Tackling Unemployment In Bayelsa State: Role Of The Film Industry

By Ebiye Sese
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In Nigeria, one common denominator nay challenge facing the nation is the knotty problem of unemployment. Presently, Nigeria unemployment rate was recorded at 12.1 percent in March quarter of 2016, up from 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, reaching the highest since December of 2009. The number of unemployed persons rose by 18 percent to 9.485 million, employment grew a meager 0.12 percent to 69 million and labour force went up 2 percent to 78.4 million. Meanwhile, youth unemployment increased to 21.5 percent from 19 percent.

Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 9.04 percent from 2006 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 19.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Unemployment Rate in Nigeria is reported by the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria. Unofficial figures put the unemployment rate in 2016 at 31.7% which does not account for people who are engaged in traditional occupations such as farming, fishing, petty trading, and other vocational endeavours.

Whereas some blame the staggering unemployment rate on government’s inability to manage the monetary and fiscal policy of the country, other pundits believe that Nigeria’s investment environment is too hostile to attract Foreign Direct investment. There is infrastructural deficit, insecurity occasioned by poor security architecture, the activities of conflict entrepreneurs and the menace of Boko Haram in the North and the resurgence of militancy. More importantly, scholars are agreed that Nigeria’s over-dependency on crude oil without diversifying the economy is the principal cause of unemployment. This has become obvious because when the price of crude oil sneezes, Nigeria not only catches cold but her economy diminishes.

One industry that has assumed prominence in Nigeria is the indigenous film production industry popularly called “NOLLYWWOD”. The term 'Nollywood' wascoined by the New York Times journalist Norimitsu Onishi in 2002 when he observed film-making activity in Lagos, Nigeria. The term mirrors two of the most famous areas of film production: Hollywood in the US, and Bollywood in India's Bombay. For some interested analysts Nollywood encapsulates the array of actors and actresses emerging from the film-making activity in Nigeria but for others, it connotes a collection of the thousands of movies that have been made there.

The Nigeria film industry Nollwood which is one of the prominent in creative industry in the country, within twenty two years of existence, the industry has taken giants strides to become an industry to reckon with in and outside the country, the industry has grown into multimillionaire industry from creative and hard work today, there are dozens of distribution companies hundreds of movies producers and directors, thousands of actors and other stakeholders in the industry in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme, launched in 2011 by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, saw entertainers accessing $200 million to finance their operations. The industry is creating perceptive entrepreneurs, cultural ambassadors, and global brands Three years later, Nollywood, Nigeria's budding film industry, has become second in the global film markets in terms of volume of production, and third, behind India's Bollywood and America's Hollywood in revenue. The entertainment sector is now reputed to be the second highest employer in Nigeria after agriculture – employing more than one million people – particularly the youth.

Before 2015, Nollywood was adjudged the third in global revenue earnings with receipts over the years reported to range between US dollar 300m US dollar 800million. Now, Nollywwod comfortable occupies the second largest employer of Labour, with an average movie employing a minimum of 130 person in a movie. Nigeria film industry Nollywood produces about 50 movies per week, second only to India's Bollywood more than the United States, HOLLYWOOD although its revenues are not at per with Bollywood, and HOLLYWOOD. Nollywood still generates impressive revenue annually. The exponential expansion of the industry is such that it has the potentials of creating thrice as more jobs as the oil industry. It can be asserted therefore that Nollywood contributes substantially to youth employment and diversify the country’s economy for growth and long term development.

This viewpoint aligns with what Zulu said on the platform of theAssociation of Movie Producers in Nigeria (AMP). Zulu has this to say “The Association of Movie Producers in Nigeria (AMP) says the film industry in Nigeria has created two million jobs plus in the last twenty years. In a "Friends of Nollywood" award ceremony held on Saturday by the Abuja Chapter of AMP, the associations's President Zik Zulu said the upsurge in jobs in the billion-dollar industry has had a substantive impact on the nation's economy and its growth. Zulu implores the government to continue to consistently fortify efforts to support Nollywood and acknowledge its impact on Nigeria. “I think the federal and state governments, and the private sector in Nigeria have to do more for Nollywood, because this is a department of this country’s life,”

In Bayelsa State, since Governor Seriake Dickson assumed office, certain proactive steps have been taken to promote the Izon tradition and Culture and one of the strategies is the promotion and expansion of the indigenous film making industry. Pained by the fact that the Ijaw ethnic Group – the fourth largest in Nigeria has been relegated to the background, the Restoration Administration has hosted several events to create much-needed consciousness on the need to use the Ijaw culture to promote the film industry.

