If what the Nigeria Film Corporation’s new Managing Director and Chief Executive, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, promised industry practitioners and stakeholders is anything to go by, then happy days are here again. He has promised to lift the industry to a level that it can compete favourably with its foreign counterparts through empowering practioners in every way possible.
Maduekwe made the declaration at the stakeholder’s interactive workshop on job-creation, which held at the NFC zonal office, in Lagos last week. It had as theme ‘Contributing 10 Per Cent to Nigeria’s GDP Through Motion Picture Production and Overcoming the Challenges from Script to Screen.’
He noted that the Nigerian film industry is a net contributor to the national income, and if well funded, could become the single largest contributor to GDP like in other climes such as the U.K or the U.S., India and China. To this end, Maduekwe assured that the industry could move from the present two per cent contribution to over 10 percent net contribution to the (GDP) within the next five years.
Maduekwe stated that he was not oblivious of the fact that the industry offers potentials for economic, social mobilization and political cohesion. Against this background, his plan for the next four years, he assured, is to ensure that the vast potentials of the industry are unlocked as a dominant player in the Nigerian economy.
“It is my firm belief that the sector is set to take its pride of place as the largest singular contributor to GDP and job-creation,” he said. The NFC boss insisted that the industry must be integrated into the present administration’s economic diversification agenda, saying, “The new narrative we must all push out is that film is not just art and entertainment, but a viable and inexhaustible source of economic activity.
Consequently, we must be able to key into the diversification agenda of the present administration, which is serious in reducing our dependence on oil and now looks at motion picture production and other creative industry as viable alternatives.”
Maduekwe, however, did not fail to point out some challenges of the industry that impede its growth. One of such is the obsolete law, which the corporation is still operating under, laws enacted when there were very limited filming activities.
According to him, “Then, the NFC was to venture into the production of films for domestic consumption and export. Equally, there were no marketing, distribution and exhibitions activities at that time. All these reflected the nature of the NFC Decree, which did not envisage that the Nigerian film industry would experience tremendous transformation and growth.
“Today, the industry is placed the second largest film industry in the world in terms of production volume. The concept and the perspective of the government did not envision how the NFC will cope with the financial needs of private practitioners or how to restructure the industry into an alternative major source of job-creation and revenue generation for the country. Operating under that same law does not meet the present day global realities and challenges of the industry.”
On funding, Maduekwe said: “The poor funding of the corporation has remained a major constraint and has crippled it in delivering on its mandate. It has also denied the corporation the necessary powers and muscles to generate funds outside the usual poor budgetary allocation by the government, which has further affected the sponsorship of practitioners, stakeholders to participate in international film festivals or support them in various pre-production, production and post-Production activities.”
He promised that under his watch, he would adopt a hybrid approach, combining government’s grants to the industry through the establishment of an Entertainment Industry Guarantee Fund to strengthen the credit delivery system and facilitate flow of credit to the industry.
Maduekwe immediately swung into action immediately and set up three panels among the practitioners to discuss some of the challenges of the industry, and tasked them to come up with practical and applicable recommendations that would form part of the roadmap to government on how to develop the industry and integrate it into the socio- economic policies of government. The panels were focused on Funding, Professionalism/ Ethics and Distribution, Exhibition and Piracy.
HOWEVER, practitioners complained bitterly about their inability to access funds even when the funds were meant to aid them in terms of low interest rates for their projects, especially the Bank of Industry (BoI). But Group Head, Creative Industry Desk at (BoI), Mrs. Uche Nwuka, who was part of the funding committee, said BoI was a bank set up to use money to make money and that there were conditions that were laid down for anyone to access the money if they met the conditions. She noted that as mush as the bank was willing to give out money to stakeholders, most of them were unable to meet the set conditions.
She noted, “I kept looking through the applications for months until I came across that of Kene Mrakpu of Filmhouse, who was the first beneficiary, and he was immediately given the money. He even paid back before the time he was supposed to pay back elapsed.”
She, however, said if somebody from among them could meet the conditions to access the fund, then it means the conditions are not too stringent. Some stakeholders, however, felt there were cabals in the industry that were given undue privileges where others fail. But Hilda Dokubo, who was also a member of the funding committee, debunked the insinuation, saying there was nothing like cabal in the industry, but that if anyone was looking for monies with the right credentials, they would be able to access money. She noted that most stakeholders had discredited themselves in the past, when they were given money to make movies and went on spending spree and bought cars and lived large and could not repay their loans.
Dokubo advised her colleagues to prepare good proposals with bankable projects, and assured that there is money out there waiting for them to fund their projects by investors that believe in the industry.
After much argument on different issues, veteran filmmaker, Eddie Ugbomah, in an elderly man’s manner, appealed to stakeholders to be united saying: “Creative people have no language. This industry is the image-maker of the country. Besides, this is the time to make money. This period of recession is when we need to make people happy.”