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NFVCB: Moving the Nigeria Film Industry A Notch Higher

By: Ifeanyi Osita, Mariam Sanni & Stella Ariwodo

Despite the efforts by the Board and the various stakeholders towards ensuring that the industry contribute meaningfully to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, they are daily confronted by those who are bent on destroying the labour and resources of stakeholders and film makers. In the course of carrying out its daily activities, The Board interfaces with relevant guilds and associations in the film industry for the effective implementation of policies. It also engages the services of various security agencies during operations at different levels.

The Executive Director of the NFVCB in an exclusive interview with the Nigerian Monthly crew shed more light on how the agency had been able to seize illegal and pirated films worth millions of naira at the popular Alaba market. Plans to amend the act establishing the agency to allow for more stringent penalties for offenders. The board has also developed a seal for CDs and DVDs to make the pirating of the works of film makers more difficult. As part of efforts to place Nigeria in the eyes of the global community, Abuja will soon be the home to the biggest cinemas in Nigeria.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: Can we get to know you sir?

Alhaji Adedayo Thomas
Executive Director / CEO National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB)

ED, NFVCB: My name is Adedayo Thomas. I am Executive Director / CEO, National Film and Video Censors Board. I am from Lagos State. One part Isolo Local government and another part Lagos Island. I am an Awori man. I had my first degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Jos and my Masters in Development Studies from the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. I have also undergone a couple of professional courses especially in the USA where I had my MBA in Think Tank Management. I believe in entrepreneurship and opening up the issues in Africa. I don’t want to say that I believe in charity, no but I believe in human development so I worked in couple of non-profits agencies like the USA such as Atlas Economy Research Foundation.

I am more interested in local affairs and how policies affect us. I am highly politics as well. My involvement with a non-profits and political activities drove me towards where I was when the President appointed me to head this establishment on March 31st 2017. I am simple, and believe in liberal attitude of human life, openness, transparency and off course; I am a social animal, I love music, but I am highly hype when it comes to work. I do my best to make sure that whatever role I am given, I put in my best.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What is the major responsibility of your Board.?

ED, NFVCB: Well we are the regulatory agency for the entire film industry. Let us pick it from the DVD level; we do classification of it which has to do with giving age grade to the kind of films that must be seen, rating films, maybe 18, 12, 12A, 13, Adult, Strictly prohibited. Also when you extend it to cinemas too, we regulate them. We look at the building, their entrances, their exits, comfortability and several other things regarding cinemas. The license for Cinema is being granted by us. The censorship and classification of their films is done by us. And on the other hand we are the door to the import and export of films. When you bring a foreign film to be screened in our cinemas, we must classify and approve it before it is viewed by the public. And it is even illegal to export Nigerian films outside the country without our permission. In a nutshell what we do is to create an enabling environment for the film industry to thrive especially for stakeholders in the industry. And where we have defaulters we go after them and in most cases we end up in court after the seizure of their goods.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: How do you ensure strict compliance to classification and other regulations?

ED, NFVCB: It is a very deep thing that we need to look at from several perspectives. I will not say my predecessors have not worked. They actually did a lot but the issue on ground now is how well the citizens understand ratings. What I did was to re-engineer a particular programme we call media literacy, by going to secondary schools and other higher institutions and engaging the students who invariably are made ambassadors to look into those films. Make them understand the meaning of classification. Make them see reasons why they should not watch some films and following up with cinemas on how well they should educate those who go to cinemas to watch movies.

ED, NVFCB, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas flank by Permanent Secretary, Information & Culture,

If a film is classified at 15, we do not expect parents to come to the cinema with children who are 13. We pass those duties, those enlightenment and education to the populace and the owners of film, so that people will understand. Other issues we look at to make sure things are done right is to engage the media to help us sell our messages, because we cannot do it all, we are regulators and we can’t really punish everybody. Like the retailer who feels he is making money and do not understand the dangers it is posing to the economy and human race by selling unclassified and uncensored films. When we get hold of some of them, we evaluate them, instead of prosecution; we seize their goods and educate them.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What are your Experiences in piloting the affairs of this Board?