Firstly, Governor Seriake Dickson established a separate Ministry for Culture and Ijaw National Affairs. The essence was to promote the culture of the Ijaw people. Secondly, the administration made a donation of N200 million to Ijaw musicians to promote those who practice the art to up their game to have a competitive edge. Thirdly, the Bayelsa Film Producers Association has been encouraged when the Governor pronounced her intention to establish a film village during her second tenure. Fourthly, to re-orient the psyche of the people, the Restoration Administration has played host to many national and international events such as the African Jazz Festival, the Africa Movie Academy Awards event and the Most Beautiful Girls in Nigeria pageant among others. These plans were in the pipeline before the economic meltdown.

The last AMAA event hosted by Bayelsa State was private sector driven. About N.8 billion was realized at the fund raising event for the hosting of the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award, (AMAA) in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. This amount, which is expected to boost efforts of the organizers in ensuring a successful hosting of the annual award ceremony, is exclusive of the pledges of support made by some corporate organizations. Former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, who encouraged stakeholders in the movie industry not to be deterred by the challenges currently facing it, expressed the hope that with active private sector participation, the industry would be better placed to compete at the international market and enhance national development. While commending Governor Henry Seriake Dickson for his ingenuity in attracting the private sector in the sponsorship of AMAA. She called on the State Government to build a Film City in Yenagoa to further underline the State’s commitment to encourage the film industry.

At the event, the Director General of the Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency, Mrs Ebizi-Ndiomu Brown, described AMAA as a platform for hunting and grooming new talents and appealed to corporate organizations to contribute their quota to the movie industry. Bayelsa has played a huge role in training over 200 youths in Africa in film making. The irony is that while Bayelsa State has contributed so much to the film industry it has nothing to show for its monumental contributions.

The Restoration administration can use the instrumentality of the film industry to tackle the menace of unemployment. While the Film City is a long term project, government can deliberately foot the bill of training Ijaw people in various aspects of the movie industry, such as directing, role playing, cinematography, still picture technology and other critical areas of film production. Stakeholders in the State can also assist government in training talented youths and create room for them to penetrate the industry. Grassroots-oriented Talent Hunt programmes must be taken seriously. A special scholarship scheme can be floated for youths who are passionate about the film production industry. Special incentive should be given to potential investors in the film industry in Bayelsa State. Governor Seriake Dickson should tenaciously pursue the establishment of the FILM CITY to catapult the State to limelight as a serious film production hub in Nigeria.

When the Bayelsa film city comes on stream, the Ijaw nation will produce entrepreneurs, cultural ambassadors, and global brands, whose exploits have internationalized Nigeria's entertainment sector. Nigerian actress Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is currently a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations, while pop star D'banj is currently the African Union Summit Ambassador for ONE Campaign, an advocacy initiative that calls on African governments to commit at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agricultural investment, Olu and Joke Jacobs are international brands; the P-brothers can compete favourably with any artiste in Africa and beyond. Others are Desmond Elliot, Richard Mofe Damijo, Ramseh Noah and Nkem Owoh. In fact the list is endless.

With more attention from government, in terms of regulation and investments, Bayelsa State can carve a niche for itself and leverage on the Nigeria’s entertainment industry to create jobs and produce stars that would not only popularize the Ijaw culture but rake in foreign exchange into the State and the Region. In terms of job creation, for the talented, the film industry holds the ace for Bayelsa State.

When this is tied to the tourism potentials of the State, government may not look up to the oil multinationals for job creation. Under the focused Restoration Administration of Governor Seriake Dickson, these lofty goals are achievable and Bayelsa State will be better for it.

Miss. Ebiye Sese is a member of the Bayelsa Social Media Team

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