Why Distribution Framework Couldn’t Curb Piracy
Your view on the new clamour against activities of pirates?
I am for anything that can minimise piracy in the industry, though it may not be totally eliminated. When we started, in the words of Emeka Mbah, who was then DG of Nigeria Film, Video and Censors Board, (NFVCB), the task is to make pirates uncomfortable and create stumbling blocks on every step they take. Not that they will not make efforts to pirate, but every effort they make, they will come across a stumbling block. That was where we started and that is where I am still standing today.
Piracy is a criminal act, but the people who engage in piracy are not spirit, they are human beings and are known. And the reason piracy is thriving in Nigeria is also known to the stakeholders. The people, whose works had been pirated and are clamouring for urgent measures to be taken, also have genuine complaint and it is important that we look at it. I am not under estimating the negative impact of piracy but my concern is this, I do not want the current effort especially against piracy to follow the typical Nigerian way of doing things, which is formulating answers before identifying and analysing the problem; that is my worry.
And my concern is much more pronounce if you factor in that there is a new government in place. And if care is not taken, the new government can be stampeded into saying this is what the industry is asking us to do, let us do it. But in return, it will not solve the problem we are trying to solve and that is my major worry.
Yes, piracy is a criminal act; it got to be addressed urgently. And not by applying emotionally packaged solution but what will give an enduring and time tested solution.
There was a project to tackle piracy, which you were a part, what actually went wrong?
First and foremost, the present clamour, which I say, is a wrong-headed solution is about having a new anti- piracy law. There seems to be an overwhelming belief that the present anti-piracy law that provide for three-month imprisonment and one hundred thousand naira fine is not good enough. But I am a stakeholder first and foremost, because most people that got involved in the business of properly packaging the industry, what they forget is that I am a key stakeholder. I made the first, on the record, English language movie in 1990, title Give and take. There has not been a record to beat that. I did not know that, a journalist uncovered that at the film office, which has now transformed into Nigeria Film Corporation, (NFC). When there was no censors board, that the person that wrote the movie, co-directed it and took the lead role is an actor called Yinka Ogundaisi.
So primarily, I am a stakeholder. You might say what is known, as Nollywood now has not taken shape. This was why when the movie was completed; it has to be shown on NTA. But then at the time Nollywood was coming up, I made another movie called Destiny, which featured Joke and Olu Jacobs. And I followed that up with another movie in 1998. In all arms of the arts, I was there.
However, because of the way I have positioned myself to re-invent the business part of the entertainment industry, a lot of people prefer to see me in the business aspect. And what I am saying is, with all the authority, that there is a certain way we ought to go about this. I did a research and packaged the result of the research, then I sent it as a proposal to a childhood friend, Afolabi Adesanya, who took a look at it and he and his officials engaged me and they saw it as workable solution to the problem of distribution, which has been plaguing the industry. But the mandate of NFC did not cover distribution, it is the NFVCB. What Afolabi did was to give my proposal to Emeka Mba, who was the DG of NFVCB, he read it and said it was what he had been looking for.
That was how my relationship with the NFVCB started. I was then invited to Abuja and the discussion started. After the initial steps, Mbah said the project should run through the due process because it is a national project. And the idea was adopted in 2007; as a result, a new distribution framework was created. And we went ahead; it was in its implementation that the licensing of distributors came in. Along the line, censor board ran into problem in its implementation.
What were these problems; Nigeria is a huge country, officially on the constitution, there are 774 local governments, so even if you want to transverse the local governments, estimate the cost, so the board had financial problem to execute the policy.
The second was that censorship is on the concurrent list, which means the federal government does not have exclusive say on it. So we had to look for a strategy to incorporate the state governments into what we wanted to do. But of course the state governments, because of political reasons, had their own agenda. But again, Mbah and the team working on the distribution policy rescale. We realise that Yar’adua, when he came into office, he said something as major policy of its government that there should be shared responsibility. Things that are better done by the states, the FG should hand it over to them.
Mbah decided to promote that shared responsibility by giving out different states to those on the committee. It was going well, the last bit was that in 2011, what has been mitigating against that distribution policy which would have effectively help solve the problem of piracy is that till today, there is no link between the license distributors at the regional and national level with the various community distributors.
Ideally, the way the distribution policy was programmed to work is that you break the entire country into smaller manageable territory. So when a film is released, it is only in the territories that the distributors say that they want to distribute this film for their communities, those are the legitimate places you will find the movie.
In other places, where the community retailers say they do not want, the film must not circulate there. So out of 36 states and the FCT, lets say a movie is release by a national distributor and only ten states among the various community retailers indicate their desire to have the film, it means the film will circulate in those ten states, the remaining 26 states, the film will not circulate. And the fact the community retailers in the 26 states have not bought the distribution rights does not mean that they will close their eyes to the film circulating in their territory.
The provision is that if you did not buy the right of a movie and that movie circulates in your territory, you are the prime suspect; the board will withdraw your license.
With that kind of provision in place, the one thing I have been trying to do is to provide that link between the national, regional and various community retailers. Mbah realised that what I was saying make sense, so he invited me as one of his major last act with a proposal of how I intend to achieve that. I gave him the proposal and he bought into it. What we were planning to do was for the board to isolate ten thousand model community retailers all over the country where we would start the distribution, the way it should be done. It is those ten thousand retailers that we would share the entire geographical Nigeria into so that every inch of Nigeria is under a known community retailer.
When a national or regional distributor releases a movie, the number of the community retailers that say they want to buy the movie are the places where the movie will circulate. But unfortunately we needed money, which the board did not have. We estimated that we would need about ten million naira to take off.
However, it is a self-funding project because each of those model retailers will pay registration fee, which we would use to train them and from the registration fee we estimated we would get enough money registering and licensing them. So the question was where to get the initial take off fund of ten million naira.
Mbah gave me the assignment to look for a bank that will give out the loan and I got a bank but Mbah was on his way out of the board by then. The new DG came in, a director in the board before then, but started singing a new song, as the board was not going to renew my consultancy. The long and short of it is that nobody knows if distribution framework is still on. And it is the reason piracy is currently thriving in Nigeria.
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