Nollywood actor John Okafor, aka Mr Ibu, has urged the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), to live up to its mission statement of developing an industry that is globally competitive.
NFC, established in 1979, is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. The Decree establishing it empowers the Corporation to lay a solid foundation for the development of a viable and sustainable Film industry and Cinema culture in Nigeria. The Corporation is therefore charged with the responsibility of planning, promoting and organising an integrated and efficient development of the Nigerian Film Industry. However, Mr Ibu in an interview in Abuja said the NFC was not living up to its mandate and needed to redouble its efforts.
He alleged that there “is a non-existent relationship between the Actors Guild of Nigeria and the NFC and other bodies.’’ He further alleged that “they are not doing anything to help the industry except for selective few; the NFC is a ghost body. “I have never seen anybody from the NFC willing to genuinely cooperate with any actor, actress or producer involved in Nollywood”. The veteran actor expressed his concerns for the absence of strict laws governing and ensuring the NFC carry out their duties.
“There are no laws ensuring that The Nigerian Film Corporation carry out their duties. There are no checks holding the agency accountable, which is the major reason why they can afford to neglect the film industry.’’ Ibu bemoaned the ongoing issues within the industry and the inability of the NFC to aid the industry in sorting out those longstanding issues. “The cinematographers, marketers union, the continuity editors and writers are all in disorder. “The NFC does not have the film industries’ best interest because it has not shown interest in the unity of this very important sector. Mr Ibu, also said the activities of pirates, has impacted negatively on movie productions in Nollywood.
“The Nigerian movie industry is blossoming with a production rate of about 50 movies weekly, however the potential of the fast growing industry is hampered by impostors and pirates,’’ Ibu said Okafor said that the efforts put into writing and production of movies by actors and actresses are jeopardised by those engaged in piracy. He attributed the challenge of piracy in the industry to bad eggs in the post production stage who undermine the efforts of the artistes. The famous actor, however, said that he would not be deterred by the actions of `unscrupulous’ individuals or groups. Okafor, who has over 350 movies to his credit, urged everyone involved in film production and management in Nigeria to strive to protect the industry while it is still possible. “Despite being a manager of football players and also trying my hands in boxing, acting in Nollywood is what I am destined to do.
“If it dies my destiny as well as many others will die,” he said. Okafor is considered to be one of Nigeria’s most talented comic characters. His humorous acting is often characterised by stupidity, hilarious imbecility and a sharp disconnection from reality. Some of his movies include Mr.Ibu, Mr.Ibu in London, Police Recruit , 9 Wives, Ibu in Prison and Keziah. Ibu said that it was a shame that the world’s second largest movie industry lacked standard structures such as headquarters building and modern film studios since its establishment over 20 years ago. He said that practitioners in the industry would benefit more from “Structured Nollywood,” rather than financial aid from the Nigerian government.
The Federal Government last year released N420.2 million to the Nigeria film industry popularly called Nollywood, to improve and support aspiring practitioners. The money under the “Project Act Nollywood,’’ is the second payment to the sector under the present administration, to help 105 film distributors. Government had earlier approved N1.8 billion for disbursement to 106 beneficiaries. Mr Ibu said he was opposed to such funds due to its inaccessibility.
He further alleged that most actors, actresses and producers in Nollywood do not benefit from such funds due to selfish interests of those in charge of the dissemination of such funds within the government agencies. “We expect such money to be dispensed appropriately by the Ministry of Information and Culture; such money go into the hands of those not connected with what we are doing”. He explained that rather than give Nollywood such money that would not be utilised adequately; government should provide the industry with a plot of land to enable stakeholder build befitting structures and generate money internally.
“Nollywood does not have a benefitting `home’; the Nigerian government should give large hectares of land in a neighbourhood and also a structure which would be known as the home of the Nigerian film industry instead of doling out funds that go into the wrong hands”. “If a structure is established, we will partner sponsors that believe in our work and we will take it up from there. “With such structure, funds we receive will be coordinated by those running the affairs in the “Nollywood headquarters.” The comic actor claimed that the Nigerian film industry would surpass the Nigerian oil industry in terms of financial output if a structure is put in place and those in the sector run their affairs devoid of interferences.
NAN reports immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan in 2013, allocated three billion Naira to Nollywood under the title: “Project Nollywood.” The money was to help turnaround Nigerian movie industry, which has recorded growth in production and sales within past years, but remains heavily criticised for low content. A previous revolving loan scheme of $200 million (N32 billion), announced by Jonathan in 2010 was also plagued by complaints of inaccessibility.(NAN)