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Stakeholders in search of ‘left over’ Nollywood distribution fund

Hajia Aisha Halilu (left); Joke Silva; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Dbanj; Hon Desmond Elliot; President, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Ralph Nwadike; AMP Vice President, Chinasa Joy Onyechere; and Igwe Gabosky during the visit

Hajia Aisha Halilu (left); Joke Silva; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Dbanj; Hon Desmond Elliot; President, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Ralph Nwadike; AMP Vice President, Chinasa Joy Onyechere; and Igwe Gabosky during the visit

Some practitioners of the Nollywood industry led by notable film producer and distributor, Gab Onyi Okoye got themselves together last week and embarked on what could be described as a fact finding mission to the Ministry of Finance in Abuja.

Okoye who is popular as Gabosky said their mission to the ministry was to find out from the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun what the Ministry had done with what was left of the 3 billion naira intervention fund approved by the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for disbursement to Nollywood practitioners.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2013 announced the provision of a N3 billion Presidential Intervention Fund for the Nigerian movie industry, which was dubbed Project ACT Nollywood.

The intervention fund, which was cash backed within months and administered by the Ministry of Finance was in three components of Film Production Fund (FPF), Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the Infrastructural Development Fund (IDF). Before the end of the tenure of the last administration, funds totaling about 1.4 billion naira were reportedly disbursed as grants to motion picture practitioners comprising members of the Arewa Filmmakers Association, the Directors Guild of Nigeria, amongst others, under the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) component of the fund and to some production outfit under the film production component of the fund.

The stage was almost set for the implementation of third and final component of Project ACT Nollywood fund – the Innovative Distribution Fund of N1.6 billion but the outcome of the election might have stalled further disbursement of the funds.

Almost a year after, nothing has been heard of the funds, thereby fuelling insinuations that the funds may have been ‘cornered by the last administration’ or may have been mopped up or diverted to ‘fight terrorism’ by the current administration. So the visit by the delegation from Nollywood comprising President of Association of Movie Producers (AMP) Ralph Nwadike, AMP Vice President Chinasa Onyechere, notable actress Joke Silva, popular Nollywood actor and current member of the Lagos State House of Assembly Honourable Desmond Elliot and former national leader of the Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN) Nobert Ajeagbu to the Ministry of Finance was to find out the true state of the innovative distribution funds which aims at stemming piracy of copyright content in the industry, while improving the distribution network for audio-visual content.

But the fund has not been mopped or diverted to ‘fight terrorism’ as it is widely alleged. The innovative distribution component of the Project Act Nollywood fund “is still intact” as the leader of the delegation, Gab Onyi Okoye confirmed after the meeting.

In the words of Gabosky who applied for the funds, “the Minister assured us that funds is intact and that something will be done very soon to put the process going. The Minister acknowledged that the innovative distribution fund, which is supposed to be the driving force for the other segments of the industry is still pending and that no disbursement has been made yet. But she assured us that the money is still intact and she even called the officer in charge of Project ACT Nollywood who explained how far they have gone with the project.’’

Gabosky said he was pleased at the outcome of the visit and expressed optimism that the Minister will see to it that due process is followed in the disbursement of the distribution component of the Project Nollywood fund. “I am confident that things will be done orderly and due process will be followed because this is a government of change and a government that believes in due process. We were told that there are four groups to be interviewed for the IDF, and they are about interviewing the fourth group before subjecting the whole applications to a review,’’ he said even as he lamented that the lack of unity and regulatory direction in Nollywood may make the industry lose out from the current scheme of things.

“We are not united as an industry,” he snapped. “We are so disorganized and we operate in our splinter groups and think we are the all in all. Can you imagine that almost 25 years after, we do not have an umbrella body that can serve as a clearing house for information or that can spear head this kind of fact-finding mission or present our position to government? Everyday you wake up there is a new guild or association. One day you will even hear that there is an association for waka pass in the industry.

Too many voices and those in government have been exploiting this division to further divide us. “We ought to have a body or a platform through which we can engage government and their relevant agencies like the moribund Nigerian Copyright Commission and the dead Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the decomposing National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). We should be able to take the headship of these agencies on, on their stewardship but how can we do it when we don’t have a common platform. We urgently need one,’’ he said.

Urgent as the need for an umbrella body seems for Gabosky, some well informed observers believe that the path of growth for the movie industry is in the pursuance of professional excellence in the organization of the industry, in the content and quality of the movie offerings, in reinvesting in technologies and in the development of human capital.

Vital too is the need to address the twin issue of piracy and distribution. Critics of the sector believe that only an effective copyright system, an auditable distribution system, a regulatory structure like the MOPPICON which will address the issue of disorganization which Gabosky has raised and a film fund that will be devoid of mercantilist tendencies would get Nollywood out of the woods.



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