The Nigerian film industry “ Nollywood “ has become a global brand expression and brands have become an increasingly important currency in the global market place. Committed to the development and ease of doing business with the film and video industry through the implementation of sound economic policies, robust regulatory agenda, initiation and expansion of collaborations to attract foreign and local direct investment which will facilitate security of investment, protection of intellectual property rights and preservation of our socio-cultural values.
One of the fundamental focus of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan ( 2017 – 2020 ) of the president Muhammad Buhari led administration is the Nigerian Entertainment Industry which has overtime grown in its potentials to serve the nation towards becoming a major player in the global economy. The survival of the nation’s export and foreign exchange earnings has been further boosted with the evolution of film industry the Nollywood which has become the new oil.
With the apparent instability and trade imbalance in the global oil and gas sector which is susceptible to price shock or production disruptions, the Federal Government has been promoting avenues to continually diversify the nation’s economic base in order to increase the resilience of the trade balance, promote economic sustainability and pursue the strategic objectives of job creation, youth empowerment, improved human capital, improving business environment and promoting digital – led growth. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plane ( ERGP )places premium attention on the entertainment and film industries as emerging sector with the policy objectives to increase film production by 15 percent on an annual basis, export videos to generate USD1 billion in foreign exchange by 2020, and improve enforcement of intellectual property rights for artistic works produced in Nigeria.
To facilitate the realization of the objectives of ERGP, the federal Government signed Executive Order 101 the ‘Ease of Doing Business policy”. The ease of doing business was signed by His Excellency, then Acting President and current vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo on May 18th 2017. It was reported in the media that the Federal Government indicated that it formulated the policy to get the country out of economic depression. Mr. President also asserted this policy as of December 2018, the policy had boosted the country’s foreign reserves which currently stand US$44 billion, the highest in the last five years. Because of the increase in the foreign reserve, the president has confidently said “Nigeria remains the strongest economy on the Africa continent” given the policies put in place by his administration.
It is without doubt that the policy has a role to play in strengthening and easing movement of business with the industry in order to generate substantial economic reward and important cultural benefits, and the National Film and Video Censor Board ( NFVCB ) due to its unique role in the industry is well placed to play a leading role in the transformation of our much cherished film industry.
In a bid to actualize the “Ease of Doing Business “ mandate, the Executive Director of NFVCB Ahaji .Adedayo Thomas, who upon receipt of the order began a systematic approach to exposing the industry’s operations to more transparency, efficiency, and building of friendly environment for interaction with the public, clients, and other hassles and government agencies.
Some of the steps he took and the successes recorded include:
Reactivation of the inactive website of the Board and ensured it became interactive with the stakeholders
including the public. Information is key to accessibility and success. The website has been relatively updated to provide first hand information to the public. Recently he created three new offices located in AMAC, Abakaliki and Ikorodu: in the Federal Capital Territory, Ebonyi and Lagos State respectively. The Executive Director also created seven additional Censorship Centres located in Abeokuta, Kaduna, Minna, Aba, Sokoto, Ilorin and Abakaliki for ease of access by filmmakers and industry stakeholders to the Board.
This move will no doubt save time and cost of long travels and ameliorate the pains of those not within the precinct of existing Censorship Centres. The CEO also adopted an open door policy to interact with the stakeholders and the public through direct contact, reactivation of the servicom desk to monitor efficient service delivery and
prioritizing activities for the Corporate Affairs unit saddled with the responsibility of public relations.
The Executive Director also made his contact and office accessible without hassles and bottlenecks. He introduced a novel fast – track process for censorship and classification process which is the core activities of the Board and price stabilization for attached fees.
Furthermore in order to checkmate and control the activities of pirates and intellectual property theft and uncensored production, the federal Government established NFVCB by Act 85 of 1993 as the official regulatory agency for the film and video sector of the Nigerian economy, with the mandate to provide an enabling environment for ease of doing business with the film industry in Nigeria.
The NFVCB is also charged with making policies on behalf of government for the film industry as well as serve as advisory body to government. The Board is also empowered to classify all films imported or locally produced. It is also the duty of the Board to register all films and video outlets across the country. The Executive Director Alhaji Adedayo Thomas has been working tirelessly to ensure that the mandate of the Board and its responsibilities are being met with utmost excellence.
