In the preceding unit, we took a look at the historical development of public relations on a global level. Nigeria is not insulated from developments in other parts of the world. We shall therefore examine how the profession has evolved in Nigeria as well as the roles or key players in its evolution. We shall also examine the achievements of public relations in the country as well as the challenges facing it as a fledging profession.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. Narrate the history of the development of public relations in Nigeria 
  2. Enumerate the achievements of public relations in the Nigerian environment 
  3. Identify the major challenges public relations face in Nigeria.


3.1 Development of Public Relations in Nigeria

Public relations has been in existence in Nigeria since the creation of man. It was practiced in rudimentary forms by traditional rulers through town criers who disseminated information from the traditional authority to the people. Even during the colonial era, the colonial government resorted to liaising with traditional rulers so as to maintain touch with the people. As Daramola (2003) has suggested, the indirect rule system employed by the colonial government in Nigeria was a crude or primitive form of public relations practice.

Formal public relations was said to have been introduced in Nigeria in 1924 when Major Lawrence Thorp planned and staged Nigeria’s exhibition during the Empire day. He was said to have used propaganda and information to publicize Nigeria’s involvement as well as mobilize Londoners to visit its stand.

3.1.1The Role of Government in Development of PR in Nigeria

The development of public relations practice in Nigeria originated from the government. As a result of the unpopularity of government policies and measures (conscription, taxation, scarcity of essential goods, etc) and growing tension among the populace, the British colonial government felt the need for an organ to create a favourable local image for its war efforts. During the colonial period, a lot of government activities were shrouded in secrecy, which made the words and actions of the government very suspect. Consequently, it established the first information office in Lagos in1942 with the aim of disseminating war news in which many Nigerian service man were involved. As a result, the colonial government thought it necessary to establish its own public relations. It started with the use of publicity as a channel to mobilize the Nigerian soldiers who participated in the war as well as their relations and it was known as the War Information Office.

In 1944, the Information Office was renamed Public Relations Office under the leadership of Mr. D.C. Fletcher. In 1947, the Public Relations Office was renamed Public Relations Department under the Leadership of Mr. Harold Cooper. The was after the introduction of the Richards Constitution in 1947 and the establishment of the Public Relations Department reflected an expansion in the scope of government public relations efforts.

The Public Relation Department introduced regular press briefings and issued news releases frequently. It also published magazines such as the Nigerian Review, etc. The public relations department established branch offices in the regional capitals of Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu in line with the regional set-up brought about by the Richards constitution. The aim of the Public Relations Department was to use publicity as a vehicle for reaching the people. During this period, it recruited

Nigerians (most of whom were former journalists) as publicity officers. They included Cyprian Ekwensi, Peter Enahoro, Ayo Lijadu, Dr Sam Epelle among other notable figures.

In 1954, the Public Relations Department metamorphosed into the Nigerian Information Service and this was the predecessor of the present day Ministry of Information.

3.1.2 Role of Statutory Corporations and Agencies

The government led the way in setting up Public Relations practice in Nigeria. This was closely followed by statutory corporations and Agencies, The Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was one of the first government parastatals and agencies to establish a public relations unit when in 1950 it established a Public Relations Department. The Nigerian Railway Corporation set up a Public Relations Department with late Dr. Samuel Epelle as the Public Relations Officer. Other government institutions that contributed to the development of public relations in Nigeria included the University College Hospital, Ibadan (1956) with Mr. Scott Emuakpor as the first PRO, the Customs and Excise (1960) with Mr. Alex Akinyele as the PRO.

3.1.3 Role of the Private Sector

Within the private sector, the United Africa Company (UAC) played the pioneering role in establishing a Public Relations Department. In 1949, it created the first information office in a private business in Nigeria. At its inception it was headed by Mr. Charles Newman, and the office supplied company news to produce buyers and merchants. The department was located at the Old Niger House, Marina Lagos, and from there, it spread out to other branches of the company at Kaduna and Enugu. As Victoria Ajala (1993) has observed the contributions of UAC to the growth of public relations is reflected in the fact that most of the public relations gurus in Nigeria and who can be referred to as the foundation members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations once worked for UAC. Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) followed suit by creating a public relations department to foster and sustain positive and cordial relationships with all the institutions, host communities the media and other publics. The name of the department was later changed to Public Affairs. Although it started public relations activities in the 1940’s it was in 1969 that it set up a full-fledged public relations department.

