Amidst allegation by the Billboard Owners Association in Edo State that its members have been warned by the governor, Godwin Obaseki, against accepting patronage by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and other opposition political parties as campaigns rev up for the 2023 general elections, the government has admitted mopping up all available campaign billboards in the state. Confirming this development on Tuesday in Benin City, a member of the association, Ibrahim Momoh, said they were threatened by the governor that anybody who violated the order would lose his or her billboard. When contacted, the State Director, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) Abdul Hakeem Tiamiyu, said though he was aware of the complaint by the billboard owners, APCON as a body is different from the billboard owners. Tiamiyu explained that while the job of billboard owners was to erect Adverts on billboards, APCON regulates advertising contents to ensure conformity with guiding regulations. He however promised to probe further into the matter. According to him, “I have heard the same complaints from billboard owners that Edo State government has warned them not to erect any billboard from APC. I will carry out more investigation on this because should this be true, it is quite unfortunate. Ours (APCON) is to regulate the content of every advert to ensure it does not run foul of the law. We don’t erect billboards”.
Also reacting to the development, assistant secretary, Billboard Owners Association, Precious Otameh, corroborated the allegation, stating that “it is true.” Otameh said a message came from Edo State Government House telling us that we should not accept adverts from APC and other opposition parties in the state. “We have been waiting for them for guidelines to no avail. They keep telling us not to erect any advert billboard from any opposition party until further notice”. However, the government, through the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, tacitly admitted the allegation, stating that the government had secured the billboards in advance, knowing that elections were coming. When pressed further if his explanation was an indication that there would be no more space for other political parties to erect their campaign billboards, Nehikhare said all he knew was that the state government had paid for many billboard spaces in advance because it knew election was coming. The APC promised to react appropriately after properly appraising the situation.