ED, NFVCB: Well I will always let you know that within the last two years that I assumed office, it’s has extremely challenging. I am coming from the private sector and I have being given a position to head a civil service agency. It is a totally new ball game all together. There are so many bureaucratic bottlenecks. And having to lead operation when we have to go on enforcement is equally challenging and this exposes us to danger. Here in Abuja nobody protects me apart from God. Since the job has been given, I still have to go ahead to do the job. Some of the challenges concern the morale of staff which is really down. It was one of the first things noticed and was able to lift that in terms of training, workshops and movement of staff from one location to the other.

Even the exposure in attending both local and international film festivals, mixing them up with various stakeholders to understand the views of the stakeholders. To a large extent, I have been able to move over one hundred and fifty staff within and outside the country. Staffs have been taken to workshops film festivals, to Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Turkey, USA, Canada. Staff have been able to go for workshops and seminars in Lagos, Kano, Onitsha, and across the geopolitical zones. So I have been able to  expose the staff to have vital experiences. That is re-engineering their morale and their morale is now very high. For two years running now, we have had one hundred percent success rate in staff promotion exams.

Cross section of some Nigeria film Industry stakeholders campaigning against piracy in the movie industry

I just concluded some collaborative efforts with the Nigerian Police Force on how the operations department staff would be trained on enforcement, monitoring and spying. Those are the kind of things that encourage them to learn. The multiplier effect of the illegality of our pirates can lead to drug. This is where the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency comes in. Import and Export of film product the support of the Nigeria Immigration Service and Customs Service. We have been able to expose our staff to the links between our agency and various law enforcements agencies. There is collaboration between us and the Immigration, Customs, DSS, EFCC, ICPC NDLEA and other relevant agencies.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What would you say are the major achievements since assumption office?

ED NFVCB: Well one of it is that the bedrock of every organization is the staff strength and capability. When I came here many staff were not really aware of their job description. That has changed as everybody wants to be part of media literacy, giving suggestion on how to grow the industry. That is a major achievement. The second is that we are being paid to serve the particular purpose of the major stakeholders, and the owners of the industry who do not really need government to produce their films, who take their films into the market to sell who have put their creative knowledge that brought script together to produce films. When I came on board the stakeholders and the board were like cat and mouse I had to give the industry to them and allowed them to be part of what was going on and as I speak with you over 80 per cent are very happy today with the NFVCB.

Pirated Cds confiscated by NVFCB Task Force

International exposure and investment is another aspect. As at the time I came in we had less than nineteen Cinemas hall but today we have over forty two Cinemas because of the ease of doing business created by the President which we keyed into to expand the market. Thirty-Nine 39 screens was what was on ground when I came but today we have 145 screens across the country. Additionally, the revenue generated from films within the last two years has been quite very remarkable. Like Wedding Party One and Wedding Party Two which collaboration with Dubai Tourism and several other productions. Wedding Party I & II shut down the whole of cinemas in UK during December last year. Black Panther also shut down all the cinemas and what was the multiplier effect, almost five hundred millions were made by the Cinemas and that is boosting the economy.

The policy of the ease of doing business has also been helpful for international business. Before June, the biggest Cinema in Nigeria will be opened here in Abuja by the biggest chain owners of Cinemas based in Paris. When you travel outside, what they call us is Nollywood or they call Nigerian Oga. This is how far we have been able to export the name Nigeria to the rest of the world. A couple of week ago, South Africa thought it wise that Africa must harmonize content to present to the world and Nigeria who did not initiate the programme was appointed as the second Vice President.

A scene from Nigeria comedy drama film “The Wedding Party”

NIGERIA MONTHLY: Would you say that you enjoy high level of international partnership in carrying out your duties?

ED, NFVCB: Yes of course but not only with the international community but also with stakeholders in Nigeria. We have a very sound relationship with stakeholders at home and abroad, we call them and they answer us, they are our resource persons. Nigeria is a bride now in film content internationally.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What level of cooperation do you get from the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture?

