Film commission bill breathes new life as Nollywood injects own blood
From dismissing provisions of a bill to remake the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) chiefly over ‘non-consultation,’ Nollywood has recommending amendments suggested by its various guilds and associations.
The NFC has faced challenges that have made it very difficult to effectively discharge its mandate. One of the principal challenges has been legislation. The enabling law is outdated and requires urgent review. Even the nomenclature ‘Corporation’ has turned out to be an albatross; especially in the global sphere where the norm is to have a film commission. This has resulted in many lost opportunities for the industry.”
Those lines formed part of the introduction to a report that Nollywood has submitted to the House of Representatives, currently working on a bill to alter the name and functions of the NFC.
The report, presented on January 24, 2017 by Mr Madu Chikwendu, a former national president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) who coordinated a group of Nollywood leaders constituted to marshal industry views, asserted that without appropriate legislation, “it has been impossible for the NFC to sign a single co-production treaty,” a function the industry rates highly.
Nollywood leaders never questioned the need for a new set of laws for the NFC, but the submission of the Nollywood Technical Committee report was the first time in the life of the Nigerian Film Commission Bill that Nollywood would agree both in principle and in detail to the altering of the film corporation into a commission with corresponding new legal provisions.
The Jos-based Nigerian Film Corporation should not have been at the centre of the contention over the new bill, but it was. The Nigerian Film Commission Bill became contentious in December when filmmakers rejected it, accusing the corporation of not bringing the industry into the picture and for consequently making a bad job of it.
The charge had come from filmmakers who also said the NFC was proposing regulatory provisions that would have the resulting commission usurp the functions of some other agencies and institutions.
The House of Representatives Committee on Information had hosted a public hearing on the bill on December 6, 2016 only for some industry players who attended the hearing in Abuja to leave to their Lagos base with a grudge and to address a press briefing weeks later to oppose it.
“Not only did we not have prior information to this hearing, the clauses that make up the bill for the commission are inimical to the growth and development of the practice in Nigeria,” President of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Fred Amata said at the December 22 press briefing to which he led some other industry leaders.
“And the major argument that we are positing is that a lot of the clauses of the bill are duplicating already existing rules and regulations housed in different organizations, including the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC),” Amata added.
The industry leaders directed their anger at the Managing Director of the NFC, Dr Danjuma Dadu whom they cast in the role of sponsor of the bill. President of the Association of Movie Producers, Ralph Uwadike told reporters at the December 22 briefing, “I think he (Dadu) should be told in clear terms: you cannot come and usurp what you don’t know.”
Rising for him, the NFC began its 11-page statement it prepared in the wake of the storm that the Nigerian Film Commission Bill was being spearheaded by the National Assembly, as sponsored by the deputy majority leader, Hon. Umar Jibril. The corporation indicated however that it was supporting the bill, although it had improvements to suggest, because the NFC enabling bill was long due for change.
The NFC said in its statement that an African Union document in 2003 urged film production countries to establish film commissions, and that Nigeria remained the only country with a corporation supervising its motion picture industry. It said that, more importantly, the Film Corporation Act that established the NFC in 1979 was lacking in scope.
Hon. Umar Jibril who confirmed that he was indeed the sponsor of the bill that had become a subject of so much interest, said the House of Representatives had good intentions for the film industry.
“A commission has more capacity to act for the industry; it is wider, richer and allembracing, with relevant MDAs incorporated to act for the industry,” Jibril said in an interview with Daily Trust, adding that, “People should look at the advantages of the bill even if it is coming from the MD (Danjuma Dadu).
A good number of the 23 amendments the committee suggested are articulations of objections that the industry players had earlier raised, especially around their view that some of the provisions of the NFC Bill merely duplicates existing legislation.
For example, where the bill says in Section 3(1) b that the commission should have the responsibility to ‘Provide guidelines and set standards for the establishment of film and video infrastructure such as film schools, film villages, film production studios and film multi-media centres by the public and private sector,’ the Nollywood Technical Committee recommends, “Film schools are regulated by National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and National Universities Commission (NUC). Film studios will be regulated by Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPCON). This bill is already before the National Assembly and this is the preferred option of the industry.”
Section 8.3(1)h of the bill, which wants the proposed commission to ‘Maintain a database of persons, organizations, institutions, equipment facilities connected with the film industry,’ the committee remarks, “This is already a function of NFVCB and MOPCON.”
Hon. Umar Jibril, sponsor of the Nigerian Film Commission Bill
Dr. Danjuma Dadu, Managing Director, Nigerian Film Corporation
Mr. Madu Chikwendu, head of the committee that coordinated Nollywood’s inpute to the film commission bill