Nollywood kicks as NFC moves to transform to commission
Although the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics & Value did not extend a formal invitation to any guild, association or key players in the motion picture industry, except for a privileged few invited by the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), the external sponsors of the bill, Nollywood stakeholders, who got feelers of the hearing, stormed the session to protest against what they described as a ploy by NFC to use the bill to take absolute control of the industry. They accused the corporation of not carrying the industry along.
Officially invited for the sitting included Mr. Brendan Shehu, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya (both former Chief Executives of the corporation), Alh. Aldulkarim Mohammed and a large retinue of NFC staff. National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) was also there with some of its key staff, led by the DG, Mrs. Patricia Bala.
The Film Commission Bill was the second to be heard by the House Committee after the bill on the National Broadcasting Commission. The Chairman of the Committee, Chief Odebunmi O. Dokun set the ball rolling by introducing the bill and then called for the submission of memoranda. Only the Nigerian Film Corporation, represented by its Managing Director, Dr. Danjuma Dadu and the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, represented by its Director General, Mrs. Bala submitted written memoranda before the December 1, 2016 deadline given by the House Committee.
Notwithstanding, the Committee Chairman, Dokun, asked if there were those who did not submit but were ready to make verbal presentations. At this point, filmmaker, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, responded in the affirmative and so did Madu Chikwendu and Charles Novia.
Ali-Balogun disclosed that the reason for the non-submission of memoranda by the industry, through their guilds and associations, was they had no prior knowledge of the hearing until a few days before the deadline. He, however, promised that theirs would be submitted at a later date.
The presentations started with the internal sponsor of the bill, Umar Buba Jibril, Deputy House Leader, who also represented the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, at the hearing. Jubril informed the gathering that he actually sponsored and pushed the bill forward when he was the Chairman of House Committee on Information in the Seventh Assembly. He urged all to see the bill as the next step in moving the film industry forward. More so, he said it had gone through second reading on the floor of the House of Assembly.
The Nigerian Film Corporation MD, Dadu, was next to speak. He supported the bill in its entirety as its originator, adding that a few amendments had been added but, by and large, the spirit was same. He stressed that the commission was a necessary step to make the industry viable. Dadu posited that the content of the bill would facilitate a better re-engineering of the film industry under a film commission.
The DG of NFVCB, Bala, nominated the board’s legal adviser, Mr. Iwang Effiong, to handle their presentation. After picking holes in the bill, Iwang averred that the commission intends to take on the duties of the censors board, yet requiring the board to remit a percentage of its earnings to the commission when established. To the issue of the film commission wanting to swallow up the censors’ board, Dr. Dado of NFC retorted that the board was originally under the film corporation, and so there was nothing untoward in the board coming under the proposed film commission.
Next were the presentations of Dadu and his predecessors, Mr. Brendan Shehu and Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, as well as Alhaji Abdulkarim Mohammed. The trio toed the same line as their sponsor, adding that a film commission was long overdue. However, none of them spoke on the contentious clauses in the draft bill.
But in his presentation, Ali-Balogun, who is also a representative of MOPICON Draft Bill Review Committee, agreed that a film commission will be most appropriate to have for the motion picture industry in Nigeria, but he strongly opposed the bill as currently drafted and presented as it contains clauses that would stifle the development and growth of the industry if not reviewed.
The clauses, he said, seek to empower the commission, when established, to handle production and exhibition of films, set up production and post-production facilities. It would also establish the commission as the sole producer of all government video productions as well as establish cinemas and theatres, exhibit films commercially and regulate motion picture practice through guilds and association.
This, according to Ali-Balogun, contradicts the industry’s position. He informed the House Committee that the guilds and associations as unified industry bodies, through a review committee set up by the Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had already submitted the Motion Picture Council Of Nigeria (MOPICON) Draft Bill barely three weeks before the hearing. He added that the Nigerian Film Corporation was part of the committee as its secretariat, adding that the bill would get to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill.
According to Ali-Balogun, “The film commission should be a developmental agency for the film industry and not one that will be in competition with industry players in line with global best practice. The Director General of the film commission should be a person with proven pedigree in motion picture practice contrary to what obtains presently.”
