19 March 2019

Nigeria: Lagos' Campaign Posters Removal Budget to Double 2015 Figure

After all the politicking and electioneering campaigns have been done and elections are won and lost, there is a need to look at the impact of political campaign materials on the environment and how to restore it to sanity and order for a cleaner society.

The over 3,000 campaign posters that defaced the city also known as 'Centre of Excellence' are beginning to scale off the walls of buildings, electric poles and any other surface that held them these past few months before the elections.

Although some of the posters were said to have beautified the city with their bright colours and catchy phrases, others only 'fulfilled all righteousness' and added to distort a city that is crying out for aesthetic rearrangement.

Now it is time to pause and take back the city from politicians and put it back in proper shape. The agency saddled with the task, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), has said it would take twice what it took it to bring the city to normalcy in 2015 for the removal of all political posters and banners across the state over a month.

Head of Corporate Affairs, Public Relations, LASSA, Temitope Akande, told The Guardian on phone that based on the number of campaign materials deployed in the state, the amount expected to be spent on the clean up could double what was spent in 2015. He said it was too early to put a particular figure on what would be spent, "but what we are doing on a daily basis is to note the number of trucks, evacuation materials we use, which will sum up later to give us the total amount."

Akande said due to the number of posters and rising cost of clean-up materials, the agency was sure to spend double that of 2015, which he put at about N4 million in order to put the city back in shape.

Recall that last week LASSA launched 'Take Our City Back' campaign, to make the state clean again.

Akande said the clean up was necessary as it was part of LASSA's responsibilities to protect the environment from potential adverse impact from visual blights. In 2015, over 1.5 million posters were cleared in Lagos. This year, not less than two million posters are littering the mega city.

Following the keenly contested presidential elections, analysts have argued that the many political posters seen in the state prove that equal right was given to all contestants to put out their messages for the electorate. Although there were cases of some politicians' posters being pulled down or torn at the heat of the campaigns to reduce the visibility of such opponents, all contestants still had a fir share of space to reach the electorate.

However, a few weeks after the launch of political campaigns late last year, the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, had alleged that his campaign billboards were vandalised overnight. Agbaje had written on his Twitter handle, "Early this morning, our boards were vandalised and removed just as campaign commenced. Some of our deployment staff were also threatened with violence and warned to desist. Fellow Lagosians, we must stand against this sort of tyranny. This is no ordinary election. This is a fight for freedom, a fight for Democracy, a fight for Lagos. We will not be silent and we will not be oppressed or suppressed into a corner. This time around, Democracy must win."

Substantive Director, Centre for Environmental Human Resources Development (CENHURD), University of Lagos, Prof. Babajide Alo, also commended the state government for the swift attempt at putting the state back in shape, urging the incoming government to place waste management on top of its agenda.

He said, "We have to restore Lagos to its former glory. The greening programme, which seeks to consolidate the gains recorded in urban renewal through the greening initiative by the state government must not be neglected."

Lagos State Government unveiled the greening initiative about a year ago to further enhance the implementation of effective and efficient greening policy for the benefit of residents of the state. LASSA's work in restoring the environment from the filth campaign posters cause is a first step towards greening the environment.

The implication of such efforts, if properly carried out, is that in the next political campaign season, the environment would have been so structured that indiscriminate posting of posters would become difficult and a thing of the past. By so doing also, politicians and their parties would then take the appropriate route to use more conventional methods like advertisement placements in newspapers, electronic media, and social media outlets to reach their supporters while the environment is freed of the muck that comes with every election period.

For a city gunning for the smart city status, avoiding the poster mess becomes the only way to go to save itself the needless financial expenses incurred each election year. Or perhaps, LASSA should begin to think of co-opting the political parties into contributing part of the money needed to clean up their mess. That way also the financial burden on the agency is reduced. Except of course the parties already pay the agency well enough before hand to have their campaign materials littering the city. In which case, LASSA should have swung into action two weeks after elections are over to clean up their inherited mess.

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