The Secretariat of the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) has been disbanded by the Federal Government. This is due to the panel’s endorsement of billboards that have been characterized as attempting to exert undue influence on the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, under the banner: ‘All Eyes on the Judiciary.’
The Advertising Standard Panel functions as the official panel within the Council, entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements comply with both the current laws of the Federation and the Code of advertising ethics upheld by the advertising profession.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Olalekan Fadolapo, the Director-General of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), revealed the decision to disband the Advertising Standard Panel specifically over an “All Eyes on the Judiciary” advert that ran on a huge billboard.
What is “All Eyes on the Judiciary”?
The narrative “All Eyes on the Judiciary” originated as a social media initiative by the followers of Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the recent Presidential election. The idea had been to serve as a watchdog for the judiciary.
Fadolapo also conveyed that the Council has taken measures to suspend its Director and Deputy Director responsible for Regulations, in order to facilitate a comprehensive investigation into the matter.
Fadolapo said that the content of the specific advertorial material was not approved by the panel and didn’t meet its standards.
“The attention of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeriə [ARCON) has been drawn to the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” advertisements exposed on some billboards across the country. The concepts exposed were not approved by the Advertising Standard Panel, hence, the Council has directed that all the materials being exposed be brought down immediately and the violators sanctioned,” the DG Fadolapo said.
While acknowledging that certain advertisements had not received approval from the Advertising Standard Panel, he pointed out that the Panel made a mistake in endorsing one of the concepts, as the advert did not adhere to vetting guidelines.
In the statement, the DG itemised grounds in which the Advertising Standards Panel of the Council erred in the approval of one of the concepts by failing to vet the advert materials against its guidelines.
“The Advertising Standards Panel of the Council also erred in the approval of one of the concepts as the advertisement failed to vet guidelines on the following grounds: The cause forming the central theme of the campaign in the advertisement is a matter pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Hence, it’s jus pendis.
“A matter being jus pendis and awaiting judicial pronouncement is, by virtue of the Nigerian legal system, precluded from being a subject of public statement, debate, discussion, advertisement, etc. The advertisement is controversial and capable of instigating public unrest and breach of public peace.”
The Director-General of ARCON mentioned that the Council will establish a committee to examine the factors that contributed to the “incorrect endorsement” of one of the advertisement’s concepts, along with the violation of the vetting guidelines.
But the move also raises fresh concerns over whether or not the President Bola Tinubu administration has weaponized the federal government to go against political foes. In one of his first acts as president, the new president suspended the controversial CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele whose campaign was heavily critical of Tinubu. Emefiele was then detained by the DSS.
Now members of the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” campaign are alleging that this is another move by the Tinubu administration to politicise another federal agency. The DG said that the advert is tantamount to “blackmail against the Nigerian Judiciary” as the case against Tinubu’s presidential victory is still a matter for the courts to decide.
“The advertisement is considered blackmail against the Nigerian Judiciary, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, and particularly the Honourable Justices of the Tribunal who are expected to discharge their judicial functions without fear or favour over a matter that is currently jus pendis,” the DG said.
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