By Kehinde Aderemi
For years, Nigeria’ s entertainment industry had suffered untold hardship in the hands of pirates, who daily steal intellectual property.
Most hit by this illegal act is the film and music sectors, where practitioners often see their films and music being sold on the highways and on the streets, either in Lagos, Asaba, Port Harcourt and other parts of the country. Perpetrators of this crime always go scot-free even as they thrive daily at the expense of those who worked tirelessly for the creative work to be produced. As a result, artistes as well as film and music producers and marketers have lost several millions of naira to this outright lawlessness.
But at the moment, there is a renewed zeal to fight piracy in the country. Leading the fight to eradicate piracy and other illegal activities in the entertainment industry is the Executive Director, National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Alhaji Adedayo Thomas.
Since he assumed office last year, Thomas had always made his intention known to the world. He promised to nip the unlawful activities of the pirates in the bud, saying enough was enough. Shortly thereafter, he took a bold step by inaugurating a special Task Force for the board. And their mandate, the reporter gathered, was to get rid of pirates in the sector.
So, for three days recently, the NFVCB boss led a team of special task force, comprising policemen and other security agencies and stakeholders in the film industry to raid the Alaba Market, in Lagos. The raid led to the arrest of three persons with pirated films worth over 50 million naira.
The raid, the reporter also learnt, was an intelligence-based operation carried out to get rid of pirates and producers of unclassified, uncensored and unregistered films and works in the market.
At a stakeholders meeting held at Ikoyi, Lagos, Thomas reviewed the activities of the board. He spoke about the effects of piracy in the industry.
“We need to tell the world about our effort to sanitise the film and video industry. Between August 12 and 15, the national task force waged war against producers of unapproved and unclassified works. We enforced a raid on the distributors of unclassified films works operating without the prerequisite licence. It was a successful activity and we appreciate the support of the Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and other stakeholders in the industry. I am delighted that with the arrest made so far, we have sent a strong signal to perpetrators who commit economic crime against the industry,” he explained.
The enforcement, he said, was the first in the series done by the national task force. He assured that the board would not rest on its oars until perpetrators desist from the act or they face the wrath of the law.
Hear him: “We are not fighting this war alone, all the stakeholders are with us, including the security agencies. So I am hopeful that we shall revive the industry from the hands of pirates.”
He urged the people to abstain from producing unclassified, uncensored or unlicensed works and distributing same.
“We need to clean up the market for the industry to thrive. We can only help the industry by ensuring that classified films are on the shelves of all the licensed distributors. We are to regulate both import and export of local and foreign films. The crime against the entertainment industry is a national economic crime and all the offenders would be tried in the court of law,” he said.
Meanwhile, President, Yoruba Video and Film Producers Association of Nigeria, (YOVIFPMAN), Alhaji Abdulrasaq Abdullah, acknowledged the effort of the boss of the censored board, saying the stakeholders supported the war against piracy .He lamented that piracy had for long ravaged the entertainment industry, with investors having no return on their investments. Abdullah noted also that with the new enforcement drive, the entertainment industry would be better for it, even as he urged all the various associations in the industry to cooperate with the new leadership of the board for them to achieve the best for the industry.
Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele-Bello, otherwise known as Jenifa, lamented the harm done to the industry by the pirates. She thanked the executive director of the board for taking the bold step to get the industry out of the quagmire.
“We support all initiative to stop pirates from killing the industry. It is sad when you see your job being pirated and at the end of the day you get nothing out of it,” she said.
Members of YOVIFPMAN present at the event include: Chief Kola Fashina, Elder Tunji Ojetola, Alhaji Toyin Uthman, Alhaji Ishola Aiyedun, Bukola Adelakun, Biodun Afolayan and Alhaji Kazim Afolayan.
Other stakeholders present were Chief Eddie Ugboma, Fred Amata, Balogun Bamidele, Emeka Aduah and Okechukwu Madu.