Saturday, August 29, 2009

On NFVCB's NDF: We Are Selling The New Distribution Framework - Rabo

By Al-Amin Ciroma
(Published in LEADERSHIP today)

In 2007, when Mallam Abubakar Rabo took over the mantle of leadership as the director-general of the Kano-State Censorship Board, he inherited a movie industry that had no standard or respect for professionalism. Most of the companies in the industry were existing in portfolios or in vehicles. They were not even registered with CAC and had no structures. And so he started a clean up exercise targeted at sanitising the industry and building structures. Many stakeholders considered his measures then as being too stringent . He proudly opened up in this interview to say that in Kannywood today that, 'We are selling the new distribution framework' . He also spoke on a wide range of issues in the industry and on the soft loans the state government is giving to filmmakers to raise standards. Excerpts:

On assessment of the movie industry vis-a-vis job creation and youth empowerment
I want to say that the movie industry, particularly Kannywood is a very good economic activity. It’s an empowerment sector and of course it is very complementary to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Nigeria as a nation. I have to appreciate the administration of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua for the vision 2020 with regards to economic growth, as projected.

On the level of compliance by stakeholders
The level of compliance is encouraging, because we are speaking professionalism this time around. We are speaking ethics; we are speaking standards when it comes to the employment of gadgets in public projects, filmmaking in particular. So when you speak in line with what is the standard; what is the practice, I don't think you will have any problem with very good hands. People used to cheap projects are used to cheap popularity, and they don't appreciate modern trends. Some are even drop outs. They see our measures as being stringent. How can you convincce a mediocre person, somebody that has not yet completed secondary school to conform to modern trends? A professional in the industry, like a movie director, ought to have some directing skills, likewise a producer, a scriptwriter and so on. It is not just talent or creativity that matters. It is far more than that, because when talent is shaped educationally, then definitely the outcome is going to be a multiplier of positive trends. When we were new here, there was not one production company with a corporate registration operating in Kannywood. Now we have more than 52 that are duly registered with the CAC and pay their taxes. They are no longer tax evaders. They register with the state Ministry of Commerce, co-operatives, and register with the local authorities.

On conviction of Iyantama
No practitioner was taken before our mobile courts and charged on anything outside the law. If people are sincere, they should find out. We are now in the world of verification, world of scientific proof. Things shouldn't be concluded without given fair hearing being given to the other party. Far more than what is being said about a stakeholder that was prosecuted or taken for prosecution, before any court of law, the Board has a stake. We ought to be contacted.
All we do is to supplement, to provide and to complement prosecution counsels where very necessary, with facts, evidence and the necessary sections of the law establishing our operations to prove beyond reasonable doubt that so and so person is really a defaulter. So, Hamisu Lamido Iyantama in particular was never in the history of his case regarded by the counsel before the court of law as a practitioner outside the film industry. He was taken as a practitioner in the Kannywood industry and was charged from the appropriate section of the Kano State Censorship Board’s law and he was sentenced accordingly by the same court of law. So ours is a legal battle from the point of professionalism and from the point of law and we are soft and open-minded people. We always invite stakeholders to learn their mistakes for the first time, but where crime or breach of law persists, then we have to go ahead with prosecution, this is our style, we believe in proactive measures. First of all, we issue a warning sometimes, but if crimes persist we don't have any other option but rather to prosecute.

On film release in Kano
This is in line with the arrangements of NFCVB, that states have the right to have similar regulatory agencies. This is the provision of the Nigerian constitution, concurrent legislation. In the concurrent legislative list of the 1999 amended constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, items 16, and 13 spelt out the power of the state assembly or state assemblies to establish similar bodies meant for censoring.

On whether the arrangement would not create a bottleneck
It is never a bottleneck when authorities are exercising their constitutional powers and whosoever feels offended by the state and local authorities’ nature is trying to be a deviant and I don't want to believe that it’s the culture of our practitioners. In Nigeria, there are customary laws operating in some quarters of the nation. There is the penal code in the northern part of this country, notwithstanding the constitution that operates in the entire nation. So it is not seen as a bottleneck by the good minds. In fact it is even better for you to be checked locally when it comes to the peculiarities of where you are operating-the societal values. It is better known by the local authorities, it is better known by the local stakeholders, it is now reshaped and it is now blessed and certified by the local authorities. It’s making your project ‘heavy’ because even if you take it for international exhibition, you will start by saying that even your local quarters appreciate your project, proven by the certification and the national certification. And that as a good citizen of your country, I am in compliance with the requirement and this is the position of the DG of NFVCB. He was saying that state censorship agencies, being very close to the stakeholders, are in a better position to respect and ensure compliance with the societal values, compliance to the local requirement of practitioners, than even the national video censors and when such certification is presented to the National Film and Video Censors Board, they would assume that things have been done on their behalf by the local or by the state agency.