ED, NFVCB: The NFVCB is an agency under the ministry headed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed. I do not think that I would have worked with a better minister. I must say that if any CEO fails, he did not learn that from Alhaji Lai Mohammed. At times we are surprised at the kind of energy he has which confounds some of us. His doggedness and attitude to work is a thing to emulate. He is a worthy leader

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What measures have been put in place to address the issue of Piracy and other Crimes associated with the agency?

ED, NFVCB: For the first time after my appointment I was able to break into the notorious Alaba market. Well over 500 million pirated films have been sized. Five kingpins were arrested and as I speak their case is still in court. In Sokoto, Kaduna, Lagos, Lokoja and Onitsha we have seized over ten million pornographic CDs and other illegal films. I even led the operation to Lokoja myself just the way I led that of Alaba. I have never been a soldier that gives direction, I always lead. We are working on things, opening channels of immediate enforcement and arrest between NFVCB and the police.

A scene from the film “Half of a Yellow Sun”

In a few months we are going back to seal outlets that have been identified. The same way you detect fake naira is the same way you discover that a CD or DVD is fake; we have gone high technology on that. There cannot be a replica on the seal. Also we have developed certificates which would be issued to operators, cinemas marketers, distributors and those concerned. With the kind of collaboration we have with the security agencies it becomes difficult for anyone to fake them.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: Do you have plans for stringent penalties for perpetrators?

ED, NFVCB: It is a very difficult situation. When the Acts was enacted the penalty was five hundred thousand or three months imprisonment or both. That was then but you now consider a situation when someone who is involved in an unclassified and uncensored work will make twenty to fifty million he would say is it not just five hundred thousand. Together with stakeholders we are planning an amendment of our Act. If we are able to do that we should be able to put a stiffer penalty for anybody who defaults. Because dealing with an uncensored or unclassified works in unauthorized premises is intellectual and economic crimes and such people would be handed over to the EFCC, ICPC and other relevant bodies.

A shooting scene

NIGERIA MONTHLY: On the benefit of the revenue by stakeholders in the film to the nation’s economy

ED NFVCB: All over the world private operators engineer the system and an enabling environment created is what engineers private investment. The multiplier effect on the country as a whole is enormous because it increases the GDP. Our local films make millions in Cinemas and that is why we are rated as third in GDP contribution after oil is agriculture. When you look at those involved in the chain of production in the film industry, it is huge.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: What are the measures put in place to encourage young producers and marketers?

ED, NFVCB: I have never been an advocate of free money. We still design our activities to include youth projects, classification models and ratings. We turn them to our ambassadors and also in terms of making films, we ask them if they are able to develop short films and expose them to organizations that are looking for them. We have strong collaboration with Google that tap into the talent of young Nigerians. Within this year alone I have engaged thousands of youths in Benue at the Benue state University, Nnewi in Anambra, Lagos and other parts to develop their capacity and expose them to a lot of film activities we feel they can venture into. We assisted some of them with tradermoni and they are all thankful.

ED, NVFCB, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas with the Nigeria Monthly crew

NIGERIA MONTHLY: Who is Alhaji Thomas Adebayo?

ED, NFVCB: I am just a simple person who is open to idea; I take my job seriously. When I am given any job, I do it to the detriment of my health. The Honorable minister of information is a workaholic and I took after him. Since the minister is not tired I cannot be tired and we all took that from the President who is never tired.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: Do you find time to unwind?

ED NFVCB: Well, taking to you is also a means of unwinding. I listen to music while I work. I think at the appropriate time, one should find time to unwind.

NIGERIA MONTHLY: And you family background?

ED NFVCB: I am married with kids. From a noble family of late sound educated father and a very industrious mother who believes in trade and strong entrepreneurship. Six siblings from my mum and thirteen from my dad. A couple of my siblings are abroad. Several efforts when we were growing up for me to relocate never worked. The longest time i can spend abroad is during Hajj. I can’t spend anything above two weeks when I travel out no matter what.. I am infused with the strong Nigerian blood.

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