Adejoh Idoko Momoh.
When the $200m (N32bn) entertainment loan scheme for Nollywood was announced in 2010, most Nigerians saw it as nothing more than a political ploy to garner the support of one of Nigeria’s most influential industries. Now, these people realize they were wrong, and that it was just the beginning of what would eventually blossom into a love affair.
After admitting the industry still has about N31bn of the N32bn entertainment loan, the president at a dinner held on Saturday, March 2ndt o celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Nigerian movie to be released on home video ‘Living in Bondage’ announced a further N3bn grant as part of his transformation agenda in the industry.
To support the President’s grant, Akwa Ibom Governor and recently appointed Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum Goodswill Akpabio announced a further donation of some N50m to the industry as the President’s award for Creativity. As it is, the award would be given annually to the most creative Nigerian Actor and Actress.
In spite of the generosity to this industry that has seen tremendous growth in the last year mainly due to private sector participation; most Nigerians have expressed displeasure at the additional N3bn grant and think the sum demonstrates the misdirection of the Presidents spending policies.
With barely N1bn of N32bn released, why does the President think a separate grant is required to develop industry infrastructure? Mechanized farming that should employ a large population of Nigerians enjoys a grant of only N3bn as opposed to Nollywoods N35bn? Why would the President trap about N34bn worth of funds in Nollywood as part of his transformation agenda for the industry, when it is not Nigeria’s only ailing industry? Has he considered how far Nollywood’s second grant of N3bn would go to transform Nigeria’s textile industry? Are there no transformation plans for our mining or manufacturing industries?
It would have been a better case scenario if these grants have demonstrated some sort of growth or development for the industry. Looking at Nollywood movies that have recently recorded breakthroughs like Jeta Amata’s Amazing Grace and Inale, or Chineze Anyaene’s blockbuster movie Ije, two things are evident: First, growth in the industry has been largely private sector driven, and the industry does not necessarily need funds from the government to produce quality movies.
Now consider the first movie that benefitted from the N32bn entertainment loan, Tony Abulu’s ‘Dr Bello’, for anyone who has seen the movie they are left with more questions than answers. For instance, how did a very poorly scripted movie as that qualify for a part of the entertainment loan? Is Nollywood not supposed to project the many positives of Nigeria? How then does a movie that portrays Nigerians as illegal immigrants in the U.S practicing unlicensed medicine qualify for government support? One certain lesson you would learn from Dr Bello is that Nollywood producers need to stop wasting funds on international actors and focus on local ones, as the crop of Vivica Fox, Isiah Washington and other foreign actors were easily overshadowed by the acting prowess of industry greats like Genevieve Nnaji and Stephanie Okereke.
This article does not seek to condemn the allocation of funds to Nollywood, what it seeks to point out is the misdirection inherent in the allocation. One wonders what thoughts would have informed the decision to allocate a further N3bn to an industry that in 2013 has only applied for and obtained barely N1bn of the N32bn loan that was obtainable since 2010.
What the government needs to do is develop adequate distribution channels for our movies and fight privacy. After all, the industry would not record any growth if movies are produced, and not distributed. If privacy is not fought head on, what good is it – giving grants to producers for movie production when the movies would later be pirated and little or no money would be made from them?
In conclusion, the president should know that if he wants better movies from Nollywood, he must provide basic amenities for writers as well. One of Nollywoods biggest problems is script writing and that is the job of writers. He should complete the very ambitious Writers Village proposed by the Professor Raji led Association of Nigerian Authors and the Mamman Jiya Vasta Writers village in Mpape, where writers can have residencies and access to grants so they can concentrate wholly on writing blockbuster scripts as opposed to the current crop of poorly researched, non progressive scripts Nollywood is plagued with.
If attention is not given to script writers and writing, the Government’s need to throw billions at Nollywood would be of little good to Nigerians, the industry and the Presidents Transformation Agenda for the industry.