The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) has assured that sanctions would be applied on Sterling Bank over its controversial Easter message which compared the ‘rise’ of Agege bread with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The advert copy, which was shared on the bank’s social media pages and communicated to its customers via email, immediately provoked upbraid among Christians and Muslims alike.
“Agege bread”, as a local brand is fondly called, is perceived to swell (or rise) more than its normal size, and therefore feel the hunger of the consumer more than the other brands of bread.
APCON said it would impose the applicable rules on Sterling Bank to ensure ‘no religious belief or faith is ridiculed or any blasphemous advertisement exposed in any issue’.
The statement, signed by its Registrar/Chief Executive, Dr Olalekan Fadolapo, APCON further stated that it ‘has observed with displeasure the insensitive and provocative Easter celebration advertisement by Sterling Bank Plc, which compared the resurrection of Christ with Agege bread.
‘The distasteful advertisement was neither submitted nor approved for exposure by the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), the statutory panel charged with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements conform to the prevailing laws of the federation as well as the code of ethics of advertising in Nigeria”.
The strong condemnation of the message and the threat by some aggrieved commentators apparently compelled the bank to pull down the offensive content. It then replaced it with another one: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sins are covered. We humbly celebrate His resurrection, the defeat of death and the hope of salvation”.
The new message was accompanied by a flyer that contained an apology which many also found offensive and insincere.
“…let the one who has never sinned cast the first stone. For our recent errors, we sincerely apologise. Forgive us in the spirit of Easter”, the bank wrote.
Many commentators saw this as an attempt by the bank to justify what some observers described as its “original sin”.
In a letter on Monday night, Sterling Bank’s Chief Executive, Abubakar Suleiman said the financial institution never intended to offend Christians.
“On behalf of the Management and Staff of Sterling Bank PLC, I write to tender our unreserved apology to you and members of our nation’s Christian community for our Easter message email of 17th April 2022.
“The content of the infographic and the message it contained was insensitive and failed to consider the very sober nature of the event being commemorated, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“While the message had no malicious intent, there is no place for content that fails to fully account for the feelings of billions of people all over the world. Our honest intent was to join our millions of customers in Nigeria and worldwide in celebrating this solemn event, but our execution fell short on this occasion.
“Our policies are clear on what constitutes acceptable customer communication, and this message should not have been released to our customers. On this occasion, our editorial processes fell short of our policy standards.
“As a responsible institution, we immediately withdrew the offensive material and initiated a review of the circumstances that led to this failure. We will further sensitize our workforce to ensure this unfortunate lapse in judgement never repeats itself.
“We thank you for your continued trust in us and apologise again for this unfortunate incident.”