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Buhari sings a different tune for Project Act Nollywood

Mrs. Hajia Aisha Halilu; Mrs. Joke Silva; Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; D’banj; Desmond Elliot and President, Association of Movie Producers, Mr. Ralph Nwadike when some entertainers visited the minister… in Abuja

Mrs. Hajia Aisha Halilu; Mrs. Joke Silva; Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; D’banj; Desmond Elliot and President, Association of Movie Producers, Mr. Ralph Nwadike when some entertainers visited the minister… in Abuja

Practitioners who applied and were hoping that they would be granted the Innovative Distribution Fund (IDF) segment of N3 billion grant established by the Federal Government to solve the main challenges impeding the growth of the Nigerian movie industry may have to wait for the outcome of a committees report on the entire funding initiative.

The decision to put the disbursement of the distribution grant on hold followed a meeting between the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and some selected practitioners of the industry. The meeting, which held last Friday at the Ministry of Finance conference hall, also had representatives of the Minister of Information and Culture and key parastatals, like the National Film and Videos Censors Board, the Nigerian Film Corporation and the Nigerian Copyright Commission in attendance.

Most practitioners who attended the meeting had hoped that they would get the minister’s nod for the immediate disbursement of the N1.9 billion, which is what is left of the Project Act Nollywood fund. But they had their hopes dashed when the narrative changed. They were told even, though a few of them quipped that it was not ‘in so clear terms,’ that the present administration was more interested in restructuring the entire project to ensure its sustainability than in disbursing the funds for the programme it inherited from the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Specifically, the practitioners were told that the Ministry of Finance was more interested in re-evaluating and reviewing the outstanding areas of the programme that was yet to be implemented.

At the meeting chaired by Adeosun, the practitioners were told that the present government was desirous of improving distribution to ensure that investors actually got expected return. While acknowledging that the indigenous film industry is a major contributor to Nigeria’s economy, the minister lamented that the problem of the industry was not in the quality of movies produced but in the structure of the industry ‘’because most of those who create the value do not actually get the value in terms of returns due to piracy’’. She maintained that to improve distribution, there was need too to evaluate the entire value chain from the tax system to the enforcement system to ensure sustainability.

According to her, “Today, we will inaugurate a committee to review the programme, restructure if necessary and come up with implementation plan that would establish measurable and demonstrable deliverables that would ensure maximum value for the industry’s stakeholders and Nigerians generally’’.

Earlier the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, gave an update on Project ACT Nollywood. He stated that the project was being implemented under three grand schemes – capacity building fund, film production fund, innovative distribution fund. He noted that so far the Project ACT Nollywood has implemented specialist-training programmes in Nigeria and abroad in which 247 practitioners have been trained to improve their technical and professional capacities in the entertainment industry.

Similarly, he stated that 113 film projects, employing 2,436 people, have been co-financed through grants from the fund at the cost of N799 million, while the Innovative Film Distribution Programme has been designed to support viable solutions in film distribution and the prevention of privacy. He also said that for the innovation distribution fund, 383 completed applications were received out of which 348 were prequalified applications, while 150 of them have been interviewed.

The committee that was set up to review the project has three weeks to report to the minister. Members are Hauwa Maina, Norbert Ajeagbu, Chioma Ude, Gab Onyi Okoye, Chief Osita Okeke, Otunba Aina Kushoro, Madu Chikwendu, Ralph Nwadike, Idris Bahodu, Abdulkareem Mohammed and representatives of the Ministry of Information, National Film and Video Censors Board, Nigerian Copyright Commission, the World Bank, NEXIM, BOI, the Nigerian Film Corporation and the Project Implementation Unit of Project Act.

Some practitioners who expressed views about the decision of government to review the funding initiative say they expect that one of the committees recommendation would be how the outstanding fund could be increased and converted to seed funds for the take off of either an anti-piracy fund, a special film fund or better still the proposed National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) which the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, promised would be established under the current dispensation. They reasoned that there would be no use ‘funding distribution’ with the present state of piracy and the lack of a sustained funding structure not just for the movie industry but for the entire creative industry.

“So, what happens if we expend all the resources? That will be the end. I think we should use the N1.9 billion to support the current anti-piracy effort. What is the use of giving people money to set up stalls when piracy bites hard,” argued a prominent filmmaker.

Another Abuja-based practitioner, Mr. Monsur Isa, was of the opinion that the industry should support the idea canvassed by the Information and Culture Minister on the need for a central funding mechanism for the creative industry.

According to Isa, “I have heard the Mr. Mohammed talk about NEA repeatedly. I think we should key into that instead of this idea of a separate fund for each arm of the creative industry”.

It would be recalled that at the recent Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) ceremony in Port Harcourt, Mohammed had restated his ministry’s resolve to see to the establishment of a sustainable funding scheme for the creative industry when he said, “We are assiduously working at strengthening the film development and regulatory agencies for service delivery while plans are underway to get the moribund National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) off the ground. I believe that rather than just give out tokens, we should have a sustained system of funding for our creative endeavors”.

An initiative of the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Project ACT Nollywood is a N3 billion-grant programme set up by the Federal Government to address challenges impeding the growth of Nigerian movie industry.

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