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Nigeria's film industry popularly called Nollywood, is a haven for crooks and scam artistes who engage in sharp practices to swindle people.

Mr. Peter Igho, Executive Director, Nigerian Television Authority Enterprises, told a stunned gathering of practitioners in the industry in Calabar on Monday that this unwholesome attitude was killing the industry.

“There are too many crooks in the film industry; we have to tell one another the truth. We have people who present proposals to investors to sponsor film production and when the money is released, rather than use it for what it is meant for, they buy new jeeps and build new houses and the investor at the end is told stories,” he said.

Mr. Igho said practitioners, especially producers, are in the habit of collecting money and failing to utilize it for the purpose for which it is meant; and in the end, there is the constant litany of 'no funds' and 'lack of support' for the investors.

Mr. Igho, who said he has been part and parcel of the industry since 1972 when he graduated from the university, stated that he had initiated a foundation to raise money to assist practitioners and called for attitudinal change.

“I have been going to investors since March to raise funds to assist you. I have many of you on the board of the foundation just to ensure that we for once get it right but if this effort fails, and the effort of government fails, then we would not have any more hope,” Mr. Igho told the Nollywood stars.

The Minister of State in the Ministry of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Nakande, said the film industry is bedeviled with poor technical quality and incessant infusion of ritual and conflict among the practitioners. “Talking about content, it is worrisome that some of our movies appear to contradict government's efforts to promote a positive image for our country. In addition, the industry needs to move away from frequently depicting ritual killing or fetish images, and rather produce films which promote more of our rich cultural values,” he said.

The practitioners, on their part, bemoaned the high rate of piracy in the industry.

Mr. Obazele, who spoke on behalf of the Guild of Producers, said the industry loses billions of naira to piracy.

“ We are talking about the poor quality of our films, nobody has addressed the issue of piracy that is plaguing the film industry in Nigeria. Everyone here has been affected by the activities of pirates. The money we have invested in producing films have been stolen. Where does the money come from to invest again? Do I have to sell my father's house again to produce film for it to be stolen again?” he fumed.

Stars in Calabar for The First Nigerian Film Forum were Paul Obazele, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Nkem Owo (Osuofia), Patience Ozokwor (Mama Gee), Madu Chikwendu, Zak Amata, Sani Mu'azu, Ejike Asiegbu, Keppy Ekpenyong and Segun Arinze among others.

-Emma Una/Calabar