June 25, 2024

Nollywood: Stakeholders Divide Over FG Ban On Smoking, Ritual Scenes

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The plan by the Federal Government to enforce the prohibition of money rituals, ritual killings, smoking and glamourising such vices in Nigerian films is generating mixed reactions.

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It could be recalled that the Executive Director/CEO, National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, Dr. Shaibu Husseini, announced the government’s stand during a national stakeholders’ engagement on smoke-free Nollywood, in Enugu, recently.

The event, which was organised by the NFVCB and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, brought together movie producers, directors and actors, drawn from different parts of the country under one roof.

Leaders of various guilds and associations in the Nigerian film industry also participated in the event.

Husseini described the glamorisation of smoking, ritual activities and killing in the Nigeria movie sector as an industry emergency that required bold and ambitious actions from all parents, guardians and stakeholders.

“When my predecessor approached the former Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, on the need to make subsidiary legislation to curtail the display of smoking in Nigerian movies, he saw the need to include money rituals.

“Others included in the regulation are ritual killings and glamourising other crimes, in order to further sanitise the film industry.

“Today, I am delighted to announce to you that the Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa, pursuant to section 65 of the NFVCB Act 2004, has approved the regulation.

“The minister has approved the ‘prohibition of money ritual, ritual killing, tobacco, tobacco products, nicotine products promotion, and glamorisation display of crimes in movies, musical videos and skits regulations 2024. We have also forwarded the approved copy to the Federal Ministry of Justice for official gazette,” he said.

Husseini noted that the sensitisation programme was to educate stakeholders on the dangers inherent in smoking in Nigerian movies.

He explained that aside from the health implications, glamorising smoking in films poses a negative influence on teens and young adults, who constitute the largest segment of Nigerian movie viewers.

He said the board was set to undertake detailed enlightenment programmes in secondary schools, tertiary institutions, local communities, faith based groups and other institutions.

“As you all know, the film industry occupies a central position in the entertainment and creative sector, and it is imperative that we continue to place the highest premium on the progress of the film industry.

“The NFVCB supports smoke-free movies and smoke-free Nollywood, therefore, we seek your collaboration to develop creative content that discourages smoking and promotes positive health messages,” he stated.

Stakeholders in the industry are currently divided over the policy.

Some practitioners in the industry, including actors and actresses on the development, expressing divergent opinions.

Contributing to the discourse, a veteran Nollywood actor, Bob Manuel Udokwu said the government’s move was being misconstrued by most Nigerians.

“I believe that the restrictions about smoking and a few other practices, like ritual scenes in Nollywood films, are being wrongly reported as a ban by the media.

“There is no outright ban on those practices in our movies, rather the Federal Government through the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, is making sure that film makers are not inadvertently promoting smoking and ritual acts in films.

“They can be done when it becomes compelling to use them to tell stories like in documentaries and true life stories.

“The NFVCB is already having meetings with movie makers to explain the new position of the government on the matter and we, as practitioners, support the move.

“I had a long fruitful phone conversation with the Censors Board chairman, Dr. Hussein Shaibu on the matter.

“He assured me that he is there to make classifications and content of movies, music videos, skits and the likes better and more dignified for various categories of viewers/audiences. Dr Shaibu is a veteran of the entertainment industry, so there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

But for Nollywood actress, Jennifer Obodo, the Federal Government really needs to think and focus on other important issues concerning Nigeria and not the ban on smoking and ritual acts in Nollywood.

“The first question I asked when I saw this was- is it that they watch just the beginning of movies and forget to watch the end or what?

“Movies are make belief; a form of interpretation of a story and not just the narrative itself. If the government wants to ban smoking, then it should start by banning the sale or production of cigarettes.

“What is the essence of parental guidance in movies? The Federal Government should just sit down and focus on how to make Nigeria a better place.

“Fuel is expensive, food stuffs are expensive, there are no good roads, kidnappings are everywhere and all the leaders could think of is to ban smoking and rituals in Nollywood. So, is Nollywood Nigeria’s biggest problem now?

“Let me ask: what’s their contribution to the so called Nollywood and entertainment industry as a whole, for them to wake up and think that they can tell us what to do? Please, we have other pending issues that need urgent attention and action not Nollywood.

“If possible they should just ban the entire industry; no more production of films in Nigeria. Let everybody go and rest,” she said.

Another actress, Ngozi Eze Evuka wants the Federal Government to focus on the educational sector, so that children would understand that movies are mere fictions and not what they seem.

“Furthermore, movies can only educate, and entertain and not corrupt our viewers. I don’t support the ban. The question we should ask is: are the ritualists in these movies real?

