministry. We had issues with the last Council which tenure ended in 2013. The person nominated as the Chairman of the Council was not a registered practitioner. He was not even in advertising and it was kicked against. So, it took time for it to be rectified. Later, Mr. Ufot Udeme was nominated and his tenure lasted for only three months before the new government came in.”
   
Reacting to APCON’s decision to assert its relevance in the season of political activities, Iyoha, who has managed large multicultural teams, different needs, requirements, constraints and diverging interests of stakeholders in the advertising industry, said, “based on our experience in 2015, we decided to start early because in 2015, we had some fake publications that almost marred the electioneering campaign. We started early enough to sensitize the public and politicians and their campaign managers to let them know that APCON is there for them to clear their materials and ensure that whatever is exposed is not offensive to the public.”

On the compliance level, she noted that some of the political parties are complying. “In fact, big parties and agencies are complying,” she noted.
   
Demonstrating an impressive breadth of comprehensive knowledge and experience, Iyoha said, “ have done several sensitizations, but you will still discover people telling you that they don’t know anything about APCON, especially some media houses. When you go to their office to tell them, they will still tell you they are not aware. We have had public fora in Abuja and Katsina. We would have had one in Lagos, but because of the closeness of the election. But we have been having media appearance and we have been sending out press releases to talk to people about it.”
   
She has served the council at top level management and in several committees within APCON and other industry fora. She has attended courses, trainings and workshops extensively and is well travelled locally and internationally. 
   
She is so much abreast with how much technology has impacted monitoring of advert and other activities. “When APCON was set up, there was nothing like social media, so, it was a major challenge. But what I do is that if I open my social media page and see a product that I know is dangerous, I usually write them,” she said. “The industry has been very supportive. I wasn’t even expecting the kind of cooperation we got last year.”
   
In addressing quackery, she stated, “it’s something we cannot do alone. Like we tell the agencies, don’t employ people that are not professionals and regularise the membership of those that are employed.”
   
She added, “we are still working on collaboration, but we have noticed that January is not too good a time to start collaboration, because of paucity of funds.”
   
On what is APCON doing to ensure that advertisers adhere to ethics of advertising, she identified continuous training and publicity. 
   
She also stressed the need for empowerment by government to effectively perform its functions. 
   
According to her, “we lack equipment to work and funding is another issue. Government is doing well but they should do more. The monitoring we do now is manual. But if we get monitoring equipment, it will help us and increase our revenue base.”
   
While assessing the impact of advertising regulation on Nigerian economy, she stated it had become an integral aspect and without it, “there is little or nothing anybody can do. Even from the media angle, it is advertising that pays most of the media houses. To a large extent, advertising has really impacted the economy.”
 

 
The lady is not happy with the way state governments regulate advertising in their domain. “All they do is in accordance with their law.

They give advertisers site and that is all. They are not interested in the content of the advert. All they are concerned is about the revenue and allocation of sites. Where we started having issues is that we tell them that you don’t give site to people that are not registered practitioners. We told them to give sites to professionals so that when they are putting up a material, they know what to do.” She added.
   
She said, “if we have all of them under one umbrella, we should be able to regulate effectively. But when they are not together, it will be difficult for us to regulate. But if they join sectoral groups, it will be easy to regulate effectively.”
 
She cherished inter-agency collaboration with similar organisations such the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as well as the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for effective monitoring.

For instance, she said, “if NBC notices anything that is offensive, they will call our attention to it and caution their licensees not to expose it.”
   
For NAFDAC, she added, “before clearance is given to materials on food and drug, we demand for NAFDAC Certificate. The same for SON.”

On December 31, 2017 when the tenure of Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi as Apcon Registrar/CEO expired, the mantle of leadership, naturally, fell on Iyoha for being the most senior staff and she has never looked back since then.


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