The Secretariat of the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) has been disbanded by the Federal Government due to its involvement in endorsing billboards that are perceived to be attempting to exert undue influence on the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. These billboards carried the slogan “All Eyes on the Judiciary.”
The Advertising Standard Panel operates as the official body within the Council, responsible for ensuring that advertisements adhere to both the current laws of the Federation and the Code of advertising ethics upheld by the advertising profession.
In a statement issued on a Tuesday, Olalekan Fadolapo, the Director-General of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), publicly announced the decision to disband the Advertising Standard Panel, focusing specifically on its endorsement of the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” billboard advertisement.
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What does “All Eyes on the Judiciary” mean?
The phrase “All Eyes on the Judiciary” initially emerged as a social media initiative led by supporters of Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the recent Presidential election. The intention behind this initiative was to act as a vigilant observer of the judiciary’s proceedings.
Fadolapo further conveyed that the ARCON Council has taken actions to suspend its Director and Deputy Director responsible for Regulations. These measures were taken to facilitate a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the situation.
Fadolapo clarified that the specific content of the advertorial material in question had not received approval from the panel and failed to meet its established standards.
In his statement, Fadolapo highlighted that the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) had become aware of the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” advertisements displayed on billboards across the country. He explained that the concepts presented in these advertisements had not been approved by the Advertising Standard Panel. Consequently, the Council directed the immediate removal of all exposed materials and the imposition of sanctions on those responsible.
While acknowledging that certain advertisements hadn’t gained approval from the Advertising Standard Panel, Fadolapo emphasized that the panel made an error in endorsing one of the concepts. The advertisement failed to align with the panel’s vetting guidelines.
In the statement, Fadolapo detailed the grounds on which the Advertising Standards Panel of the Council had erred in approving one of the concepts. The primary concern was that the campaign’s central theme in the advertisement revolved around a matter that was still pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, rendering it “jus pendis.”
As per the Nigerian legal system, matters that are “jus pendis” and awaiting judicial decisions are prohibited from being publicly discussed, debated, or advertised. The contentious nature of the advertisement had the potential to stir public unrest and disrupt the peace.
Investigation to Begin on This
The Director-General of ARCON announced that the Council would establish a committee to investigate the factors that led to the “incorrect endorsement” of one of the advertisement’s concepts, in addition to the violation of the vetting guidelines.
However, this decision has also sparked concerns regarding whether the administration of President Bola Tinubu has deployed the federal government to target political opponents. This concern is reminiscent of a previous instance where the new president suspended Godwin Emefiele, the controversial CBN governor, whose campaign had strongly criticized Tinubu. Emefiele was subsequently detained by the DSS.
Now, participants in the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” campaign are alleging that this move is another attempt by the Tinubu administration to manipulate a federal agency for political purposes. The Director-General mentioned that the advertisement could be perceived as an attempt to “blackmail against the Nigerian Judiciary.” This is particularly concerning as the case questioning Tinubu’s presidential victory is still under the jurisdiction of the courts.
In essence, the Director-General stated that the advertisement amounts to an attempt to compromise the integrity of the Nigerian Judiciary, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, and especially the esteemed Justices of the Tribunal. These Justices are expected to carry out their judicial responsibilities impartially, without any influence, over a matter that remains unresolved in the legal process.
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