There Is Black Market In Nollywood
Q: What is your job description as Director-General of the National Films and Video Censors Board?
A: The job, essentially, is to regulate the content of movies that are available for distribution in Nigeria and to ensure that the pictures or movies that are shown in cinemas or available in shops meet the guidelines as enshrined in the Cinematographic Act or in the Act that set up the Censors Board itself.
It is to regulate the Nigerian film industry. When we say the Nigerian film industry, we don't necessarily mean only movies produced in Nigeria, but also movies that come into the country, including foreign movies.
Q: Basically, what is the philosophy behind having a censorship board?
A: It is important that every country should screen movies that are imported and movies that are made in the country, so as to ensure they do not offend the cultural sensitivity of the country or locality. That is, to ensure that those movies do not offend public taste or defame individuals, or even pose security risks to that particular country or locality. No country freely allows movies to come into its territory. Not only for national security purposes, but also for the safety of the consumers, as we cannot allow children to have access to materials capable of injuring them. So, it is the duty of the Censors Board to ensure that movies are properly screened and classified appropriately.
Q: Your predecessor had a very turbulent tenure. Should we expect your term in office to be stormy?
A: I think the work of the chief executive of censors board anywhere in the world is always turbulent. You can imagine being the policeman to somebody's creativity. Someone claims to have spent all his money making movies and another person comes and says this should not be and all that. There would always be controversy. I think Mrs. Odeh did her job the best way she could. People are bound to complain. My aim is to bring a review of the guidelines that go into classification itself in the industry and to define the playing field, to ensure that if you have this kind of scene in your movie, it would automatically attract this kind of classification rating. And this particular scene would not be tolerated at all. So, these are the kind of things we do. We also want to bring in the concerned stakeholders, the parents, women societies, religious bodies and so on. They must take responsibility for the kind of movies that are available in the Nigerian market. It is not only a matter for the board and movie producers alone. It is a collective responsibility because at the end of the day, movies are available for everyone to watch, not just the movie makers. The movie makers make the movie for consumers. So it is important that everybody shares the responsibility for what is produced out there.
Q: Will the establishment of a film censors board by the Lagos State Government bring about a contradiction?
A: I don't see any contradiction in terms of the law. We are a federal body and they are a state body. It is a matter that is on the concurrent list of the constitution. The constitution says that a state government could decide to set up its own censors board. It is the manner of operation that would determine if there is going to be a clash, but I don't think there will be. I have spoken with the chairman of the Lagos board and we look forward to having a very good relationship. My hope is that they would understand the dangers and impracticability of having multiple censorship, because if they were to go into censorship and classification, it would mean that those movies would only be available within the territory of Lagos State. So it would pose a serious problem for the industry. Imagine the danger if every state government were to set up their own censorship board. So if I make a movie at the current rate of N20,000 (censorship fee), I would go to Lagos, Kano and Kaduna to do the same thing. Not only in terms of the money, but also the actual logistics. That is why everywhere in the world the trend is to have one national body that would classify and censor movies, but would take input from local sensitivities within that particular area, which is the kind of relationship we have with Kano State Censors Board. They are part of our review process, so we do not have any problem with them. When the Kano State Censors Board was set up, we worked out a very smooth relationship with them. It is the same kind of platform that I wish to extend to the Lagos State body.
Q: In case of a clash, which body would hold sway?
A: I think the constitution is clear on that. It is clear that the federal law supersedes state law in this instance.
Q: Are you satisfied with the quality of works in the industry?
A: I think it is a “yes” and “no” thing. Generally speaking, the industry has to raise its ante as more things need to be done. In terms of quantity, we are okay, but for quality, I do have my doubts. We need to raise standards and be more professional in our approach. I expect that government would help to improve the level of training and level of professionalism in the industry, and create structures that would develop the industry.
Q: In terms of quantity, what is the volume?
A: It depends on whom you ask. I heard it's between 2,000 and 3,000 films a year. But what we actually censored, and what is available in our record, is about 1,680 films from the previous year. So when people talk about 3,000 copies, it means that some people do not go to the censors board. And I'm warning those people that if they are caught, they would not find it funny.
Q: Is there a black market?
A: In every industry, you tend to have such. In Nigeria, 90 per cent of the foreign movies we find in the country today are illegal. So there has to be a black market. There is also a black market for Nigerian movies in the sense that there are people who make movies and do not subject those movies to the board.
Q: When you find such movies, what do you do?
A: We have very stiff fines. There is the possibility of a jail term. It is a criminal offence. We are currently investigating some cases and at the end of the day, we will take them to court.
Q: In approaching this job, what is your strongest point?
A: I have the benefit of being in this industry for some time now, though from a different stand point. So, I am clear on what needs to be done. We need to create formal structures for the industry. I have been in the Media/Entertainment business for the past 15 years, within and outside the country. I am the kind of person that works with structures and I am confident that my background and experience would be brought to bear in doing this job. I also have to listen to people with good ideas. I am a good listener, and I will synthesise these ideas to see how they could be useful to the industry.
Q: What do you envisage would be your biggest challenge?
A: The biggest challenge is human capital. It is developing the human capital within the board and also within the industry; finding ways in which we can train people and create professional standards, until we get to a point where people start getting used to standards. For instance, if you want to do a movie, you don't just use Celine Dion's music for soundtrack without obtaining permission. You can't just assume. Like the saying, assumption is the mother of all problems. The more professional you are in your approach to soundtracks, hiring of actors, etc., the better. And if it requires you to take 10 shots to get a good impression, do it. Also, be more sensitive to Nigerians' taste. But people are more sensitive to their pockets than the content of their movie. The industry is not just for commercial purposes, it is also an artistic and cultural industry. So the industry should recognize the immense potential for good and bad that those movies possess, and be more aware of what they do with the media. So the challenges, like I said, are developing my own capacity and developing the capacity of people that I work with. And extending that to the industry and getting the right funds to do it.
Q: How much independence do you have in the industry to achieve your dreams?
A: We don't have any problems. There are clear guidelines between relationship with parastatals and with the ministry. We are supervised by the Information Ministry. Fortunately for me, the Minister, Frank Nweke Jr, is a young man like myself. He is someone I look forward to working with. He has the drive and aggression to achieve results. I have not had any form of interference from him since he became minister. So, as far as we are concerned, the mandate is clear.