Nigerian News from Leadership News

Nigerian Film Commission Bill: To Be Or Not?

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From all indications, the Nigerian motion picture industry, popularly known as Nollywood – the second-largest producer of movies in the world – is in disarray, following so many challenges, ranging from the obsolete working system and manner in which a number of agencies usurp the primary obligation of the apex body in the movie industry.

Clearly, the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), set up in 1979 as a parastatal through the Nigerian Film Corporation Act 1979, was charged with the development of the film industry in Nigeria, produce films both for domestic consumption and for export and to encourage local talents by way of training, financial support and other words.

One puzzling thing, though, over the years, has remained how the agency, tasked with providing an enabling environment for the development and growth of the motion picture industry in the country, continues to grapple with inadequate funding.

Investigations reveal that the poor funding remains a constraint in the execution of programme or project initiatives by the corporation, as the actual capital budget released to it for the past six years have all been below its application and expectation.

This poor funding by the Federal Government has hindered the NFC the material and necessary muscles to invest in equipment and capital goods, as well as develop infrastructure and facilities that will enable it facilitate the growth of a vibrant film industry in Nigeria, such as the film foundations of South Africa, Mexico and India.

“The poor funding remains a constraint in the execution of programmes and projects initiated by the Corporation. In spite of the huge potential benefits that the country stands to derive from the industry, there is a no strong government commitment to exploit it, apart from the monthly release of budgetary subventions which by and large is spent on salaries and overheads,” said the corporation’s public affairs officer, Mrs. Ngozi Udoh.

While the corporation is trying to overcome such challenges, among others, it has had to grapple with the proliferation of half-truths and false representations, especially, as regards the Nigerian Film Commission Bill being before the National Assembly. LEADERSHIP learnt that a bloc of influential players in the have long kicked against the bill, on the ground that the regulatory body “did not carry the industry along.”

On the other hand, the NFC, according to the statement from its corporate office, would have ignored the development, but for its responsibilities as the body in-charge of the development of the motion picture industry and the pressing need to set the records straight.

A statement from the corporation read: “This is clear blackmail to undermine the integrity of the corporation as well mislead the Nigerian public, but we feel is it of paramount importance to set the records straight to enlighten and apprise the general public, particularly, film stakeholders across the nation on the continuous commitment of the corporation to the development of the Nigerian motion picture industry.”

While shedding more light on the public hearing on the bill, the statement further stressed that the NFC did not the sponsor the bill at the National Assembly. But, in several fora, such as the 2014 Zuma International Film Festival (ZIFF) in Abuja, Stakeholders Interactive Forum in Kano, Enugu and Lagos states, respectively, as well as the National Council on Information meeting in Osogbo, Osun State in 2013, and has been canvassing for the repeal of its enabling law which is stifling its operations to meet the challenges of the emerging Nigerian film industry.

Also, it was learnt that, recently, when the president of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) Fred Amata paid an advocacy visit to the managing director of the corporation to solicit for support and participation in their programme ‘The Creative Summit’ in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, the corporation had urged the body’s executive and members of the DGN for support regarding the NFC Bill, which they accepted.

According to revelations made available to LEADERSHIP, it should also be pointed out that the public hearing on the NFC Bill 2016 conducted by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information and National Orientation was an opportunity for film practitioners, film critics and stakeholders to take advantage and make constructive contributions that are germane for the overall growth and development of the Nigerian film industry and the proposed NFC Bill.

“The public hearing was a clear platform for the practitioners to make their contributions as deemed fit and, that is the reason why the corporation made that kind of presentation when it was called upon to make its inputs for the repeal of its Act and the enactment of the NFC Act 2016 by the National Assembly.

“However, during the public hearing, Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun failed to make constructive inputs in support of the bill at the hearing.  Rather, he was busy attacking personalities and had to be called to order by the chairman of the Public Hearing Committee,” said the statement.

On why the change of name of the corporation to Nigerian Film Commission, the statement further clarified that such an important gesture would graciously allow the functions of the commission to run concurrently to international film agencies. Regrettably, Nigeria is the only country with a corporation superintending the affairs of its motion picture industry.

“Some of the aggrieved practitioners who feel that the NFC did not inform any of them about the bill, also revealed on good authority that some of the clauses have 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.

“But the NFC, in a swift reaction, pointed out that, in order to align the Nigerian motion picture industry with the larger economic sector of the country, the National Film Policy of 1991 provides that the “State shall recognise and support the establishment of a professional film council which should bring together all the professionals for the proper and organised development of the industry.”

In another development, the statement also sheds more light on how the corporation has been usurped from its primary obligations by some related agencies like the National Film and Video Censor Board (NFVCB).

However, according to the corporation, when the NFC Bill would be enacted into law, the commission will fully exercise its mandated functions to regulate, develop, promote and coordinate the sustainable growth and development of the motion picture industry in Nigeria. Moreso, it could set up, regulate, manage, disburse and monitor the proper application of the National Film Development Fund (NFDF) and other government interventions and grants for the film sector; produce films for domestic consumption and for export; acquire, distribute and exhibit films of national interest for information, education and entertainment; regulate the import of foreign crews and their activities in Nigeria; advise the Federal Government generally on regulatory and developmental matters relating to the film and video industry in Nigeria, amongst others.

Against this background, the NFCVB is said to have taken over some key functions of the corporation. Clearly, it can be seen that the Nigerian Film Commission Bill does not seek to usurp and/or duplicate the functions of any existing agency. Specifically, the national film and video censor boards (NFVCBs) all over the world are responsible for film classification, issuance and withdrawal of licences to film exhibitors. On the other hand, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is a broadcast (radio and television) regulator. The NFC Bill does not cover film classification activities and broadcast regulation.

Meanwhile, the corporation is doing everything possible to further sensitise the general public on these misconceptions relating to the public hearing on the bill and information aims at demystifying the practitioners.

 

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