“Being a smoker is a personal choice. In all, I am not in support of the purported ban on smoking and ritual movies. When you start banning these acts, very soon the FG will ban sexual acts, witchcraft acts, native doctor acts, and so many other acts in Nollywood. So I don’t support it one bit,” she submitted.

Also contributing, Nnaemeka Charles Eze (Nani Boi) lamented that among all the challenges currently bedeviling the country, the government chose to concentrate on a trivial issue like banning smoking and ritual acts in Nollywood.

He said: “Much as I believe that the Federal Government wants the best for its citizens, I do not think this should be their priority at a time when it looks like nothing is working in the country. “Some of our movies are actually true life stories.

“So, in telling such stories, how do we interpret smoking scenes if it happened in such stories? Most, if not all the Nollywood movies that involve rituals end with good lessons to educate the viewers on the nemesis cum repercussions of evil.

“So what happens to those lessons that are taught through such nemesis? I suggest that they should have a rethink about the ban, and probably, find a better way around it. Maybe, like having a body or agency that will watch the movies and ensure that every expectation is met, that is if the agency will not compromise.

“Meanwhile, we, at Nollywood, over reach ourselves sometimes. We really need to do better, especially in the way we market our culture and traditions. Sometimes, it is not really as we make it to look. So, I think we need to strike a balance.”

For Nelson Bright the ban on smoking in movies represents a positive step in the fight against human trafficking and illegal organ harvesting.

“I have consistently maintained that ritual killings for monetary gain are baseless. No human body part inherently generates wealth unless it is sold; for instance, a basic corneal transplant costs between $5,000 and $10,000, while a lung transplant can range from $800,000 to $1 million.

“As long as kidneys remain in high demand, people will continue to go missing. This explains why many errand killers for ritualists are tasked with returning the organs within specific time frames or under certain conditions,” he said.

He, however, noted that the ban has its disadvantages. According to him, it encroaches on personal liberty and choice. “Are Nigerians not already constrained and restricted enough?” he queried.

He also noted that the move would stifle artistic expression just as Nollywood is gaining international recognition, and at the same time, drive talented filmmakers away from Nigerian cinema. This is because the major film distribution networks do not impose such stringent restrictions.

“Consequently, the government may lose profits, and moviegoers may miss out on authentic storytelling,” he added.

Also the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Don Sylvester Records, and one of the patrons of the Association of Movie Producers and Nollywood in Lagos, Don Sylvester Nweke, said the ban was not necessary.

He said: “In Nigeria, we know that smoking is banned in public places. We also know that any kind of ritual is banned, but I don’t think it is necessary to ban it in Nollywood because everything in life has good and bad sides.

“There is a manifest function of Nollywood as well as latent function. We can’t because of the latent function and bad things going on in society decide to ban smoking and rituals in film. This is the culture but the thing is that they should ensure films are rated just like in America.

“I think in every film that contains smoking or ritual acts, we should make it end in a very bad way so that it will discourage the youth from indulging in it. Banning it cannot help; rather it will make the film production dull.

“I mean censoring that aspect of what is happening in our society will make the film industry dull because actually they are happening in our society.

“They should ensure that the concluding part of such a movie shows where the smokers and ritualists are arrested and punished for their acts. That will serve as a deterrent because whether you like it or not, such acts are happening and the youths are watching it live on the street and hearing from their friends.

“So, if you don’t educate the young ones through the movie, they will see it in the street and do it because they don’t know its end and they will get into trouble.

“Such films educate them on the dangers of such practices. People smoke on the street and children see them. People do rituals and they are caught on the street and given jungle justice.

“So, it makes no difference banning such things in films. If you stop it in Nigerian films, what about the foreign films? Do you think Nigerians don’t watch foreign films? Youtube is also there; are they going to also stop smoking and ritual acts there? Youtube is accessible to everybody and Nigerians watch it.”

The former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Maxi Okwu also raised concern about the infringement of such action on the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

He explained that the government might seem to have a good point in trying to enforce the ban, but insisted that the government should know that the constitution guarantees every Nigerian the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“So, it is a freedom that must be protected as long as you don’t derogate other people’s rights. So, if you want to practise voodoo in a film or some magic in a movie, which is just a make-belief, I don’t know.

“However, you could say it can set a bad example; you can say that, but my issue is how much does it impinge on the fundamental freedom of thought, conscience and other things in the constitution.

“It may not fly against that fundamental right unless they amend the constitution. You cannot make a law that derogates from the fundamental rights,” he added.

…Source: Daily Post

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