Nollywood: Nigeria re-strategizes on piracy, raises endowment fund

Solomon Chung, Lagos

The Nigerian government has said that the issue of piracy in the movie industry popularly known as Nollywood would soon be a thing of the past.

This was made known when Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed held a meeting with key stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry popularly known as Nollywood in Lagos, South West Nigeria with the theme Re-defining the Nollywood Strategy.

This economic crime according to the government would be “fought to a standstill with stiffer penalties such as; longer jail term without option of fine. Also the pro-active enforcement of the copy right laws would play a strategic role in that regard. However to do that, there must be sound leadership at the regulatory level”, he said.

The government also promised to ensure a National Art Endowment Fund is put in place for the benefit of people in the industry across all genres in the creative industry.

Alhaji Mohammed said , “ some of the most pressing challenges in the industry are;  Piracy, Distribution, Funding, Re-organisation of the Regulatory Agencies and the need to facilitate the passage of the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPPICON), which is akin to what obtains in the advertising industry.

There is also the need to activate the National Film Policy, whose content addresses most of these challenges, including the role of government at state and federal levels in the development of distribution infrastructure such as building of community cinemas, which will invariably put monies in the hands of film-makers and also create employment.”

According to the Minister, the present Administration is determined to fight the scourge of piracy, and the Mr. President is in support of that.

Alhaji Mohammed said one of the President’s early charges to security agencies was for them to tackle piracy so that practitioners can be able to recoup their investments and that way, contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.

“We cannot properly diversify the economy if we don’t make any effort to end piracy or, at worst, reduce it to the barest minimum. We shall work with the necessary agencies of government to activate that Presidential directive.

In this regard, I am aware that one of your complaints is that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), which ought to be under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Culture which directly deals with matters that concern you, is now under the Ministry of Justice. We will address this complaint and explore the possibility of moving the NCC back to where it rightly belongs.”

According to the Minister, This is important because the decision to move the NCC to the Ministry of Justice has caused a major disconnect between the industry and the other sector of the arts. “It has also not allowed us to take advantage of the many treaties that clearly acknowledge the place of audiovisual performers in the scheme of things”.

“Nigeria is yet to ratify the World Intellectual Property (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which it signed in 1996, and the more recent Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, which it also signed in 2012.”

He said the Ministry intends to dialogue with television and cable stations operating in the country through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

 “I intend to use the opportunity of the dialogue to request and appeal to them to fund production of movies and documentaries, instead of dumping Mexican and lately Spanish soaps on us”

He also charged stakeholders to supply accurate data and returns which can be used to determine the true growth of the industry.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the film industry made some observations. Kinsley Oguro made an appeal for waivers in the film equipment that are imported into the country.

While Kate Henshaw said that there was the need to have a Nollywood hall of fame, where passed heroes in the industry can be celebrated. An idea she feels can turn some of those pictures and materials to a tourist’s attraction.

On his part, Mr. Mahmoud Balogun, another film maker observed that the industry regulators are not adequately funded, thus, they don’t function effectively. He also said piracy should be treated like armed robbery.