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After elections, time to clean the mess


People sit next to campaign posters for Nigerian presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar pasted at a bus station in Lagos, on January 4, 2019, ahead of Nigeria’s general elections of Ferbuary 16, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Before and during political campaigns in the just concluded general elections, most major cities wore new looks, as they were decorated with colourful posters of political candidates.

The pictures came in various shapes and sizes, as the politicians tried to outdo one another in their bid to impress the electorate and educate them on their parties’ logos.

Nowhere was spared, as those that undertook the mission penetrated every nook and cranny to ensure that political parties and their candidates were displayed at strategic places.

But now that the election fever is over, what happens to these posters? What are the relevant government agencies doing to clean the cities?

IN Abuja, campaign posters are still very much on display. The worst affected areas are under the bridges, flyovers, Airport Road, T-junctions and some highbrow hotels and streets, where the posters and billboards are concentrated.

Together with the filth that covers the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) generally, the endless display of posters present an unpleasant sight, as many are now in tatters, with only parts of the candidates’ faces or bodies still showing.

But the FCT administration is mapping our strategies to tackle the issue. As part of efforts to clean the city and rid it of environmental pollution, the administration has set up a special task force to deal with the removal of campaign posters in the next two weeks.

Speaking to The Guardian on behalf of FCT Minister, Mohammad Musa Bello, the Acting Director of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS), Engr. Richard Aderinwale said the cleanup exercise is aimed at sanitising and tidying up the city.

He said: “DOAS, established in 2013 as a department by the FCT administration, is saddled with the responsibility carrying out all advertisement related issues in the territory.

“The task force wasn’t set up by DOAS alone. Members are drawn from across all the departments and FCT agencies. So, in the next two weeks, all the campaign posters and billboards that are defacing the city will be cleared. Even before the elections, DOAS had been ensuring compliance on how best to clean the city from illegal banners and posters.”

In Port Harcourt, weeks after the general elections ended, streets and buildings are still heavily covered with political campaign posters and billboards.

The massive display of posters, which began to litter the streets of Port Harcourt late last year, is now causing what many have described as visual pollution, particularly now that the elections are over.

Ordinarily, indiscriminate pasting of posters, whether for religious or political purposes, is forbidden by the Rivers state Signage and Advertisement Agency Law 2015.

But there is glaring evidence that this law is flouted, as political campaign posters can be found on medians, bridges and private and public properties, all of which is done with impunity.

A public relations expert, Mrs. Udochi Nnamdi, said lack of official action to end the menace of littering Port Harcourt with political posters is infuriating.

She argued that the abuse of signage regulations is rampant because even those in authority are also guilty.

Udochi wondered why in an era of electronic and social media, people still want to stick to the old way of campaigning.

Pointing out that billboards and posters have never influenced her choice of candidates, she explained that she gets acquainted with candidates and aspirants’ objectives through their social media platform.

She said: “I think the political class needs to avail itself of the social media. There are millions of Nigerians connected to various social media platforms, where they could easily canvass for votes. And really, these posters do not even tell you what the candidates or aspirants intend to do when elected. I think the emphasis should shift to the social media. This is one way we can save our city from this deplorable mess created whenever we have elections.”

In his view, Dennis Ledum recommended that all political aspirants and candidates should be required by the Rivers State and Local government area authorities to pay to clean places covered with their campaign posters after every election.

He reckoned that it would be a sheer waste of taxpayers’ money to use state or council funds to clean up the mess created by politicians.

He suggested that Rivers State Signage and Advertisement Agency should be empowered to take legal action against political parties, if they fail to remove political campaign posters after elections.

He said: “Sometimes, these billboards will hang there till the next election year. Posters littering the city are truly an eyesore. I think the government should empower the signage agency to take legal action against any political party that fails to remove its posters two weeks after each election.”

The Acting Managing director, Rivers State Signage and Advertisement Agency, (RISSA), Tony Okeah, explained that the visual pollution throughout Port Harcourt and its environs caused by the littering of the city with campaign posters is upsetting.

He said: “The city of Port Harcourt is so badly messed up with all these campaign posters. It will definitely cost us some money to clean it up. But since it is something we have to do, we will do it and ensure the city is no longer defaced.

“What we intend to do very soon is to embark on a campaign of cleaning the city under this agency at certain areas such as the flyovers and roundabouts within the town. People tend to use under the bridges and medians to paste bills.

“But this is not supposed to be. We will clean the city. It might cost time and resources, but it has to be done. For now, the agency might have to bear the brunt of doing that.”

Political campaign posters

The RISSA boss, who was appointed in January, said continuous indiscriminate littering the city with posters will soon necessitate a crackdown on culprits “These include those who paste posters on utility poles, streetlights, traffic signage, bridges and medians, among others,” he said. “This action will, however, be preceded by the launching of anti-indiscriminate placement of posters.”

He explained that the practice of people littering posters of religious or political campaign will soon be a thing of the past, as his agency intends to enforce the law that will make defaulters pay a fine to be determined by the agency.

He said: “It is an offence for anyone to paste bills at unauthorised places. When an offender is caught, there is a penalty. The law stipulates a fine of N50, 000 for an individual and N100, 000 for corporate organisations. You have to pay certain fees that will enable the agency to remove the bills.

“Very soon, we will start a campaign to discourage people from indiscriminately pasting posters. If they want to paste posters, the agency is there to properly guide them.”

He urged political parties; religious and business organisations to take responsibility for keeping Port Harcourt and its environs clean, attractive and inviting.

