Abuja: A city swamped by a sea of posters

In the absence of an enabling law, the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), has resorted to threats and sensitization in order to reduce the menace of indiscriminate pasting of posters in the nation’s capital city. The strategy is not effective as JOSEPHINE ELLA-EJE’s report indicates.

Politicians, churches worst culprits
Politicians, pastors and recruiting agencies are in the business of wooing supporters, winning souls and getting applicants respectively but that is not where the similarity ends in Abuja.

In the nation’s capital, the three of them have contributed in defacing what is supposed to be a Model City with posters. In many parts of Nigeria, it a common practice for people to paste bills and posters on unauthorized places for various campaigns, without considerations.

However, this form of environmental degradation has become even more prevalent in Abuja. Political parties, churches and all manner of agencies who are looking for applicants have turned most public places in the capital city to an eyesore as all kind of posters are competing for space at every available structure. Posters of candidates vying for different elective posts and churches announcing various crusades and programmes are pasted recklessly on buildings, walls or fences, culverts, road dividers, bus stop sheds, police posts, street light poles, pedestrian bridges and even waste bins.

Lack of legislation is to blame
Significantly, Kwara and Lagos states have put up legislations against the menace but Abuja is yet to come up with any such law. Last year, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), which is responsible for managing the city, disclosed that it was working on a law to curb the menace. AMMC’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr Larry James told Blueprint Weekend that the department of Outdoor Advertisement has been saddled with this assignment.

According to him, the department has been directed to copy the mobile phone numbers of any political party candidate, pastor or employer on such posters and order them to remove the posters within two weeks or face prosecution. However, the PRO said he could not ascertain whether this method has proved effective. Mr James said that there is no extant law backing such prosecutions but that “most of these prosecutions for environmental offences that we do in FCT are based on AEPB Law of 1997. ‘’ This has its drawbacks, according to James, because lawyers are always exploiting this loophole. ‘’That is why we use to lose most of the cases because of the technicalities,” the image maker lamented. He further complained that the council finds it difficult to review existing laws “because the FCT has no regional assembly. We have to pass through the National Assembly. That is our problem now which is always very difficult.”

Authorities helpless, resort to sensitisation
Meanwhile, the department of Outdoor Advertisement has been directed to embark on massive sensitization to discourage the indiscriminate pasting of poster. So far, advocacy is the major strategy that the council is adopting to address the menace. The effort to craft a law is still in the works but the FCT administration is combining sensitization and threats which are not yielding any visible results. The deputy Director in the Department of Advertisements and Signage (DOAS), Mr. Richard Aderinwale could not be reached for comments at the time of filing this report. However, Mr Aderinwale had disclosed last year, during a clean up exercise, that the authority has commenced work on the law by the National Assembly.

He had also warned that the council would not hesitate to impose fines and other punitive measures against any religious institutions, political parties or individuals caught damaging the aesthetic appeal of the nation’s capital with indiscriminate pasting of posters.

…And threats
Last week, the Coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Tpl. Umar Shuaibu, issued his own threat at a sensitisation campaign. Similarly, he warned residents to “either immediately desist from indiscriminate pasting of posters on walls, bridges, road signs, sign posts, illegal advertisements and other public structures or face the music.” According to him, the council wants to see a cleaner city ‘’and also bring to book, all those who are involved in placing illegal advertisement on walls and other public facilities.’’ Shuaibu reiterated that ‘’their activities have adversely affected the beauty of the city; so we want to ensure that we clean everywhere and also ensure that such practise does not reoccur in the future. The most important thing is that Abuja must be made clean.’’

The coordinator promised to trace all the perpetrators of this crime and that violators should, in their own interest, to stop the dirty practice. Shuaibu also said that the FCT Administration will keep a vigil over Abuja to ensure it remains untainted after the clean up exercise. According to him, the defacement of buildings, streets and walls with posters has continued unabated because defaulters were not punished accordingly.

However, in spite of the clean up, threats and promises, Abuja is still swamped by a sea of posters.

Pastors condemn defacement
Pastor Ezekiel Ishaya of Prophetic Mega Assembly, Abuja, also condemned the practice. According to him, there is no justification, whatsover for pastors to paste their posters arbitrarily when they could actually advertise their programmes legitimately. “There are mini/mega bill boards for adverts and in case if one does not have enough money to pay for the bill boards, instead of littering the environment with posters, one can print flex and decently display them in stategic locations and after the programme, they should be removed immediately,” he counseled. The pastor pointed out that the menace has continued because of the lackadaisical attitude of law enforcememt agencies.

He argued that if culprits are apprehended, prosecuted and made to pay a fine, it will serve as deterrent to other offenders. Pastor Ishaya said that AMMC can as well take advantage of enforcing the law to generate revenue.

Another pastor, Mr Samuel Gbadebo, also condemned the practice and sees it as outdated in an age where digital technology is thriving. He said churches could publicise their activities through more effective means, other than litering the streets with their posters.

“ I don’t consider it polite to paste posters all over Abuja and Nigeria. It doesn’t make the city beautiful. Evangelism and outreaches have gone digital in this 21st century.There are other more effective ways to invite mass audience to the church than through pasting of posters,” the Pastor said. According to him, “I know a church that is 25 years in Abuja that had not spent 10 kobo to print posters for events and they still pull crowd.’’ Gbadebo doubts the effectiveness of the use of posters to announce a crusade or a church activity. ‘’Come to think of it, how many people wait by those posters to read through them? People drive by, never having to know or understand the details on the poster because everybody is in a hurry today in Abuja. We are in a sight and sound generation, use technology instead,’’ he argued.

Politicians evasive
As at last week, none of the major political parties spoke to Blueprint Weekend on the poster menace when our correspondent called some of their officials on phone. Many of them said that they are not the ‘’right’’ people to comment on the issue. Similarly, the recruitment agencies simply cut the conversation when they realized that our correspondent’s enquiries were not about job placements.

Significantly, the FCT Administration is also going beyond threats and advocacy, in the absence of an enabling law, to salvage the situation. Recently, Blueprint Weekend sighted officials of the administration along Gwarimpa-Kubwa road, removing some of the posters pasted on the pedestrian bridges long the expressway.

The cycle continues
Their efforts, it would seem, have not made much difference because our correspondent’s investigations shows that as soon as those posters are removed, other culprits take up the vacant spaces within a day or two. So, the vicious cycle continues and Abuja is swamped by a sea of defacing posters.

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