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Tony Elumelu Foundation, government partner to lift creative industry

By Anote Ajeluorou (Assistant Arts Editor) and Chuks Nwanne   |   09 October 2016   |   4:19 am

Comedian, Mr. Ali Baba; filmmaker, Mr. Zeb Ejiro; screen diva, Joke Silver; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Chairman, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu; filmmaker, Mr. Mahmoud Ali-Balogun; CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ms Parminder Vir; musician, D’Banj and Founder, International Film Festival, Ms Chioma Udeh after signing the MoU last week at the National Theatre… in Lagos

Comedian, Mr. Ali Baba; filmmaker, Mr. Zeb Ejiro; screen diva, Joke Silver; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Chairman, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu; filmmaker, Mr. Mahmoud Ali-Balogun; CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ms Parminder Vir; musician, D’Banj and Founder, International Film Festival, Ms Chioma Udeh after signing the MoU last week at the National Theatre… in Lagos

Yet again, the occasion of the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between The Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Ministry of Information and Culture last Tuesday to fund the creative industry and buld capacity provided filmmakers the opportunity to raise issues about the menace of piracy to the Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and by extension, the Federal Government. From comedian, Mr. Ali Baba, to Joke Silver and Mr. Zeb Ejiro, the song was the havoc piracy has continued to wreak on the film sector and why it has lagged behind its counterparts in other parts of the world.

Ali Baba tasked the Federal Government to treat intellectual property pirates the way it treats oil pirates in the Niger Delta, where government deploys the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) to hunt down suspected oil thieves. He also suggested establishing an Anti-Piracy Squad in much the way the police has Anti-Bomb Squad to check the activities of pirates. Another filmmaker told the minister that intellectual thieves at Alaba International Market, Lagos, runs a parallel government, as they do not hesitate to do gun battle with the police any time the market was raided. He noted that it was time the Federal Government showed it might in dealing with intellectual property thieves in that notorious market and shut them out of their illegal business of milking creative people of their sweat.

Also, Mr. Ejiro said the Federal Government “should give currency counterfeiters’ treatment to intellectual property pirates” as a measure of the seriousness the matter deserves. Ejiro also tasked the minister to ensure only professionals were appointed to head agencies like Nigeria Film Corporation, National Film and Video Censors Board and others. Mohammed, however, noted that while professionalism was key, passion could also play a role in the deliverables by such appointees.

Another filmmaker, Mr. Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, whiel commending the MoU by the two parties, sued for the establishment of the long-awaited National Endowment for the Arts a viable measure to ensure adequate funding for the entire arts sector. Also, Joke Silver tasked the minister to tackle not only piracy ravaging the film sector, but to also ensure that iconic buildings like the National Theatre, Lagos, and the Cyprian Ekwensi Cultural Centre, Abuja, “which the country cannot afford to build again are rehabilitated and put to proper use as envisioned by those who built them. We have these places that ought to be used for the arts. Let’s get those spaces working again. Let’s make all of them thrive again to work for our people in the creative sector”.

Elumelu also lent his voice to the menace piracy posed to the creative sector, and said without fighting it, even the MoU would amount to nothing. According to him, “There is piracy in the sector. You have to be the messiah. If it’s not done, whatever we do amounts to nothing. Mobilise your people to fight it so as to energise more people to be part of the sector, especially film and books”.

However, the minister chose not to react to the issue of a single board presiding over the dual management of the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria. The awkwardness of the arrangement has stunted the utilization of the cultural edifice and starved it of performance activities. Its poor management structure does not endear it to theatre practitioners, who choose to stay away from the prime venue for stage performances. Even the National Troupe is constrained in its performance schedules and have had to go cap-in-hand to ask for permission before it could use it for shows.

Mohammed acknowledged the menace of piracy and the multi-pronged approach government is mulling to tackle it. He restated the primacy of the creative industry in shaping civilization, saying the sector must be protected against infringement by unscrupulous persons. Mohammed, however, chided stakeholders for not acting one voice.

According to him, “The structure is very faulty. Only one person is director, producer and actor. Pirates know you have limited resources. Pirates wait for you to exhaust your funds and pounce on your products. We need National Endowment for the Arts to give soft loans for people in the creative industry.

