Court Adjourns To Hear Pending Applications In Media Worth’s N1bn Suit Against JC Decaux, LASAA

JC Decaux, the world’s acclaimed biggest outdoor advertising firm in the eye of storm in Nigeria..

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned to May 8 to hear all pending applications in a suit instituted by a Nigerian advertising firm, Media Worth against an acclaimed world’s biggest advertising firm, JC Decaux  for allegedly hijacking an approved outdoor site of the local firm.

Justice Seidu is the presiding judge on the case which has attracted much interest from industry stakeholders and the media.

Counsels to media Worth, the plaintive and the second and third defendants, Lagos State Signage And Advertising Agency, LASAA and JC Decaux were in court to argue the matter.

In the suit, Mediaworth is claiming damages exceeding N1 billion Naira for alleged disruption of its business.

Media Worth’s lead counsel, Bolu Agbaje Akadri  while speaking with journalists shortly after the adjournment expressed concerns over seemingly desperation of the foreign firm by strangely raising objections for the regulator , LASAA .

He said, “In essence what they (JC Decaux) are saying is that the act of LASAA by revoking the approval granted to Media Worth ought to have been challenged within three months when the revocation was purportedly done. It is important to note that this objection was not filed by LASAA itself.

LASAA that is protected under the law is not filing objection but JC Decaux is”.

Akadri  went on further “JC Decaux is a beneficiary of the great injustice and gross abuse of power. So we have addressed the matter sufficiently,  we have come here today to argue the matter. However, the count checked its diary and said it has  lot of judgments to deliver within the period. And if arguments are taken,  judgement on the matter shall be made within 90 days”.

The Nigerian firm had earlier claimed  that the current situation  had led to 22 members of its staff being sent to the unemployment  market.

 J.C Decaux prides itself as the leader in the global outdoor advertising ecosystem .

The Paris-based  firm  operates in over 75 countries across 5 continents. The firm recently made an inroad into the  Nigerian market, Africa’s largest economy.

The company targeted Lagos, Nigeria’s boisterous commercial city, a honey pot and lucrative niche.

However, J. C Decaux, COMPLETENEWS gathered had been deploying arm-twisting and other unethical strategies to muzzle out local outdoor advertising firms out of market which are apparently against global best practices.

Media Worth, established in 1994 had invested heavily and garnered expertise in the sector.

 It is now being intimidated by the foreign firm whose global annual revenue stands at average of $3.4b.

Consequently, the indigenous firm instituted legal action alleging that JC Decaux had illegally trampled on its rights and is reaping from where it did not sow.

 Joined in the litigation are the Federal Ministry of Works and Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), the regulatory agency for outdoor advertisement in Lagos.

In a statement of claims exclusively obtained by COMPLETENEWS, it was  revealed that sometime in 2012, Media Worth  went on strategic sites hunting and found Oworoshoki end of the Third Mainland Bridge suitable for a proposed digital electronic billboard.

 The local firm approached  LASAA, the regulatory body for approval.

It was gathered that LASAA had in a letter dated 18th, October, 2011 advised Media Worth to approach the Federal Ministry of Works which is statue-empowered by the virtue of Federal Highways Act to grant approvals for right of way on Federal roads. Consequently, an application was made on 22nd, February, 2012 by the local advertising firm to the Federal Ministry of Works.

On 12th, March 2012, approval was granted amongst other requirements  which included payment of N2 million to the federal government coffers.

The approval fee was paid according to court documents.

Strangely, as soon as Media Worth mobilized men and materials to site, there was a stop work order from Lagos State Ministry of Environment and later Ministry of Town Planning and Urban Development citing public safety concerns.

This interference according to outdoor agencies breached normal laid down procedures for regulation of billboards in Lagos State.

While Media Worth was reaching out to get the order lifted, it was gathered that LASAA revoked the approval initially granted.

 At this stage Mediaworth claimed it had invested over N150 million.

In court documents, Mediaworth claimed it is still indebted to the tune of  $100,000 to its technical suppliers.

Mediaworth claimed that after the alleged illegal revocation of its site, armed policemen were drafted to the site to destroy its  erected structures.

 Mediaworth also claimed that the site that was illegally hijacked from them under nebulous guise of public safety was handed over to JC Decaux to construct an LED board similar to what Media Worth was erecting before demolition. .

JC Decaux in an affidavit deposed before the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, initially claimed to have gotten necessary approvals from relevant government agencies including the Federal Ministry of Works.

However, when the Federal Ministry of Works, which is the first defendant in the case denied issuance of approval to any advert firm other than Mediaworth, J.C Decaux recanted in another affidavit claiming it had made such a claim in error and therefore did not have the approval from the federal ministry to construct any structure on the said location.

By law, only the Federal Ministry of Works can give approval for right of way on Oworoshoki end of the Third Mainland Bridge and Federal Highways across Nigeria.