Are creatives on another cockroach-horse ride?



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Are creatives on another cockroach-horse ride?

Victor Akande



 

I received with reservations, the current touted plan by the federal government to provide palliatives for the creative industry. The move appeals to me like another government’s lip service agenda to issues of national importance.



Covid-19 appears to have provided another opportunity for every ministry to present a brief — that is all that seems to matter – result is secondary.

The Ministry of Information and Culture may just be too overwhelmed with other responsibilities to genuinely take the creative industry seriously.

Let me start with the inauguration of a committee for the proposed Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) on April 12, 2016.

The Ministry had since received the report of the Review Committee on the MOPICON draft bill. However, five years down the line, there’s nothing to show for the time and efforts put into the exercise.

To underscore what a colossal failure this is turning, is to know that we are referring here to, just a single unit of the entire creative industry in Nigeria. And the assignment is merely to unify the industry into a self-regulatory body to be backed by law.

The Federal Government had pledged to immediately kick-start the process of making the regulatory body a reality, after engaging a 29-member committee, comprising members of the various Guilds and Associations in Nollywood, as well as representatives of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB).

What could have so hindered the Ministry’s interest in setting up MOPICON, driven by the fact that, as supervising parastatal, they desired to work with a formidable representative group that is empanelled to lobby for the growth, development and welfare of the industry and its practitioners, as well as a better organized and economic vibrant industry? Assuming that this singular assignment became so huge for the Ministry to advance, what happened to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Tourism Development Fund it also promised?

Like MOPICON, the NEA fund was inaugurated five years ago, and had since been lying fallow. With the current Covid-19 pandemic, it has been dug up under the guise of repackaging it to suit current realities.

For goodness’ sake, what are we repackaging in a product that is yet to be? Like the Yoruba saying posits: if we spend 20 years preparing for madness, how many more years would be left to roam the street? If for five years, all that we are doing is inaugurating, repackaging and amending acts, how long will it take to lobby, establish and bring the acts to fruition? I am not taken by the dangling of some CBN’s N50billion in the face of stakeholders.

The finance sector has its own mandate, and they have been playing their roles from way back, through NEXIM, BoI, and Ministry of Finance.

The Information and Culture Ministry must develop and pursue a clear agenda, if it must be seen to be contributing its part in making the creative industry a viable alternative to oil.

Nigeria has peculiar economic challenges. Thus, if our idea of NEA is a copy and paste version of the National Endowment for the Arts of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence, the current move by the Trump administration to cut out this funding could trigger another dogmatic amendment by the Nigerian government.

Therefore, this current covid-19 way of exploring financial models to help the creative industry (including the traditional media) fulfil its functions during and after the coronavirus pandemic in the country seems to me like another hoax. I am not averse to miracles.

The saying that Nigeria’s creative industry is developed mainly by individuals’ efforts is still rife. Thus, government needs to be awake to its responsibilities, if its agenda of economy diversification from oil is anything to go by. There is need to re-position the creative sector for auditable structure and optimal returns.

On the aspect of ROI, piracy being the common threat is still ubiquitous. This is just as a palliative called Private Copy Levy; a form of royalty that musicians and audio-visual entrepreneurs earnestly desire has become a tall dream.

So much has been said about the need for government to create enabling environment for creative enterprise to thrive.

So much for security at film locations; so much for import waivers, especially capital equipment and support for trade related initiatives; so much for transformative policies around access to finance and distribution; so much for international treaty agreement ever since the film industry was returned to the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Are creatives on another cockroach-horse ride?

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