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Court May Decide XLR8 and NIPR Dispute

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Several public relations svengalis are gearing up for a fight over a letter co-signed by the Presidents of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Rotimi Oladele and Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria, (PRCAN), John Ehiguese respectively addressed to Guinness Nigeria seeking the termination of a public relations contract awarded by Guinness to XLR8, a leading PR firm.

Earlier last month, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR had written to Guinness Nigeria alleging violation of certain laws by XLR8. In the letter, the bodies therefore requested Guinness to terminate a public relations contract the multinational company entered into with XLR8, a public relations firm.

The letter entitled ‘Breach of Public Relations Laws in Appointment of PR Agency’ was co-signed by the president of NIPR, Rotimi Oladele and President of Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria, PRCAN, John Ehiguese.

NIPR and PRCAN are, among others issues alleging that XLR8 as a company is not a member of PRCAN while statutorily the company should belong to the association and they consider this a violation which according to them is a breach of the laws governing public relations practice.

Parts of the letter reads: “We write as regulators of the public relations profession in Nigeria, for both individuals and corporate bodies, to draw your attention to a fundamental breach of the laws governing public relations practice in our country in the recruitment of one of agencies as consultants to Guinness Nigeria. However, XLR8 Nigeria, one of the agencies you recently awarded your corporate public relations assignment is not registered with PRCAN nor are its CEO and lead consultants members of NIPR. We request therefore that you revoke the contract to XLR8 Nigeria for non compliance with the Nigerian Law on the practice of public relations”

In a separate discussion, John Ehiguese insists that XLR8 has refused to join PRCAN while statutorily the company is not supposed to practice consultancy without being a member of PRCAN. He explained that PRCAN was created by the by-laws of NIPR to regulate the practice of consultants. “So by law, as a PR practitioner and as a consultant, the company is mandated to be member of PRCAN”.

On the difference between being NIPR and PRCAN practitioner, Ehiguese explained that NIPR is the regulatory authority established by law. NIPR has three categories of membership and they are Associate, full membership and fellow. “But if you want to operate as a consultant, then you have to register with PRCAN. The association is created by a bylaw of the NIPR to regulate PR Consultants practice. As PR Consultants, PRCAN has corporate members”, he said.

The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations was established in 1963. The Institute is the professional body of qualified Public Relations Practitioners and, according to its Website it attained charter status in 1990 with Decree 16 (now Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). The Law mandates NIPR to regulate the practice and direct the development of Public Relations as a profession in Nigeria. The law also makes it illegal to practice Public Relations, under any title, in Nigeria without NIPR certification.

On the other hand, the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria, according to its Website is a trade sectoral group for the public relations industry in Nigeria. Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria aggregates and articulates the interest of member firms. PRCAN works to uphold best practice in public relations in Nigeria in the areas of standards, conduct as well as economic well-being for the public relations industry generally and public relations consulting in particular for the benefit of all stakeholders.

XLR8’c chief executive Calixthus Okoruwa isa member of NIPR and as the NIPR Act states, he has the certification to practice public relations. It is therefore strange why NIPR and PRCAN co-signed the controversial letter to Guinness asking for the termination of XLR8 contract.

PRCAN said it relies on “Bye Law 3” of the NIPR Act which according to them states that the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria is entrusted with regulating public relations consultants. This bylaw, according to them makes it mandatory for consultants operating in Nigeria to belong to PRCAN.

Experts who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that would be difficult for an Act to empower a trade association such as PRCAN, NUJ or any other trade association to become a regulatory agency as PRCAN claims. PRCAN had already stated in its website that it is a “trade sectoral group for the public relations industry in Nigeria”. The lawyer therefore said that it is hard to understand why a trade association is laying claim to being a regulatory agency.

The Nigerian constitution makes it very clear that every Nigerian has the freedom of association and the freedom to choose to associate with whomsoever he/she wishes. Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution under fundamental rights, states that “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”.

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