The pioneering efforts of these private sector organisations and the achievements they recorded, spurred other private institutions like banks, industries and multinational companies to join the trend in setting up in-house public relations units.
Many of these organisations have been active in executing corporate social responsibility programs such as award of scholarships to students, development projects such as agriculture, construction of schools, community halls, hospitals and water supplies The Guinness eye clinic in Kaduna is a case in point. Some private sector organisations have actively sponsored sports activities such as the Mobil Track and Field events, etc.

The popularity and importance of public relations in Nigeria can be testified to by the fact that most major corporate bodies in the country have a public relations department, though they sometimes make use of public relations consulting firms when the need arises or for specialist functions.

3.1.4 Role of Nigerians Institute of Public Relations

The enviable position public relations has attained in Nigeria today can be ascribed to the efforts of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. To help create ethical standards in the fledging profession Dr Samuel Epelle, one-time Director of Information and a few others who included Tonye Willie-Harry, Ikhaz Yakubu, H.K Offonry and Bob Ogbuagu founded the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN). With the formation of PRAN, public relations developed and assumed professional status. After PRAN was launched in Lagos in 1963, it gradually spread to the regional headquarters, beginning with Enugu and Port Harcourt. The effort started by Dr. Sam Epelle in 1961 when he initiated the formation of a body that would “professionally think, plan, practice and live Public Relations in Nigeria” finally bore fruit with Sam Epelle as the Cordinator of PRAN. As the number of practitioners increased and the their objectives and functions became under, PRAN wider Epelle developed into the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, again with Dr. Sam Epelle as the first president.
From 1963 to date, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations has been headed by the following notable public relations practitioners.

  1. 1963 – 1968 – Dr. Samuel Epelle 
  2. 1968 – 1972 – Chief Henry Kanu Offonry
  3. 1972 – 1976 – Mr. Tonye Wllie-Harry 
  4. 1976 – 1980 – Mr. Ikhaz Yakubu 
  5. 1980 – 1984 – Chief Bob Ogbuagu 
  6. 1984 – 1988 – Chief Alex Akinyele 
  7. 1988 – 1993 – Mazi Mike Okereke 
  8. 1993 – 1998 – Mr. Sabo Mohammed 
  9. 1998 – 2001 – Chief Ajibade Oyekan 
  10. 2001 – 2005 – Mr Senibo Bobo Safiri Brown 
  11. 2005 – Date – Professor Ikechukwu Nwosu 

3.1.5 Role of Consultancy Firms

A discussion of the history of public relations in Nigeria cannot be complete without looking at the development of PR consultancy Firms. Public Relations Consultancy practice is young in the country. According to Toye Ogunmorin, public relations consultancy was pioneered in Nigeria in the late sixties and early seventies. According to him, the following practiced public relations consultancy on individual basis – late Ebun Adesioye, Otunba Kunle Ojora, Peter Hospidales, Chief Dotun Okunabjo, Dr. Clarkson Majomi, Chief Gab Fagbure and Mr. Olu Ademulegun.

In 1983, four practitioners got gother to form the nucleus of the Public Relations Consultants Associations of Nigeria (PRCAN). The consultancy firms with their chief executives officers who pioneered the PRCAN included: 

1. Bloomed Public Relations Practitioners – Mr Lanre Oginni
2. Good Contact Public Relations Services – Mr Kunle Oyalowo
3. Philips Johnson and Associates – Mr. Olu Johnson
4. Progan Promotions – Mr. Toye Ogunmorin

Later, some consultancy firms all over the country joined the association. PRCAN was launched on 30th May, 1984, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island Lagos, by the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Bbrigadier Tunde Idiagbon.

PRCAN has continued to upgrade the standards of public relations practice among members through lecturers publications and providing facilities for professional associations. At present, the association publishes a journal, PR Review aimed at raising PR consultancy practice standards and discipline among members in line with global trends.

PRCAN is supported by Bye-Law No. 3 1993 of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. The primary objective of PRCAN is the promotion of professional reputation management in Nigeria within the public and private sectors. It also maintains professional standards and discipline among members through the enforcement of the code of Professional Conduct. As at 2006, PRCAN had more than 20 registered corporate members.

