Nigeria’s Advertising Laws, Regulations and Guidelines: The Simple “Don’ts”

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Advertising in Nigeria is regulated by the combination of federal, state laws, subsidiary legislation and guidelines. Different rules apply to different products with the three main agencies being the Advertising Practitioner’s Council of Nigeria (APCON), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Alcoholic Beverages

WineAlcohol advertising is a very sensitive issue and its regulations and guidelines are designed to promote socially responsible behavior and to protect young people. If there is one thing we learned from the ‘Guinness Nigeria Plc and APCON saga’ it is the fact that when advertising alcoholic beverages in Nigeria, be very aware of time of the day you advertise because you may just be in violation of the APCON Code of Advertising and Promotion guidelines. The guidelines provide that advertisements for alcoholic beverages shall not be aired between 6:00am and 8:00pm on radio and between 6:00am and 10:00pm on television.

While advertising alcoholic beverages, you cannot do so near schools, hospitals, sports arenas or places of worship (a distance of at least 200 meters is required). In addition, the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion, the Spirit Drinks Regulation (2005) and the Wine Regulation (2005) all provide that radio, television or print media advertisements of alcoholic beverages shall not be permitted in children’s programs and children, sportsmen, or expected mother’s cannot be used as models to advertise such products.

Relevant provisions: Article 39 APCON Code of Advertising and Promotion guidelines, Regulation 5 of the Spirit Drinks Regulation and Regulation 5 of the Wine Regulation.

Bottled Water

bottled waterBottled water is categorized as a food in Nigeria and is subject to the regulation of NAFDAC. NAFDAC is very clear about its requirements regarding advertisement of bottled water –you cannot advertise bottled water imported into Nigeria or locally manufactured unless the bottled water has been registered by the Agency. The advert itself must also receive pre-clearance from NAFDAC.

When advertising bottled water in Nigeria, you cannot make any false or misleading statement, give half-truths or make statements that cannot be substantiated. You also cannot give any false impression that the advertised bottled water is for universal cure or regarded as a more effective and safer alternative than the next bottled water.

Relevant provisions: Regulation 1 and 11 Bottled Water (Advertising) Regulation (1995)

Food, Drugs and Health

Food and drugs cannot be advertised in Nigeria unless they are registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The Nigerian Marketadvertisement must also receive per-clearance and approval of NAFDAC. Such ads cannot imitate the general layout, text, slogan or visual presentation of another food and drug product in a way that confuses consumers.

Drug advertisement cannot exploit any superstitions or induce fear among consumers causing them to purchase the drug product being advertised and cannot state that it is safe, non-toxic, the most effective, least toxic, least tolerated, or the drug of choice.

Relevant provisions: Regulations 2,3 and 5 of the Food Products (Advertisement) Regulation and Regulations 1,2,4 and 12 of the Drug Products (advertisement) Regulation

Children’s Advertising

Although Nigeria has no specific law that regulates advertising to children, there are subsidiary legislation to protect young people. For example, under the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (5th edition), no advertisement is allowed to encourage children to unduly pressurize their parents, guardians, other adults or any person to purchase the advertised product. Also children must not be shown using cooking gas, knives, petrol, matches or other inflammable materials, electrical appliances and other items that could lead to their electrocution. In addition, the Cinematography Act of 1990 also provides that children shall not be exposed to indecent and obscene materials publications and films.

Cosmetics and Medical Devices

cosmeticsNAFDAC requires the registration of cosmetics and medical devices prior to advertisement in Nigeria. Cosmetics and medical devices advertisements also need to be cleared and approved by NAFDAC are valid for one year and cannot make reference to any member of the healthcare profession or to a hospital, clinic or any other health center.

Relevant provisions: Regulation 2 and 12 Cosmetics and Medical Devices (Advertisement) Regulation

Tobacco and Tobacco Products

tobacco advertisingAlthough Nigeria is a party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Nigeria is not among the 19 countries worldwide that have comprehensive national bans on tobacco advertising. This is due to the fact that despite a 2004 directive by APCON banning tobacco advertising on radio, television and in newspapers, some tobacco companies have found strategic means to continue to advertise their products.

Over the last couple of years, a number of comprehensive legislation regarding Nigeria’s tobacco control have being put forward to either the Senate, the House of Reps or drafted by the Federal Ministry of Health. The first, titled the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009, was sponsored by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and sought to regulate the manufacturing, advertising, distribution and consumption of tobacco products and domesticate the WHO FCTC. This Bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2011 but was not assented by the President.

In 2012, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa sponsored the Nigerian Tobacco Control Bill 2012, which sought to repeal the Tobacco Control Act (1990) and prohibit the promotion of tobacco, tobacco products, as well as endorsements by tobacco companies. Earlier this year, sponsored by Senator Yacoob Bush-Alebiosu, the 2013 Nigerian Tobacco Control Bill underwent its 1st and 2nd readings at the House of Representatives and was also referred to the Committees on Health and Justice for review. Now we can only wait.

Relevant provisions: National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) 2009, 2012 and 2013

Related articles:

  • Underhand Tactics, Illegal Advertising Raise British America Tobacco’s Profile in Nigeria, Africa by Ogala Emmanuel October 25, 2012
  • Advertising to Children in Nigeria: Young Consumers: Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers by Femi Olubanwo, 2012 Vol. 13 Iss.2
  • Ban All Forms of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion – WHO by Vanessa Okwara, June 2, 2013
  • Tobacco Regulation in Nigeria: A snapshot of the 2012 Nigerian Tobacco Control Bill by Olamide Egbayelo
  • House Seeks Review of Tobacco Control Bill by Chinazor Megbolu

This article was originally published as part of NLIPW Trademarks Vol. 1 No. 15, August 9, 2013. The article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.

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About Ufuoma Akpotaire 319 Articles
Ufuoma is a Senior Editor and Director of Regulatory Policy at NLIPW. She assists clients in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and patents. She counsels clients regarding validity and infringement matters and has experience acting against the infringement of IP and addressing counterfeit issues. She holds a Masters degree (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School, New York and a law degree from the University of Nigeria (LL.B. Honors). She is admitted to practice law in Nigeria and in the State of New York. Ufuoma cut her teeth in the intellectual property practice groups of some of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has years of experience working with major non-profit organizations in New York. Email: