ASP lashes Airtel, STBMcCann for violating court ruling

Posted by News Express | 5 May 2013 | 5,501 times

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Rising from its sitting last Friday, the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), the vetting arm of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), advised Airtel Nigeria to wait for the outcome of the case it has in court with Prima Garnet instead of bringing the same case to APCON. ASP also informed the telecoms company that it cannot adjudicate in the matter or vet the materials presented on its behalf by STB McCann because of the court order to maintain the status quo in its matter with Prima Garnet.

ASP reached this conclusion against the backdrop of media reports which suggested that APCON had selectively refused to vet Airtel adverts submitted by STB McCann on account of Prima Garnet’s trade dispute with Airtel.

A source that was part of the meeting but who would not want to be named because Airtel and STBMcCann were yet to be formally communicated by the ASP however said a letter was being dispatched to Airtel and the agency.

The source drew attention to the fact that there are separate court cases between Prima Garnet and Scanad Nigeria and from these cases specific injunctions restricting Airtel from hiring an agency until the matter is fully determined, and Scanad from operating in the country following queries around its relationship with Prima Garnet’s partners, Ogilvy Africa. The same injunction that binds Scanad also binds Ogilvy from terminating its relationship with Prima Garnet, the source continued, adding that as far as the court is concerned, Prima Garnet is still the Ogilvy agency in Nigeria.

“Everyone knows APCON is a law abiding institution and cannot under any circumstance be seen to be going against rulings of courts of competent jurisdiction. As a component part of APCON, the ASP is also aware of the dispute between Prima Garnet and Airtel as well as Ogilvy/Scanad. It will therefore be irresponsible of a Council of APCON’s nature which has the responsibility to regulate advertising in the country to be cajoled or arm-twisted into violating the sacredness of the Nigerian judicial system,” the source said.

According to the source, if APCON has obeyed a court order that stops it from vetting any material from Scanad, why should it now disobey another injunction from the same court that all parties maintain the status quo?

“We have papers that show that the court specifically explained to all parties the meaning of the status quo during its ruling on March 15 in the case involving Airtel. So why is Airtel being diffident? Is the company saying it is bigger than Nigerian courts?” the source asked.

He also said it was shameful that rather than obeying court orders, Scanad and Airtel were busy writing frivolous petitions all over the place. “It’s a shame really that these two foreign companies don’t have any respect for the Nigerian legal system,” the source said.

On allegations that APCON has been unduly influenced by its Chairman, Lolu Akinwunmi, who is also the Managing Director of Prima Garnet, the agency in dispute with Airtel and Scanad, to prevent the vetting of adverts submitted by Airtel’s interim agency, STBMcCann, the source explained that it was tantamount to contempt of court for APCON to vet adverts when it is known that there are standing court injunctions against the very agency that is submitting the ads for vetting.

Hear the source: “They are just trying to blackmail Akinwunmi. Is it Akinwunmi that gave the court injunctions? For the avoidance of doubt, the appointment of STB McCann by Airtel is, as far as we are concerned, against the ruling of a competent Nigerian court which, as we understand, has ruled that status quo be maintained pending the determination of the issues before the court. Status quo suggests the disputants go back to what was the situation before the dispute started. It is therefore not proper for the council to accept for vetting, adverts submitted by an agency in violation of a standing court order. If these companies want to demonstrate their disdain for Nigerian courts, APCON will not be used to achieve that objective.”

He condemned the attempt by some people he described as agents of misinformation to deceive the public by ridiculing the current reform regime of APCON, especially as it affects foreign advertising agencies doing business in Nigeria

“Those who are behind this campaign know that telling Nigerians such lies has potential to win them some sentiments in the short term. The truth is the current reform covers many other key aspects of the professional practice that are good for all practitioners, Nigerians and foreigners. It protects agencies, clients and even our local film and radio production companies. It even talks about managing contracts, disputes etc. They have refused to mention all these positive things because of their devious intentions. They have also refused to tell the Nigerian public and the global community the truth. The ASP letter is clear to Airtel and STB McCann that APCON cannot be used to break the law. If Airtel has submitted itself to the will of a court process, why drag in APCON and other neutral parties? If sadly as it appears, STBMcCann has chosen to join these foreign companies in disrespecting Nigerian courts, the ASP and APCON will not help facilitate that for them,” the source stated.

Photo: APCON Registrar/CEO, Bello Garba Kankarofi.

Source: News Express

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