“We are very concerned about piracy. Not even America’s FBI can wipe out piracy. You can only reduce it by being one step ahead of pirates. Yes, Anti-Piracy Squad is a good idea. It’s not only films that are pirated, but our artworks. We need to have people trained at the airports to detect artworks and artefacts. Some countries like Kenya take the issues of piracy more seriously”.

Mohammed advised stakeholders to take the Lagos Security Fund and partner with the police to curb piracy, adding that the creative industry should assist police to provide intelligence on piracy.

CHIEF Executive Officer of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ms Parminda Vir, who had 30 years of working in the U.K. creative industry, spoke on ‘Development of a Framework to Support the innovation, Growth and Productivity of Nigeria’s Creative Industries’ at the signing ceremony.

She commended the potential of Nigeria’s creative industry, but said its structure needed to be strengthened for it to yield better results for stakeholders. Vir struck a nerve when she noted that the sector needed to adopt business management model for it to succeed.

According to her: “The single most important step is to move from a mindset in which support for the creative industries is interpreted in terms of subsidies and grants, to one where it is instead understood in terms of investment with important economic and cultural paybacks.

“Bring creative industry stakeholders together with investors, financers and business leaders tasked with addressing the central issue of how to provide the necessary framework for building business capacity in the sector and for attracting sustainable investment. The issue is not about the quality of the creative talent base in Nigeria, but rather the quality of business management within the creative industries”.

The foundation she manages, she opined, would “Teach business skills to creative people, and a greater awareness of commerce with the creative community is critical. But equally important is for financial and business people to understand the creative process.

Nigeria’s creative sector, Vir noted, had been working at cross-purposes all along and stressed the need for cross disciplines to work harmoniously. She also stated that the sector must be mapped, with outcomes measure for better investment value

“Ministries of Information, Culture, Tourism, Sports, Environment, Transport, Trade and Industry, Treasury, Education must work together to build capacities and skills in the creative industries,” she said. “To measure the economic contribution of these industries to the Nigerian economy, identify the opportunities and threats they face, and provide a blueprint for action for both the government and the industries including: mapping of the total size of the market of the creative industries in Nigeria, opportunities and growth drivers for creative industries, routes to market and global perspectives, for example, the U.K., India and other relevant markets”.

Vir reeled out trends, which she said made the MoU important for Nigeria’s creative industry. According to her, “Nollywood is valued at over USD$500 million a year, provides jobs for thousands; an estimated USD$200 millions is lost to piracy annually as a result of the absence of formal, legal distribution systems.

“Television advertising spend reached N38.35 billion (USD$223 million) in 2009 and Lagos region accounts for 57 per cent (N21.84 billion) of this. Nigerian music industry is estimated to be worth USD$250 million registering growth of 250 per cent over the 12 years between 2000 and 2012. The industry is expected to grow at 45 per cent to be worth $440 Million by 2020 with digital music acting as key growth driver. In terms of volume, Nigeria contributes about 50 per cent of the African music content on such cable channels as Trace TV, Channel O and MTV Base Africa.

In fact, Vir said Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg came calling to Nigeria recently because of the vibrancy of creative sector and the sheer talent of the country’s youth segment.

FOR Africapitalist, Mr. Tony Elumelu, who, in 2014, announced USD$100 million over 10-year commitment period to identify, train mentor and seed 10,000 African businesses across the continent toward the creation of millions of jobs and USD$10 billion in additional revenue in Africa.

He reeled out the creative industry sector to include Film industry to include production, distribution, sales and marketing, television, radio and digital media, performing arts, music, advertising, fashion, arts and crafts, writing and publishing, live entertainment events such as festivals, and of course, information and communication technology.

According to him: “This is a testament not only to the creativity available in Nigeria and the wider continent but a testament to the yearning of our people for a way to turn their talent and sweat into a product and into a living for themselves and the people and communities they care about.

