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A film village for Kannywood to compensate for a ‘lopsided’ Project Act Nollywood

By Shaibu Husseini
24 July 2016   |   3:52 am
As if to say that they had read the protest letter written by members of Motion Picture Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), the umbrella body of the Northern Film Practitioners ...
Some memebers of the AVRS board Kannywood pioneer filmmaker Ahmed sarari (right),Chief Peddie Okao, Igew Gaboski and sir Emmanuel Nsikaku

Some memebers of the AVRS board Kannywood pioneer filmmaker Ahmed sarari (right),Chief Peddie Okao, Igew Gaboski and sir Emmanuel Nsikaku

As if to say that they had read the protest letter written by members of Motion Picture Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), the umbrella body of the Northern Film Practitioners popularly known as Kannywood on what they alleged was ‘’the lopsidedness and favoritism in the selection of beneficiaries of the N3bn Project Act Nollywood grant’’, the Federal government during the week announced that it had set asideN3 Billion naira for the construction of an ultra modern film village to be located at Kofa in Bebeji Local Government area of Kano State.

Already, the federal government says it has set aside N1 Billion naira for the commencement of the construction of the first phase of the film village, which has already been named the Muhammadu Buhari Film Village, Kofa, Kano.

It was the embattled Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) Dr. Danjuma Dadu who conveyed the cheery news to the Kannywood practitioners at an interactive session he held with stakeholders of the Kannywood industry in Kano during the week. Dadu who has been having a running battle with staff of the NFC and students of the premiere National Film institute (NFI) explained that the film village project is scheduled to take place in three phases. He further hinted that the proposed film village would house a 400 capacity auditorium, a sound stage, hostels, hotels, shopping mall and a clinic among other facilities.

Although Dadu explained that Kano was chosen as site for the project because ‘Kano state has been the nerve centre of movie productions in northern Nigeria’, analyst say that this move by the federal government to site the film village in the north and to ‘cash back’ the construction of the village is not unconnected with the several complaints and protest by practitioners of the Kannywood industry that trailed the disbursement of the N3 Billion fund which former President Goodluck Jonathan approved should be disbursed as grants to practitioners of the Nollywood industry.

In one of the several protest letters that the Kannywood practitioners wrote to publicly protest the denial of access to the N3bn fund, the practitioners through the Administrative Secretary of MOPPAN, Mallam Ahmad Salihu Alkanawy alleged that although the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan established the fund to empower the creative arts and film industry, especially through capacity building, development of distribution infrastructure and film project financing, most practitioners of the Kannywood industry could not access the fund, because of the ‘lopsided approach’ the former administration adopted in disbursing the fund. The leadership of MOPPAN alleged that while practitioners in the south were favoured and indeed accessed the bulk of the funds, practitioners of the Kannywood industry as he alleged ‘were completely sidelined’’. Also, MOPPAN alleged that the process of selecting beneficiaries of the grant was ‘lopsided’ and ‘was designed to favour practitioners of from the south’’.

According to MOPPAN in their protest letter: ‘’Your Excellency can check the project act Nollywood website to verify these allegations. All the beneficiaries and the total amount disbursed to them were posted on the Project-Act Nollywood website for verification. It is clear that very few practitioners in the north benefited from the fund. While those in the south were favored, qualified applicants from the north were sidelined. For instance, the capacity building with the total beneficiaries of 204, only 59 was able to attend a training out of which 19 attended a four week course in an Indian Media Training Institute while forty attended a local training with a very minimal funding compared to our counterparts in the south’’.

Although the leadership of MOPPAN acknowledged that the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan had good intentions for inaugurating the Project-Act Nollywood funding scheme, they noted that the implementation was skewed to favour ‘some apologist of the former ruling party or their cronies’’. They observed that only an insignificant number of practitioners from the North benefited from a fund that was established for the benefit of all Nigerians. They provided a breakdown of beneficiaries of the second phase of the project, which is the production grant to support their allegation. ‘With the production fund, while only seven out of sixty eight beneficiaries across the country selected from the north with the highest amount paid to us being six million, five hundred Naira the least amount paid to the beneficiaries from the south is twenty-five million naira. This information is contained and can be retrieved from the Project-Act Nollywood website. All the beneficiaries and the total amount disbursed to them were posted’’

In surmising, the leadership of MOPPAN called for a total review of the third and final segment of the fund, which is the Innovative Distribution Fund (IDF). Again, they alleged that the process that led to the selection of the proposed beneficiaries of the IDF was ‘bereft of due process, justice and fairness’. They also said: “currently ongoing is the third segment of the fund being the Innovative Distribution Fund.

Our fear is not far-fetched in view of what happened with the initial two segments. It is for this reason that we ask the present administration to as a matter of urgency look into the entire selection process, for a review before disbursement. From the information at our disposal, the current selection process is bereft of due process, justice and fairness”.

It seems though that events may have overtaken this demand by MOPPAN for a review of the final segment of the Project-Act Nollywood fund. A source in the Ministry of Finance, co-managers of the fund revealed that the committee that was set up three weeks ago to review the entire funding scheme and to suggest ways of sustaining the fund have recommended the disbursement of the final segment of the grant to those who have already been pre-qualified. The source also hinted that they have also made useful suggestions on how the funds can be sustained.

‘’Apart from suggesting that all those who were pre-qualified under the IDF scheme be granted to set up distribution infrastructures which the industry is in dire need of, the committee also made useful suggestions on how the funds can be sustained. For instance they recommended that a percentage of the tax deducted as entertainment tax be paid into the funds to sustain it. That for me is a good suggestions but whether that is feasible or whether the present government will still go ahead and disburse what is left of the grant in the face of mounting protest by some moviemakers is a decision only the Federal government through the Ministry of Finance can take’’ the source said.