The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations has threaten legal action against public and private organisations that fail to appoint public relations professionals as spokespersons.
Public Relations Officer of NIPR, Mr. Stanley Ogadigo, in a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja, quoted its president, Muhktar Sirajo, as saying that it is a criminal offence to practice public relations without necessary certification and licensing
“There is laid down rules about appointing spokespersons; the law establishing NIPR makes it a criminal offence for anybody to practice public relations by whatever name without certification or licensed by NIPR.
“There are set parameters of knowledge you need to acquire before you can practice public relations.
“The law actually provides for imprisonment, fine, or both,” Sirajo said.
The president pointed out that government’s continuous patronage of quacks as reputation managers of the nation’s institutions had remained a major challenge and a breach of own law.
Sirajo disclosed that the NIPR would henceforth apply the section in the Act establishing the institute which stipulated punishment for illegal practice.
“Unfortunately, the government too does not come clean in respect of this. Most of the people government appoints to be spokespersons are in violation of this very important creed (law).
“The government is either unaware of, or has forgotten that there is a law that says you cannot practice Public Relations, PR, without licence from the NIPR.
“In essence, the government too cannot appoint a spokesperson if that person is not licensed by the NIPR,” Sirajo said.
He expressed satisfaction with the progress being made in the fight against quackery and hinted that the institute shall soon conclude arrangement with the necessary law enforcement authorities for proper prosecution of offenders.
The NIPR boss informed that the institute, as a responsible body, had designed a professional training programme, called Master Class, as alternative for those practising public relations without certification to regularise their membership.
“We have sought audience with the Attorney General of the Federation, because part of the provisions of the law is that the Attorney General is supposed to establish a tribunal that is to try and punish people found to be practising PR without licensing from the NIPR.
“The NIPR leadership in its wisdom introduced Master Class programme, a window of opportunity for people who have been practising PR for minimum of five years without licensing as part of measures to ensure that those holding executive and other high-profile positions in both public and private sectors do not end up being embarrassed when the hammer falls,” Sirajo said.
The president noted that the institute was not interested in embarrassing anybody, but called on individuals and organisations to leverage on the opportunity offered by the institute through the Master Class training programme to regularise their membership.
According to him, NIPR is not a union or an association, but a chartered institute, which is a creation of the law, and would not hesitate to clampdown on any individual or organisation that flouts its laws.
He added that part of the provisions of the NIPR law, apart from mandating it to set parameters of knowledge to be acquired to practice the profession, it also empowered it to license practitioners.
Sirajo said there was need for government and other stakeholders to realise the dangers of violating the NIPR Act, noting that if the current trend of engaging nonprofessionals is not checked, the country will keep drifting.
“We are educating, enlightening and making advocacy visits to let the people especially those that matter, to know that they are further killing the system by compromising professionalism.
“As long as square pegs are not put in square holes, we will continue to have this and even worse problems.”