“And at its simplest, this is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Ministry of Information and Culture seek to do: channel the creativity and art of our people into value by teaching our creative ones entrepreneurial skills and creating an enabling environment for them to succeed and thrive. Because any time you are creating value you are creating a market, you are creating jobs and you are creating wealth. More importantly you are creating broad-based or “shared prosperity” that permeates various levels of society”.

Elumelu assured that with the partnership being sealed, the ministry and the foundation would create “the best framework to support the innovation, growth and productivity of Nigeria’s Creative Industries. We need to find ways to create jobs that pay a living wage and meaningfully occupy our citizens, particularly the young and enable them and our country fulfill you potential and aspirations.

“And we definitely need the tax revenues!”Elumelu commended the minister for not being “afraid to reach out to the private sector/non-profit community to say, come and help us develop a plan to make this work. I also want to commend Vir, the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, who has brought her own vast experience in the British creative industry to bear on this important objective”.

The chairman of United Bank for Africa restated his commitment to his socially responsible status, noting, “As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, I understand that I have a responsibility to give back to the nation and continent that has given me so much by paying it forward and investing in the next generation of Nigerian and African entrepreneurs so that I am not the only Tony Elumelu of my generation”.

Elumelu, however, tasked the country’s filmmakers to re-envision their filmic concepts to rid Nollywood films of negativity of blood and ritual themes. This is necessary, he said, so as to project better image for the country, adding, “Let’s project good image about Nigeria about it is. Let the films help create good image”. But filmmakers were quick to inform him of the changes in themes that have since taken place.

ON his part, the minister, Mohammed, said there was need to reap the full potentials of the Creative Industries by “reaching out to organisations that have the capacity and the drive to assist us in achieving our goals, organisations that can utilise their business knowledge, network and technical expertise to assist the Ministry in the development of Nigeria’s Creative Industries. This explains why we entered into discussions with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. Together, we will work to re-position the Creative Industries in Nigeria”.

Mohammed spelt out the areas of collaboration in the memorandum, noting, “The areas of collaboration will include the creation of an enabling business environment for the creative industries with such incentives as easy access to finance; the structuring of the Creative Industries to enable it generate independent revenues locally and also boost exports to increase Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings; and comprehensive statistics about the Creative Industries, including its size and projections, to guide potential local and foreign investors.

“An innovative part of the collaboration is the plan to convene a Creative Economy Task Force to map the Creative Industries to provide better picture of what is happening on ground and help inform policy development. We also plan to sign on a consultant to measure the economic contribution of these industries to the Nigerian economy and provide a blueprint for action”. 

Some of the creative industry sector practitioners at the signing included Hilda Dokubo, Zain Asha of CNN, Ufuoma McDermott, Founder, Africa International Film Festival, Chioma Ude, D’Banj, Igwe Okoye (Gabosky), Uzo Okpechi and many others from the film sub-sector.

INDEED, there was an overwhelming presence of practitioners from the film sector at the MoU signing gathering. However, conspicuously absent were practitioners from the literary, theatre and visual arts sub-sectors. Only a few musicians were present, notably D’Banj. When contacted, visual artist, Mr. Kolade Oshinowo, writer and publisher, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, theatre directors, Mr. Wole Oguntokun and Mrs. Bolanle Austin-Peters all said they were not aware of such meeting and that no invitation was extended to them.

Oguntokun, who recently opened his Theatre Republic to the public at Lekki, Lagos, was appalled that an event like that was held at the National Theatre without theatre practitioners in attendance. According to him, “How can they have a meeting at the National Theatre and not have theatre people there? Isn’t this ridiculous as always? Instead of the minister attracting grants to the creative sector, is signing MoU the way forward?”

Imasuen said his reaction is a metaphoric sigh, adding, “It’s one of the tragedies of the written word. People tend to forget books, the written word as against, say, music or film. It takes positive efforts to know you must protect the books (for the survival of our civilization). If you leave it to the market, books will die. Who needs protection more than the book? I don’t blame them; they want to do good but then they make mistake. They might have asked one assistant to invite people, but then he forgets about book people.”

  • Ify Onabu

    My fear is that Tony Elumelu has just signed away his money to Liar Mohammed for more dose of propaganda and lies!

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