On Filmmakers fleeing from Kano
This is history! When we were new here, we were of the view that things ought to be done the right way, the professional way, the standard way. Somebody who is used to M3500 cameras and now you are talking digital camera, he feels these changes are too stringent. Somebody who is used to filming without a script, you are now saying, scripts must be introduced, somebody who is operating a mobile production company, you are now saying must have an office, he feels it’s too stringent. Somebody who doesn’t regard the CAC or their form of registration and certification.

On the relationship with stakeholders
The relationship is cordial, because what is expected of a mother is that she breastfeed her child, is lenient with the child, shows some amount of mercy to the child. This is why we are now introducing soft loans to the stakeholders. In the law establishing this Board, it is not well accommodated that we are a filmmaking agency, or we are a development agency to film activities. We are nothing but a regulatory body, just like the NFVCB. There is no department given a very bulk amount of money from the national treasurey to be administering soft loans to the NFVCB because it’s not the primary of the body. But now we at the local level come to appreciate that, no we don't have Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC) like the nation is operating, you understand. So now why don't we make the government appreciate the need for investment. Now the government has appreciated, that and has started investing money. It has started investing in skill. We have sponsored more than 15 practitioners to various technical and training workshops. We were there, at Shoot! 2008. The participation of Kano State was higher than other states of the federation and we all sponsored the practitioners just to ensure that there is skill in Kannywood. Above all, we want the filmmakers in appreciate the code of ethics attainable to their profession. You can only have this if you have the knowledge. That’s why we have embarked on a series of training, seminars.

On areas of collaboration with NFVCB
There is the first offer given to, us which we are still looking into, by the director-general of NFVCB. He is using this Board as a primary or preliminary censoring agency for the national preview committee. I see that as a very good offer, a situation whereby our certificate will be requested. Any film that is Kannywood-based, any film that is made about our native culture, native society, will be introduced to the Board through our certification. I see that as a very good offer. Secondly, there is the area of having a sort of memorandum of understanding. When we accommodated the DG (NFVCB), we hosted him for a two days familiarisation visit where we interacted. The board, the state board, the national board and teeming stakeholders, so look at the level we have been operating at. Even when we were at Tinapa, the key paper presented by the NFVCB’s boss was remarked. We are now selling the New Distribution Framework (NDF), we administered questionnaires to our stakeholders of all the ideas of this new framework for exhibitors introduced by NFVCB. We are here at the grassroots to complement the national arrangement, with consideration to our peculiarities.

On ensuring that films released before the take-off of NDF are withdrawn and re-distributed to conform with the new framework
I believe that where we are expected to complement NFVCB to that effect, (the withdrawal), if we are communicated to, if we are involved, we will do it officially and even if we are not officially involved, or we are never asked, out of our appreciation of the wisdom behind these initiatives, believe me, we will be advocates and we will encourage our stakeholders to appreciate that what is being introduced, is for the development of the industry.

On the area of film development
Presently, we make the government appreciate things through a task force committee established by the Kano State government. A committee that came into being as a result of the Hiyana saga, the controversial film clip. We made the government appreciate the fact that, the history of our industry goes way back to when troupes were 100% under the sponsorship of the state government, under the sponsorship of media houses owned by the state government in the northern part of this country.
On the area of training, we have so far, of recent organised a cinematography workshop jointly with the French embassy, the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), another professional association, to ensure that our cinematographers operating from Kannywood have the best experience.

On attracting filmmakers from other regions to Kannywood
We are trying to do films to meet our local, unique, peculiar requirements. It is when you have a unique package that people will come to appreciate your potential. Let me give you an example. The typical Hausa bowl which you use to eat, if you are exposed to it and if it is introduced in projects, use the way we were living before the contemporary modern building, if it is well packaged, believe me, somebody from Asia, America or Europe will be interested in the uniqueness. But in a situation whereby you are making semi-western sort of projects, a copyright from India for example, nobody will appreciate you. Therefore, before you invite somebody to come to your house, you have to put necessary structures in place.

Taking you away from business, how do you relax?
I relax with my kids, watching cartoons, it has also made me adapt to their way of doing thing; you know kids with cartoons. Sometimes we even argue. I derive pleasure in playing with kids.
Culled from The Classifier

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