He said: “We intend to empower marshals who will be under the bridges and roundabouts to be on the watch to apprehend defaulters. We will also discourage the habit through sensitisation. The people will have to know that clearly it is punishable for any individual for whatever reasons to paste bills without permit from this agency.

“It is not an offence to paste posters. What is an offence is when they are not pasted at designated areas. Now, before you can enforce any law, you have to provide an alternative. The problem is that you can hardly find any area designated for that. There are no public notice boards, but we will have to create them.”

Ahead of the next electioneering season, Okeah said the agency would create a special avenue for candidates to disseminate well-distilled political messages.

“We could provide public notice boards at strategic places and direct whoever wants to paste poster to follow due process and get the permit and then go to those designated places and paste posters within a particular period, because there has to be expiration period for one to paste bills and when to remove them. We have put a proposal and the state government and organisation will support us.”

But a town planner, Ms. Akudo Georgewill said political parties and their candidates should be made to bear the costs incurred by RISSA to remove the mess they created.

She said: “I understand there is an existing law in Rivers State that forbids individuals and organisations from pasting posters haphazardly wherever suits them. Saddling RISSA or the ministries of environment and urban development with cleaning the street will amount to double jeopardy. Those whose posters are all over the place should be contacted to remove them within a time frame.”

She further recommended that RISSA and other relevant government ministries should make candidates, aspirants and other organisations to sign an undertaking that they will remove all campaign advertisements within stipulated period after elections.

“It won’t be a bad idea if RISSA and other relevant government agencies make anyone that desires to paste his or her political posters to sign an undertaking to clean up whatever mess they will create in the course of their campaign.”

AND in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, the story is the same. Moving round the city, campaign posters are still visible. From Monatan to Moniya to Mokola, Oja’ba to Oje to Bode to Bodija, and some other strategic places in the city, campaign posters litter everywhere. 

Speaking on the issue, the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, Dr. Abdulazeez Olatunde said the agency in charge of signage and posters would with deal it.

Explaining that it is not the duty of political parties to rid the state of campaign posters, he said the Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency (OYSAA) is the body saddled with such responsibility and would take care of that.

The Director General of Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency (OYSAA), Olorunsola Omotayo said the cleanup would start soon. Indeed, he explained that the exercise would begin this week.

He said: “Though the work is huge, there are enough staff members of the agency to carry out the cleanup. And if there is need to engage more hands to carry out the exercise, the agency would not hesitate. Every nook and cranny of the city and the state would be touched in order to make the city and state beautiful. Everywhere will be touched.”

In Lagos, the poster war became a nuisance, due to the indiscriminate manner the posters were pasted on major roads, streets and anywhere possible.

It is not that the just concluded election was an exception, as it has always been that way for every election. The state government and the agency, Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) usually appear helpless in the face of the ‘onslaught’ and unable to halt or caution politicians and political parties.

This is despite that two of LASSA’s functions are to protect the environment from potential adverse impact from visual blights and regulate the pasting and display of posters on public structures and highways.

But like in previous cases, after conclusion of the 2019 general elections, LASAA says it has swung into action, by launching a campaign to clean the city.

However, weeks after the agency launched the campaign, many parts of the city have not been cleaned. From Mile 2 to Ikeja, Orile and Festac to mention a few, the posters are still very much there.

LASSA Communication Manager, Temitope Akande explained that the goal is to cover every part of Lagos.

He said: “The initial plan was to do a lot of the job during the day and less at night, but traffic has affected daytime movement. We will eventually get to all the places pasted with posters, both on the highways and inner streets.”

The campaign to restore the city back to its normal state will no doubt come at a cost. When LASAA kicked off the same campaign in 2015, it claimed it would be spending about N5m for the cleanup exercise.

Akande said: “The cleanup exercise is part of our regular job on a daily basis. The only addition is the inclusion of volunteers working for Sanwo-olu. As far as we are concerned, we are only coordinating their work. The campaign organisation and the governor-elect will handle remuneration for the volunteers.

“In terms of difficulties, some political thugs still attack our men, even after the elections are over. Some believe we shouldn’t remove the materials because it was donation from friends and party men and as such, have not yielded the benefit for which they were deployed. Others still want to say thank you to Lagosians for their support, whether as winners or losers.”

On why there seems to be disparity in the treatment meted to posters and campaign materials of the corporate sector and politicians and political parties, Akande explained that the law actually permits political posters and stipulates the duration after which they must be removed.

“The law also specifies that LASAA’s approval must be sought before deploying any election campaign materials. But due to the pensive mood that prevailed during campaign in the last election, political parties were already suspicious of any action by the Agency to give a particular candidate or party any edge. If political parties play by the rule, we will have a saner environment.

“More importantly, if the Nigeria Police refuse to give us protection in removing illegal posters and banners, we can’t expose our staff to the risk of attacks by party agents or political thugs. So, in executing our job in such a volatile period, the police must be available.”

A resident, Seun Adesola said it is unnecessary and indicates the mentality of politicians, when they embark on the mission of indiscriminately pasting posters, which affects the cities’ looks and beauty.

He said: “It clearly shows that those who want to and are governing us are lawless. The big politicians may simply say they have deployed professionals to paste posters, but they are members of their support groups or political parties. Therefore, until political parties and politicians are made to pay for the indiscriminate pasting of posters, it will not stop. The irony is that the ruling political party in the state is not leading by example, which is why other parties are not obeying the law in respect of pasting of posters.”

Adesola said the relevant government agency should be up and doing and carry out its task without fear or favour.

Ayo Longe, another resident, said he has never really been bothered about the indiscriminate pasting of posters. He, however, urged government to get candidates to pay special levies, so that after campaigns, people can be paid to remove them.

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