Censors board battles producers over Biafra
The battle line has been drawn between the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and producers of a feature film on the Nigerian Civil War. Leading the Abuja assault group is the Director General of the board, Mrs. Rosaline Odeh, while the duo of Aba-based Emeka Uhegbu and James Ochunkwo are bent on releasing the proposed film in three parts.
The battle which has so far been shifted to the National Assembly ground, Daily Sun gathered, is being fueled by the refusal of board to issue the producers with the much needed censorship certificate following the board's orders that the producers be compelled to make series of amendments, expunges, re-editing or addendum to the film.
Appeal to the Lower House
Uhegbu's letter to the House of Representatives on August 10, 2004 has the caption: Application for Urgent Parliamentary Intervention, Re: Censorship Certificate for Home Video Film, stated: "In 2004 we produced a home video film based on a novel on the futurity of the Nigeria Civil War, and entitled Turning Point: No Victor, No Vanquished.
"Desirous of releasing the film in 2002, we equally applied for the statutory censorship certificate form from the National Film and Video Censors Board and have completed the N55,000 fees. Consequently, the executive director NFVCB, Mrs. Rosaline Odeh demanded that the published novel on which the film was based. This we complied with.
"Later the executive director asked us to expunge part of the title No Victor, No Vanquished because in her opinion, the reverse was the case in the case of the Nigerian civil war. This, we still complied with. The executive director eventually asked us to send in an estimate of the cost of production of the film for refund by the NFVCB, so that we could forgo the release of the film. This we did as attached. But up till this moment, we have neither received the money nor the censorship certificate from the board".
The letter said the producers were amazed by the fact that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) is advertising the production of a film with the same title of No Victor, No Vanquished and nobody is stopping them.
Before taking their case to the National Assembly, solicitors to Uhegbu and Ochunkwo, Ebere Uzoatu & Associates, had written to Odeh on May 12, 2003 applying for the censorship certificate in accordance with section 34(1) of the National Film and Video Censors Board Decree, 1993.
Uhegbu disclosed that none of these letters nor the personal discussions with the officials of NFVCB, which he said they had more than 20 times, would move "the woman to issue us the censorship certificate." And the film which we spent N18 million to produce is still not released. Some of my friends have advised us to release the film with or without the certificate, but we don't want them to use that and nail us because when you want to hang a dog, you give it a bad name.
Censor's board's response
The only written response which the board has made available to the requests of the film producers in the last two years according to Uhegbu has been through a letter addressed to Ochunkwo on March 17, 2004, which came as a Report on a film titled Turning Point Of A People.
The letter signed by one F. C. Njoku for the director general said "that the film would affect different people in different ways. Nigerians, particularly the Igbo, would be reminded of their loss and pains of war. MASSOB could use it to reengineer the people of the zone towards the resurrection of Biafra Republic.
"It is also envisaged that the film would encourage the high rate of youth restiveness (i.e ethnic militia in the country though Part III shows repercussions of war as deterrents to protagonists of ethnic nationalities) and certainly promote sentiment and open up old wounds.
"It also suggests that the producer of the film should be mandated to amend the open-ended manner of the film by concluding with a clear message that violence cannot be used to achieved sovereign nationality. It should preach dialogue as the preferred means of settling dispute.
"Therefore, it was resolved that the film should not be released until the recommendation in (3) is implemented to avoid the re-opening of old wounds and the films re-submitted for consideration on its suitability for public screening".
Uhegbu said they had since effected the recommendation and yet the board "is still dribbling us with come today come tomorrow."