Chaos In Nollywood Over FG N3bn Intervention Fund

Investment

The issue of N3 billion Government Intervention Fund which is meant to improve the Nollywood industry has brought about uproar amongst practitioners. Anaemena Priscilla Chinenye writes.

When on Saturday, March 2, 2013, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan honoured Nigerian film makers with a dinner at the State House, Marina, Lagos, his subsequent pronouncements brought smiles to the faces of the digital video-film makers, also known as Nollywood. The dinner, titled ‘Nigeria Celebrates Nollywood’, was organised to celebrate 20 years of the industry.

At the occasion, the president who was represented by the minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala promised a N3 billion intervention fund for the industry, under a programme tagged ‘Project Nollywood’. The fund is to promote the film industry in the country. Though Nigeria’s film industry is older than 20 years, but the March 2 celebration marked the inception of the video and digital filmmaking in Nigeria.

The fund which was earmarked to be launched in April, will include grants for capacity building, infrastructural development and commissioning of best scripts. Also, it will be administered by the Ministry of Finance, headed by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in alliance with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism headed by Chief Edem Duke.

Also, a renowned filmmaker Amaka Igwe, a veteran actor in both Yoruba and English language movies, Jide Kosoko; an actress turned producer, Stephanie Okereke-Idahosa, alongside other professionals from the finance, judiciary and education sectors are part of the committee picked by Jonathan for the project.

However, a group of Nollywood stakeholders associated with monitoring practices in the industry are not happy with the choice of some members of the committee and also the modalities of disbursement of the fund.

They suggested that the N3 billion grant should have been made through the Guilds as every guild has its head who is duly elected by members.

The message was allegedly made available by Chike Bryan, president of Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria (SWGN) on behalf of the guild and the Nollywood Monitors including Paul Obazele and Zack Orji.

Another filmmaker and president of Association of Nollywood Core Producers, however, told Leadership Sunday; “the federal government grant is a serious business for serious Nollywood stakeholders and not Nollwood @ 20 jamboree.

“The action of the members of the Nollywood Monitors is baseless and I suggest that, if they are eager to access this fund, they should put proper personal corporate structures in place immediately because the grant is not and cannot be a dash to everybody in Nollywood for as soon as the guidelines for accessing the grant are made public, you don’t have to be a member of the committee to apply and even some members of the committees may even apply and fail to get the grant eventually if the conditionalities are not met.

“The money will not be released to associations and guilds but to serious-minded companies based on the business plans and proposals submitted to managers of the fund,” he said.

As this argument continues from both sides of the divide, a member of the committee Mrs Amaka Igwe, has invited some members of her forth, the film industry practitioners, to a meeting, asking their contribution on the best way to support film distribution in the country.

This is to enable her assemble participants’ views for presentation to Federal Government Committee on the fund as proposed guideline. One of the issues discussed was how to discourage piracy of nollywood movies through  Intellectual Property (IP) protection. 

It is estimated that only about 30 per cent of gains from films go to filmmakers, while the other 70 per cent of their investment goes to pirates.

It would be recalled that a $200 billion intervention fund was promised in 2010 shortly before the 2011 general election. Although it was doubted by many and seen as a mere campaign promise, about N32 billion out of the amount was released, and  out of this, only N766 million out of this was released two years after.

Access to the fund which was administered by the Nigeria Export Import Bank (NEXIM) was made difficult, due to the stringent conditions attached to granting of the loan,  such as insistence on collateral to which  some of the practitioners wanted their intellectual properties to be accepted, even though they know that the Nigerian Copyright Law does not recognise intellectual property as a basis to access bank loans.

The new N3 billion grant ought to unite practitioners of all sectors of the film industry as it is a dream come true for them but rather, it has caused chaos and division amongst the practitioners.

Written by Anaemena Priscilla Chinenye