On Saturday 2nd March at the State House in Marina, Lagos, President Goodluck Jonathan hosted Nollywood stars at a dinner to celebrate Nollywood at 20. The dinner was organised to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Nigerian home-video; ‘Living in Bondage,’ which was released in September 1992. During the occasion, he announced a whooping sum of N3 billion grants. ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM writes on recent developments
President Jonathan according to Reubenabati.com.ng, said he was proud of Nollywood. “Whenever I travel abroad, many of my colleagues, Presidents of other countries, ask me about Nollywood. Nollywood is our shining light and Africans are very proud of Nollywood, which is why we are here today to celebrate the success story of this national, continental and global brand.”
On that occasion, he announced a N3billion grants geared towards supporting the nation’s foremost movie industry, Nollywood. But ever since the announcement, a sharp division has risen among the members of the umbrella body of actors and actresses, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), with key players having different stance on how the money should be accessed.
All state chairmen of the guild who reportedly met in Abuja on July 18 on the modalities to adopt in disbursing the grants were in disarray when the news of shoddy deals began to surface.
The National Chairman and Secretary of the guild, Agility Onwurah and Samuel Onibiyo respectively, in separate interviews accused some of the movie practitioners of diversion of funds from the grants.
Reports also had it that Mr Onwurah accused some known movie producers of making moves to divert the grant for their personal use without carrying the upcoming actors along.
He accused some of the guild members of making surreptitious move to have the money alone to themselves, which portends great danger for the entire industry especially those who are coming up.
“While practitioners suffer from lack of funds and humiliation in the quest to produce films, some people are busy working to ensure that the guild remain static,” he alleged.
He said that the chairmen had initially resolved that the grant should be used for production and distribution of movies but as at now reverse seems to be the case.
It was also gathered that the national chairman had paid a visit to the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and briefed them on the moves by some reputable producers to divert the grants for their personal use. He said that the board had assured of its timely intervention in the crisis, adding that the crisis would soon be resolved.
Mr Onibiyo, in his reaction, berated the conduct of those he described as “star actors” whom he alleged wanted to use the fund for their schools.
He said the demand, if granted, would send the industry to the backstage, adding that those practitioners, who were already established, should not be allowed to take over the grants.
A prominent actress fingered in the controversy, Stephanie Okereke, debunked the allegation, describing it as baseless and unfounded.
She said that the grant was broken into three stages; production, distribution and training.
She directed the leadership of the guild to the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the modalities earlier agreed on the grant. She said that some people had written to the minister stating that they no longer needed the money while some were working to ensure that the grant reached the intended practitioners.
She called on practitioners not to tear the industry apart, while threatening to sue anyone who makes unsubstantiated allegations against her.
According to Producer and director, Osaretin Ogbemudia, he stated that when there is money to be distributed for the benefit of all in the industry, that’s when you see rancour and confusion.
He called on all parties to come together to fashion a way out in resolving the issues once and for all.
But Simplefem, a Lagos based producer and director who have worked with all the notable faces in Nollywood in his reaction emphasised that they are resolving the issue and when the arrangement is completed, he will explain more. “We are working on it. Don’t worry brother, I will keep you posted.”
When the question was thrown to Nollywood’s actress and activist, Dorothy Njamanze, she simply stated that “My brother, na so we see am o. We are all in dilemma about the situation of things as it progresses.”
So will the Actors Guild of Nigeria resolve this issue once and for all? Or would they continue to bask in the euphoria of confusion? Time will surely tell.