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Ugbomah, Gabosky, others take war to pirates with special taskforce

Members of the Special Task Force on piracy

Worried by the rising rate of uncensored movies currently being distributed in the country, coupled with illegal activities of pirates, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has set up a new taskforce with a mandate to commence nationwide crackdown on film marketers, who distribute unwholesome and uncensored films in Nigeria. The development is as a result of numerous engagements and consultations between industry stakeholders and the newly appointed Executive Director of Censors Board Adedayo Thomas, who has resolved to halt the ugly trend.

Held at the Lagos office of the board, the inauguration ceremony, which was witnessed by some filmmakers, provided a platform for practitioners to outline challenges facing the industry, as well as brainstorm on the best approach to sanitise the film sector.

Headed by the Executive Director himself, with veteran filmmaker Chief Eddy Ugboma as Patron/Adviser, other members of the taskforce include Dele Balogun (Lagos State), Igwe Gabosky (director of operations), Aisha Alilu (financial secretary), Norbert Ajiaegbu (representative from south/legal officer), Dr. Malik Away (representative from north), Olatunji Ojetoha (representative from west/secretary), Lagos State Commissioner of Police and a representative of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Meanwhile, a closer look at the list shows a clear geological spread in the appointment, which will be of great advantage during operation.

While addressing the gathering, Adedayo informed, “To the detriment of the industry, we must admit that the board has not lived up to expectations in recent years, leading to chaos in the system, a chaotic system that has taken profit away from the right beneficiaries to the profiteers of the laxity in regulatory efforts. In adherence to my principle of being very factual and undiluted, I must confess that this industry was built on the sweat and toils of its doyens, not by the government. My own responsibility as one of the representatives of government is to rekindle dashed hopes and fertilise the soil for their seeds to thrive and reap bountiful harvests from their toils and labour in the sector.”

Adedayo observed that industry players lose billions of naira to pirated, smuggled and unclassified works by mostly unlicensed agents and distributors, thereby denying the government revenue accruals. He added that the activities of these individuals or groups impact negatively on the society, demoralise stakeholders, send very wrong signals to potential investors, and darken the possibilities of making the right developmental policies for the sector.

“We have therefore selected men and women of impeccable character, cutting across various interests in the industry, thoroughbred professionals, who have immensely contributed to the sector, and who know exactly where the shoe pinches, to man the taskforce. One of who is Chief Eddie Ugbomah, a veteran, who is never tired, and I’m so glad to have him take on the responsibility of the Patron/Advisor of the group, while I assume its chairmanship. I’m convinced that he would bring his wealth of experience to play and his elderly wisdom will be so sweet to drink from.”

He continued: “Glad to also have all others, who have willingly accepted to take on the daunting and risky tasks sacrificially for the development of the industry. Perhaps, it would be apt to state here, as reflected in the title of this speech, that a similar taskforce had been in existence prior to my assumption of office, and without prejudice to the efforts committed by it members, this taskforce is being reconstituted to reposition it for optimal performance.”

The mandate of the taskforce, which is inscribed in the four focus areas, is to stem and eradicate detrimental trends killing growth efforts in the industry. The focus areas for the team include halting proliferation of unclassified or unapproved movies, check influx of directly translated foreign movies and monitor distribution of movies by unlicensed agents.

He also noted, “Though they would be working with sister agencies and security agencies, I believe their modus operandi is classified, while we assure everyone concerned and the general public that we at censors board are open to the expression of their concerns or if they feel the taskforce is going overboard.”

In his acceptance speech, Ugbomah observed that though the industry is in bad shape already, there was need to make a clean start to sanitise the sector. Ugbomah observed, “I hope the Executive Director won’t end up being like ‘Baba Iyabo,’ who said you can advise him but he reserves the right to take it or not. This is a massive task, but I will sit and look, praying that this administration will work hard.”

While encouraging Adedayo to go after defaulters without fear or favour, the veteran filmmaker observed, “most people don’t know the scope of NFVCB. If we don’t sit up and fight, then we won’t make any impact. The film industry is 10 years dead. This taskforce must be all over the country; there must be a way to spread the operations across the country.”

Also, a member of the taskforce from Kano, Aisha Alilu, lamented the state of the film industry up north, and called on government and relevant agencies to come to their rescue.
According to her, “We have been so frustrated. A long time ago, we were about giving up. Most of our problems are from inside. We need to organise ourselves so that people will understand what we are going through. Today, what we have in the north are Indian movies dubbed in Hausa language and censors board is giving them approval. Nobody wants to make movie in the north today; all you have now are plays and drama. There’s lack of information on intellectual property law and that needs to be addressed.”

Also, Gabosky noted that a lot of damage has been done already in the industry, and called on government to rise to the occasion. As he put it, “If you go to Alaba Market today or Nnamdi Azikiwe Street in Idumota here in Lagos, you will discover that most of the people selling films before are now selling phone accessories. The situation is very bad. But today is a very remarkable day that will turn around activities in the industry.”

Gabosky lamented the decline in the number of films produced in Nollywood, saying it was due to activities of pirates. He said, “Distribution in Nigeria is going down because of piracy. The problem is that government is not taking the industry serious. These pirates are not foreigners; they are Nigerians and we know them. If we can come together, we can conquer.”

Actor, St. Obi, who conducted the inauguration, called on President Mohammadu Buhari to come to the rescue of the creative industry, particularly Nollywood, noting, “Government must take this industry serious. If there’s anybody that can effectively attack pirates in Alaba, it’s Buhari; we need him to drop the hammer. I know that some of us didn’t sing for him during election, but he’s our president today. We are in an industry of plenty, but we are struggling for crumbs. This is our opportunity to take back the industry and we must take action.”

While calling for synergy between the Federal Government and states in the fight against pirates, the Executive Secretary of Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB), also a member of the taskforce, said, “The major issue here is piracy. In Lagos, we are doing our best, but we are limited by law. We need to reach out to our colleagues at the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) on this task; we need their cooperation to carry out this task successfully.”

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