•NIPR, PRCAN seek to end operations of XLR8, DKK, others
•NIPR tackles Lagos chapter over infractions

Public relations practice in Nigeria is heading to the trenches as two majors crises, which began a fortnight ago, threaten to cause implosion in the industry and split stakeholders.

Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) National President, Rotimi Oladele, has ordered the cancellation of the election of Joseph Okonmah as Lagos chapter Chairman over alleged fractions.

The NIPR, in conjunction with the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), has written letters to some multinationals to terminate their relationships with unregistered PR agencies.

Some practitioners warned that the disputes may make or break the sector.


On the industry

PR is one of the most unregulated segments in integrated marketing communication (IMC) in the country. It is seen as an all-comers profession. When some people fail in one career, particularly media, they resort to public relations.

Other professions such as accounting, medicine, law, advertising, architecture, pharmacy in which practitioners have to pass professional examinations to practise, but PR practitioners do not adhere to rules on entry level requirements.

The NIPR has tried without success to halt the trend. Everyday numerous unqualified individuals and firms feast on the industry, causing its reputation and income to suffer.

Oladele promised after his election two years ago a complete overhaul of the system. He said PR profession must be practised the way accounting, medicine, law, and other professions are practised.

He advised the government to ensure that only professionals handle PR business as charlatans hurt the economy.
NIPR rift with Lagos chapter

PR is perhaps the only segment of IMC enmeshed in infighting, bickering, envy, jealousy, and quest for power; even as it has enjoyed harmony since Oladele took over as NIPR boss.

The resurgence of the ugly past took place on July 24 when the Lagos chapter of the NIPR held its annual general meeting and election. The following day, the national body annulled the election into the executive council chaired by Joseph Okonmah.

The national council supported Kunle Ogedengbe’s candidacy for the chairmanship against the popular candidate, Okonmah.

In line with the NIPR Act, Emmanuel Dandaura who was sent by the national body to oversee the election did not agree with the Lagos chapter over a number of issues.

One of the key points which led to Dandaura seeking a postponement of the election was non-compliance with the law for a state chapter to submit its audited report to the national council a month before the election.

It was learnt that the Lagos council under Okonmah submitted it two weeks before the election.

Another factor that led to the decision by the national council to dissolve the Lagos council and a appoint caretaker committee in its place was the inconsistency in the list of voters.

“The national council list reads 104 eligible voters while Lagos chapter list was 94,” a source in the Lagos NIPR disclosed anonymously.

But another source who also pleaded anonymity countered that it was none of those issues because the national council already had its agenda since its candidate was not in a favourable position to win the election.

Against the advice of Dandaura, the election went ahead but the national council wielded the big stick by annulling the election of Okonmah and freezing the Lagos NIPR account with First Bank.

Freezing of the account led to the cancellation of the PR Week Gala Night.

The caretaker committee has been sworn in led by Abraham Olusola-Niyi. However, a source disclosed that the Okonmah group will head to the court to challenge it.

Okonmah declined to comment on the issue.

Former Lagos NIPR Chairman, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, said “I am not aware of the full detail of what happen, and until I hear from both ends I cannot comment.”

He was, however, optimistic that the situation would be resolved amicably.


Gang up against unprofessional consultants

The PRCAN led by John Ehiguese has delivered on its promise of ensuring that only those empowered by law practise PR.

That promise was fulfilled recently when the PRCAN and NIPR wrote to MTN Nigeria and Guinness Nigeria to terminate their PR relationship with DKK and Xlr8 respectively.

It was learnt that the decision was taken because the agencies have not been inducted into PRCAN, as stipulated in the NIPR Decree 16 of 1990.

This has generated much tension and divided the industry into three parts – supporters, opponents, and those who believe the issue can be handled more maturely.

It was learnt that Calixthus Okoruwa, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of XLR8, became a member of NIPR last year despite the fact that he had been in active practice over 10 years.

Okoruwa, who cut his PR teeth in DHL Express as Corporate Affairs Manager, moved to MTN Nigeria as its first PR Manager before he established Xlr8, a communication outfit he not describe as a PR agency.

But these agencies have all participated in PR pitches and won. DKK, formerly Creative Advertising Agency, won MTN PR account two months ago; XLR8 picked Guinness corporate PR.


Sources said the regulatory bodies plan to go to court if the multinationals fail to comply with the directive. The blacklisted agencies are warming up for the court action.



Way forward

Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, CMC Connect Burston Marsteller CEO, said the law is to be obeyed and any agency which violates it should face justice.


“You cannot practise law without the NBA (Nigerian Bar Association), as happens in other professional bodies, so why is it different in PR?” he wondered.


Observers counsel that both regulators and practitioners should find an amicable to resolve the issues before they cause implosion in the industry.


Some have argued that PRCAN is going after these CEOs, who are NIPR certified, because of the inroads their unregistered agencies made at pitches.


But a PRCAN member clarified that “it is a way to ensure that standard is maintain and the industry properly regulated and not seen as an all-comers game.”



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