Though other industry players such as Madu Chikwendu and Charles Novia, who spoke at the hearing, maintained that a film commission would be a welcome development, all aligned with Ali-Balogun’s position that the clauses in the bill would have to be reviewed in line with global best practice.
In their separate presentations, the president of Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Mr. Ralph Nwadike and that of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Mr. Fred Amata, expressed dismay that the industry was not duly informed or notified about the hearing and the lack of knowledge of the bill, had gone through two readings in the House of Representatives.
Other industry players present at the public hearing were Andy Amenechi, Iyen Agbonifo-Obaseki, Ramsey Noah, Femi Odugbemi and founder, Africa movie Academy awards (AMAA), Peace Anyiam-Osigwe.
In the end, Dokun, gave the draft bill to the industry players to study and review. He noted that since they were not opposed to the idea of the film commission but the clauses in the bill, the stakeholders should study and review the entire document with a view to coming up with an acceptable draft bill that his committee could present to the full house.
He, however, advised that a committee be formed by those present at the hearing to carry out the task, while a final document should be submitted to his committee on or before January 15, 2017. Madu Chiwendu was eventually selected by the stakeholders to coordinate the review.
WHILE speaking at a news briefing held recently at National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, heads of Nollywood guilds decried the surreptitious manner the NFC went about the bill and called for a total review of clauses in the draft bill. The practitioners, who were visibly angered by the move by NFC, argued that no industry player was carried along in the process of drafting the bill, which had already been read twice.
According to Amata, apart from not being informed about the bill, its clauses “are inimical to the growth and development of the practice of filmmaking in Nigeria. The clauses of the bill are duplicating existing rules and regulations of the film industry domiciled in agencies like the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and the National Film and Video Censors Board.”
He disclosed that some of the clauses had been adequately addressed in the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) draft bill, which a committee constituted by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has comprehensively reviewed.
In her presentation, Chair of MOPICON draft review committee, Anyiam-Osigwe, stated that industry players were not against the establishment of a film commission, but wondered how it would be established and function without input from practitioners, who know where the shoe pinches.
Anyiam-Osigwe, also expressed dissatisfaction with the manner the NFC, led by Dadu, a marine engineer, went about the bill, describing the move as a disrespect to the film industry.
According to her, “He should have come to us with his agenda. He would have ensured that it was in unison with the direction the industry wants to go. We spent seven months reviewing MOPICON document; he hasn’t asked for a copy of the review. Yet he’s regulating our industry. It’s disrespectful to all associations and guilds not to be informed about the bill. If you have not been able to handle the NFC, how will you handle the film commission?”
For Nwadike, the decision not to carry the industry along is an insult to Nollywood, adding, “We made Nollywood, not the Federal Government. I think it’s an insult, an affront to the entire industry. You can’t come to reap where you did not sow. I feel very insulted and to think it (the bill) has passed second reading.”
For Norbert Ajaegbu of Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association, allowing NFC to have its way would be allowing government take control of the film industry through the backdoor, noting, “There is no need for the National Assembly to pass the bill. Rather, attention should be given to MOPICON Bill.”
Practitioners, who also spoke against the bill were Chidi Nwokabia, who represented Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria, Emeka Samuel Aduah of Marketers Association of Nigeria, Fidelis Awata of Association of Motion Pictures and Entertainment Editors of Nigeria, the President, Association of Nollywood Core Producers, Mrs. Daisy Madu Chikwendu, the founding president of DGN and its immediate past president, Mathias Obahiagbon and Andy Amenechi respectively.
In his remarks, Ali-Balogun reiterated the resolve of stakeholders to support the bill, but insisted that some clauses in its draft form should be reviewed.
“Let me thank the House Committee on Information and its chair, Segun Odebunmi, for returning the bill to the industry players to review and come up with an acceptable draft the committee can present to the full house. If you allow the bill to go the way it’s been drafted, the commission will be in competition with the industry it regulates. They (NFC) want to regulate and also be a player in the industry.”He then called on stakeholders to ensure that all guilds are carried along in the proposed review.