The Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria [NPAN] has urged a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to declare the power of the Advertising Practitioners' Council of Nigeria [APCON] to regulate the content of the publication of its members as null and void.
NPAN's counsel, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, while raising objection to APCON's claim, prayed the court to uphold the competence of the association's suit and dismiss the claims of the defendant.
The newspapers' proprietors had instituted the suit against APCON over the latter's attempt to control newspaper contents and alleged harassment of newspapers' staff. Joined in the suit was the Inspector General of Police as police were allegedly being used by APCON to harass staff of media houses.
At the court session, Mr Oyetibo told the presiding judge, Justice Musa Kurya, that contrary to APCON's claim, the suit was not to fight for the employees of media houses being allegedly harassed by APCON and the police but it was primarily instituted to challenge the power of APCON to control newspapers.
He urged the court to determine within 30 days, after the service of summons issued to APCON and Inspector General of Police upon the application of the Newspapers' Proprietors Association of Nigeria whether: Having regard to the provision of Section 1 [d] of Advertising Practitioners [Registration, etc] Act CAP A7 LFN 2004, Articles 21 and 137[a] of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion are not ultra vires of APCON in so far as the provisions of the Articles affect media houses who do not engage in the practice of advertising.
Second, whether the provision of Articles 21 and 137[a]of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion are not inconsistent with the provisions of section 39 of the constitution of the country which guarantees the freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinion, and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
Third, whether having regard to the provision of section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is competent for the APCON to create offences and impose penalties as done in the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice, Sales Promotion.
The counsel therefore urged the court to declare Article 21 of the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion which requires that all advertisements except public notices, goodwill messages, obituaries and vacancies shall be presented for vetting and approval by the advertising standard panel before publication is inconsistent with the provisions of section 39 of the constitution and therefore is unconstitutional, null and void.
NPAN in the suit also asked the court to grant it perpetual injunction restraining APCON from treating or continuing to treat Articles 21 and 137 of Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion as valid Articles in the code and restraining it or its agents from implementing, or applying the provisions of 21 and 137 of the Articles against any of NPAN's members, their agents, officers or representatives.
Oyetibo asked the court to assume jurisdiction over the suit by declaring that it is competent because the association has sufficient interest to institute the suit on behalf of its members.
He said "NPAN has a singular mandate of protecting the interest of its members who are owners of media houses whose interests are being adversely affected by APCON unconstitutional regulations".