3.2 Achievement of Public Relations in Nigeria

The achievements of public relations in Nigeria cannot be divorced from the role of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in the practice of public relations in the country.
The achievements can be discussed under the following parameters

  1. Professionalism: Within a few decades of its existence, the NIPR has raised the profession to enviable heights. The perception of public relations has continued to improve, and the public and private organisation (including the uniformed services) have come to recognize the importance of public relations in the success of their organisations. 
  2. Education and Training: The MPR has started a globally recognized examination in public relations. This has helped to improve the standards of public relations practitioners as well as new entrants into the profession. Presently, NIPR runs a masters degree programme in public relations in conjunction with the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus. This has helped to raise the standards of practitioners and help to eliminate quacks from the profession.
  3.  Legal Recognition: With the promulgation of Decree No. 16 of 1990 which empowers the institute to determine the standards of knowledge and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become registered members of the public relations profession, public relations have been given legal recognition and mandate to regulate the conduct of its members; and enforce the ethics of the professions. 
  4. There has been greater recognition by the governments of various levels on the importance of their image and reputation management. Since the days of the second republic under the leadership of President Shehu Shagari, the Federal Ministry of Information has been in the vanguard in recruiting well trained practitioners and posting them to various ministries and departments. As at date, the highest concentrations of practitioners are employed by the federal, state and local governments in the country. As noted earlier, the Ministry of Defence the police and other paramilitary agencies new accord public relations a strategic place in their organisation set-up. 
  5. Nigerian public relations practitioner are recognized world-wide and have been playing prominent roles in the Federation of African Public Relations Practitioners (FAPRA) and hosted the 1st Commonwealth Public Relations Conference which brought together international experts to brainstorm on the topic “The World in Transition. With these developments, one can safely say that public relations has come of age in Nigeria and the sky is the limit. It has earned its motto: Professionalism and Excellence. 

3.3 Challenges and Constraints of Public Relations in Nigeria

In spite of the achievements enumerated above, it should be noted that there are many challenges and constraints that still confront the profession of public relations and these continue to inhibit its growth and development and public acceptance.

Firstly, in spite of the efforts of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations to screen the members and calibers of practitioners, many unqualified and experienced persons still parade themselves as public relations practitioners. Even in organizations, the tendency to assign officers with ill-defined duties to public relation functions is still common place. This has continued to have adverse effects on the public perception of qualified professionals as the activities of there “Jack of all trades” lower the image of the profession.
Secondly, many organisations do not deem it fit to place their public relations executives on the management board of the organisation where they should be strategically placed to counsel the organisations in the polices and programmes of the organisation as it affects their publics. The implication is that most decisions are taken without the knowledge and contribution of their public relations executives who are forced to implement these decisions. Invariably they are blamed when such policies fail or run into trembled waters. Government agencies are very much guilty of this.

In addition the Nigerian government places greater reliance on foreign public relations consultants at the expense of local ones. Each time the Nigerian government, be it civilian or military has been faced with one crisis or image problem, it has usually engaged a foreign PR consultant. The government still thinks of public relations in terms of getting advertorials in foreign media especially prestigious global media such as the Cable News Network (CNN). This practice robs off on local PR practitioners who are denied of opportunities to utilize their skills and knowledge of the local environment to promote the image of the country, not to mention the financial losses involved. This lack of confidence in local talents is also being demonstrated by big multi-nationals who also go for foreigners when their management needs image laundering.

Corporate bodies in Nigeria have not always lived up to their social responsibility with regard to their host communities, especially in the oil producing communities. Various government officials have from time to time blamed the incessant unrest and youth restiveness in Nigeria’s oil rich Delta region on the insensitivity of oil producing companies. Memorandum of understanding freely entered into with host communities are haphazardly implemented or ignored until the communities rise up in violent confrontation before basic issues are resolved. This attitude tends to portray public relations in bad light or at worst not contributing to organizational stability.


In conclusion, we could say that the practice of public relations has recorded some enviable leaps in its evolution in Nigeria, more needs to be done by all the stakeholders to give it the pride of place. The profession needs to build on its past achievements if it is to contribute meaningful to the social, political and economic development of the country.


This unit has examined the history and development of public relations in Nigeria. We noted the roles played by the government private sector corporations and agencies the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations as well as PR consultancy firms in this evolution. We also examined the achievements of public relations. The challenges and constraints inhibiting the development of the profession were highlighted.


Discuss the roles played by the government and private sector organisations in the development of public relations in Nigeria.


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