Having created more access to the market, the Board has since the inception of the current management, classified more than 3000 films – a sharp rise from an annual average of 30 percent despite the industry churning out about 1600 movies yearly. The number of approved cinemas has surged from 5 to about 52 with about 153 screens and viewing halls. The Board’s strategic approach to combating counterfeiting and unapproved movies through approvals and support for new distribution channels, such as cinemas has led to huge economic impact and increase in revenue.
The Nigerian film industry also recently surpassed India’s Bollywood to become the 2nd largest industry on the planet after Hollywood. The Board recently launched licensing certificates and film – seals with digital security features to dissuade the distribution of unapproved and uncensored films. This moved is aimed at further securing investments in the film industry. NFVCB has created an e-portal, with built – in app to serve as a one-stop shop for provision of seamless data and automate all classification, licensing and verification processes for ease of business with the Board.
Recognizing the enumerated milestones, the Nigeria Film Industry was awarded the New Emerging Film Market at the Official Convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), CinemaCon, held at Ceasar’s palace, Las Vegas, U.S.A in April 2019. The Executive Director of the Board who was earlier in the year appointed the 2nd vice president of the committee on content Harmonization in Africa, comprising of film regulatory agencies in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria amongst others; hosted a follow – up meeting in Lagos on September 7, 2019. The committee is exploring ways for the film industry to benefit from the African Continental free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) and create a regional bloc to prevent illicit trade and acts in the film market. The Board is not just promoting easy accessibility into the market, but also encouraging talents incubation through empowerment.
Through the flagship Media Literacy programme, focused on educating young minds on the dangers of consuming unwholesome contents, misuse of the internet and the ills of spreading hate speeches. The Board has reached out to more than 1000 basic and secondary schools and still pushing the frontiers. The media literacy team has also reached more than 20 higher institutions over the last two tears. The cross-country empowerment programmes have also touched more than 7000 young people. Through the empowerment programme, young minds are inaugurated as ambassadors to serve as field reporting and sensitization agents for the Board and are provided start-up funds to play in the industry.
As the sole agency saddled with the responsibility, however the Board is not out to stifle creativity or put a leash on the creative industry as some presume. It is the responsibility of the Board to ensure that certain boundaries that could not just be injurious to the industry but to the nation at large are not exceeded. Like all countries, Nigeria seek to protect its young and vulnerable from unsuitable content and as a multi-ethnic developing society, the country also needs to preserve ethnic, racial and religious harmony.
It must take into account the sensitivities of all the different groups, cultures who make up the population. With the impact and influence of both Nigerian movies and the influx of foreign cultural imports, censorship will continue to play an important role in fostering a morally wholesome and socially cohesive society and safeguard core community valves such as the importance of family respect for one’s elders and moral integrity.
A scholar once asserted, creative contents have the ability to’ influence reality, amplify reality, create new reality, create alternative reality and have the power to make audience believe these realities are in the same frame’. It is therefore the aim of the Board to classify creative contents to best suit different classes of people as what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Considering age grades, social religions, ethnic and political inclination. This is necessary to avoid taking the risk of subjecting all classes to the same content and to ensure the protection of the relative peace and sustainability of the nation.
Despite the growing successes of the Nigerian Film Industry, and the consistent struggle to tackle its constraints and challenges headlong, there are still some restrictions to content that can be consumed in the households or traded in the open markets in Nigeria. This is important due to the plural nature of the Nigerian society and the multiplicity of customs, traditions and beliefs and the need to ensure socio – economic sustainability.
There have been growing concern on the social impact and implications of some films on the society, especially amongst the youth. The recent waves of global crimes and criminalities have been ascribed to the psychological influence of some videos and films. While the Board is also exploiting the power films hold as a tool for social re-orientati’on and to sensitize the public. There is still need to place restrictions on some films and film related activities that drug abuse, cultism, piracy, hate speech, development disorder, and other associated crimes that are of social disadvantage in the society.
It is therefore pertinent to restate that the Board is not out to stifle creativity but is resolved to tackle unwholesome activities and illicit film trade that could threaten the security of the local and foreign direct investments and as well undermine the peace, prosperity and safety of the nation.
The Board invites you to trust and invest in this Emerging Film Market as it offers loads of inherent opportunities at this critical time when the nation is working assiduously towards diversifying its economy by shifting focus a little away from oil. The federal Government of Nigeria assures all interests of a level playing ground within the competitive sector.