- We’ve lost huge revenue, members to the menace – Artistes
…accuse security agencies, regulatory bodies of complacency
By ABIOLA ODUTOLA
The Nigerian film industry, popularly known as Nollywood, lost over $4 billion to piracy in 2018, investigations have revealed.
The booming industry, which has an estimated yearly revenue worth about $8 billion, is being crippled by endemic piracy and corruption challenges that have eaten deep into its fabric. Losing about half of its revenue to the menace, it is obvious that the piracy problem in Nigeria needs long-term and sustainable fixing.
One of the largest auditing firm in the world, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which describes the industry as a goldmine, estimates in its Entertainment and Media Outlook (2017 to 2021) that the nation’s film industry generates over more than $7billion for the national economy. Also, the International Monetary Fund states that the film industry is equally a major employer of labour, as it is said to employ over a million people, directly and indirectly.
On the prospect of the film industry, PWC states, “Total cinema revenue is set to reach $22million in 2021, rising at 8.6 per cent compound annual growth rate over the forecast period as Nigerian films gain international recognition and investment increases.”
Despite being a multi-billion naira industry, findings revealed that it has not translated into a huge fortune or huge returns for practitioners in the industry. Rather, the acceptability of the movies, actors, and producers barely have anything tangible to show for their efforts and hard work.
No thanks to pirates, who have almost hijacked the industry under the nose of security agencies and the different regulatory bodies. So, while the producers and actors toil morning and night, the pirates sit back, wait for a movie to be released, pirate it and smile to the bank, living fat on the sweat of the artists.
The menace had made some bankrupt, while the unlucky ones lost their lives, to boot, in the process. Late Moses Adejumo, popularly called Baba Sala, had regretfully said, “The debt I incurred, when my movie was pirated, was so enormous and I was the first actor to be hard hit by pirates. Even though the Oyo State Government helped by giving me some contracts and people like Chief Obafemi Awolowo helped, most of the funds went into the settlement of the debt.”
In its annual report two years ago, the Nigerian Copyright Commission said its operatives conducted 99 anti-piracy surveillances and 49 strategic operations in certain locations across the country, when they were able to arrest 70 suspected pirates and recover 1.5 million quantities of pirated copyright works, including DVDs and CDs, all valued at N1.26billion.
“The sum of N1.26billion, which was the total value of pirated materials removed in the course of the anti-piracy operations in the year 2017, represents income that would have been lost by government and copyright owners across the country to people engaged in the criminal act of copyright piracy,” it stated.
The World Bank estimates that for every legitimate copy sold, nine others are pirated. “In terms of exports, these movies are purchased and watched across the world in other African countries, Europe, USA and the Caribbean, and almost all the exports are pirated copies,” it added.
Meanwhile, popular Nigerian stand-up comedian, film director, producer and actor, Mr. Ayo Makun, popularly known as AY, says that he incurred loss that ran into hundreds of millions of naira while the industry must have lost billions, when two of his movies were pirated.
“The worth of what we have lost to piracy would be in hundreds of millions. Computing mine with the rest of my colleagues who have produced over the years would amount to unimaginable billions of naira. Piracy is worse than a cankerworm of destruction. We sweat as creative people and the pirates reap from doing nothing, but steal and pilfer from our sweat,” he says.
Founder and president, African Christian Movies, Mr. Christopher Nze, says, “It is only government that can come in. We as individuals or associations cannot help ourselves in that regard. It is only the government that can come in to either put heavy tax or fines on electronics, gadgets, tapes that they use to mass dub films; and they should even deal with cable stations that are undoing us. There should be a way government can save us, save Nollywood from collapsing.”
PIRACY, OTHERS ARE KILLING US- STAKEHOLDERS
Industry operators explain that the Nigerian movie industry is still battling with various challenges like finance, piracy, distribution, mediocrity, feeble regulations and enforcement, low quality production, poor enforcement, technology, indiscipline in the course of production and poor storylines, among others.
These challenges have left the industry far away from meeting up with the likes of Hollywood and Bollywood in production quality and quantity, as well as in revenue generation. The major bane of the industry, according to Joke Silva, is distribution. She believes that “once the distribution problem is sorted out, things will just begin to fall in place.”
For the former president, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, Gregory Odutayo, piracy and other challenges are surmountable only if the government and the private sectors can come in with the right willpower.
“The government needs to come in with effective regulations, controls and laws. We don’t want their money. The money will be provided when all those structures are put in place. These are the things that will attract the local and foreign investors to Nollywood,” he says.
Odutayo said the present laws are not enough, as most of them are at the expense of the stakeholders in the industry. “The laws need to be strengthened for the good of the industry,” he notes.
The NANTAP president believes the absence of endowment fund, film fund and other basic structure will make it hard for producers to make milestones in the industry. “All we need is that little structure to be put in place and the industry will be fantastic. If the structures are in place, nobody will do a poor quality film,” he maintains.
Similarly, the National Leader, Film, Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Nobert Ajeagbu, sees lack of structure as the fundamental challenge of the industry. “We have played our part as entrepreneurs, as people who love the country, the government is yet to play its own role,” he says.
He blames the government for playing politics with a bill that seeks to establish the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria.
Ajeagbu says the bill, which was drafted in 2006 by different guilds and associations that make up Nollywood, through the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, also consists of rules, ethics and codes of conducts that will guide the practice of film making in Nigeria.
“If we had got this by now, we should have had a council that will regulate practice and that is the only thing lacking in Nollywood, because there is no serious corporate organisation that would want to do business in an unstructured environment,” he says.
The FVMAN former president also faulted the processes of accessing the $200 million Creative and Entertainment Industry Intervention Fund provided by the Federal Government through the Bank of Industry.
“The loan that you provided that all it will take the practitioners to get it is to put together everything they have worked for in the past 20 years as collateral is not worth it. No serious practitioner would want to access it,” he says.
Zeb Ejiro, a legendary producer and director of many movies and television soap opera, mentions unstable power supply and fluctuation as part of the troubles producers face during productions. But he stressed that producers need to up their games in order to remain relevant in the industry.
Corroborating this is Abiola Atanda, popularly known as Madam Kofo. She complains about the poor delivery of roles by some artistes.
Madam Kofo, who is well known for her skyscraper headgears, urged new entrants in the industry to persevere and remain focused.
“And they need to make sure they don’t ruin the industry we have been labouring to build for years,” she says.