The Long Arm of the Law Slams on Producers
Illustration by Seun Ajibola
Life as a public official in Nigeria is not for the weak. Ask Mr. Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, and he will provide a list of issues he has addressed over the past few months. Since becoming the mouthpiece of the Buhari led administration, Mr. Lai finds himself suggesting ideas in conflict with the views of the citizenry. Many news outlets will engage in dragging Mr. Lai’s personality through the miry clay, but I prefer to assess the merits of his recent proposal to ban the production of videos outside the borders of Nigeria
A few weeks back, Mr. Lai, this time, was not in any jollof rice debate, but in a war of words with the Nigerian Guild Actors, and singers over the recent government ban on the production of music videos and films in foreign countries by Nigerian creatives. According to the minister, the offshoring of the production has a net negative impact on the entertainment industry and the nation’s economy.
Nigeria, unfortunately, has many problems typical of developing nations that should be addressed, but the focus on the production process in the film industry is an exercise in futility. Without a concrete agenda to address the concerns of the creatives during production, the government proves its incompetence in closing the leaks of more pressing areas such as power, youth unemployment, and corruption.
Prior to the proposed ban, Omoni Oboli, producer, and actress, took to Instagram to pour out her heart on the attacks on her production team in Lagos State for not cooperating with "area-boys". Also, actress and director, Funke Akindele, in a similar post on Instagram, lamented the constant harassment her production team faced while filming. Both actors got the support of other actors and filmmakers who challenged the government to find a sustainable solution to the menace.
Apart from the economic disadvantage these area boys pose to the production process, investors in the industry are more conscious of their investment given the substantial amount that is written off to settle the local “area boys”. Likewise, new talents have a horrid image of what it takes to film in Nigeria, thus, they have decided to move their production process to other countries. Moreover, producers have to deal with inadequate electricity supply, technologically dated studios, unattractive scenery and a limited supply of professionally trained production team. I am not implying that Nigeria doesn't have professionals; very far from it, what I mean is that these professionals lack the resources, infrastructure, and policies to improve their capabilities to compete globally.
The United States, South Africa, and Britain are good examples of countries that invest in their entertainment industries and have built in policies to protect the production team from being extorted. For instance, while shooting a film in the United States, security is provided for the team and surrounding areas to prevent trespassing through a permit process by the local government that is enforced. In addition, governments recognize the significant risk in taking on a media project and have built into their system tax codes that enhance the investments in the industry.
Lastly, support should not be limited to security and the economics of production. One example is the film Blackhawk Down. The film received support from the US Army and the production team was supplied with the intelligence and disclosure of details related to the actual combat to enhance the quality of the film. The movie 76, readily comes to mind in which the government and military provided support to the production and the screen writing process.
Nonetheless, rather than impose policies that impede progression, it will be wise if more investment is made towards improving the entertainment industry that has created jobs for many and has turned in revenues for the government.