Nigeria: Why Nigeria Is Commercialising the Film Corporation - Lai Mohammed

22 September 2020

The Nigerian government has said it is planning to reform the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) through commercialisation so it can address its teething challenges and reposition it for improved performance.

The minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, said this on Monday while inaugurating the steering committee on the commercialisation of the NFC.

Mr Mohammed said the commission, which is expected to regulate and organise professional practice in the film industry, is facing numerous challenges, which include its inability to engage in commercial film production and its limited operational functions such as leveraging on the private sector-led growth of the industry.

Another challenge of the agency is its civil service structure that "comes with bureaucratic limitations, budgetary constraints and operational inefficiency."

He said in order to address these challenges and reposition the NFC for improved performance, the federal government had engaged the services of a business development consultant to conduct due diligence on the corporation and the sector and recommend a strategy that is suitable for its reform and commercialisation.

He noted that the country's film industry has the potential to make Nigeria the entertainment capital of Africa.

The Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, is the second-most prolific film industry in the world after India's Bollywood, producing at least 2,500 movies in a year, according to research group PwC.

However, the industry is fraught with many challenges including poor financing and infrastructure, piracy, copyright infringement, and marketing problems.

For this, Mr Mohammed decried the lack of critical infrastructure to drive the film industry in Nigeria, saying for example, that Nigeria has only 142 cinema houses compared to South Africa with 782 cinemas; the United States, 40,393; India, 11,209; and China with 50,976 cinemas.

But the industry has, in recent years, seen a fast-paced growth.

A PwC's five-year (2018-2023) forecast projects the industry to employ more than one million people and to generate more than $7 billion for the national economy.

Nigerian cinema, the forecast says, is on the rebound with new theatres opening and production quality increasing, as well as box office revenue, increasing steadily over the forecast period.

But the ravaging pandemic seems to be casting doubts on its growth after all cinemas were forced to shut down to stave off the spread of COVID-19.

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While Nigeria has embarked on gradual easing of lockdown since the second quarter of this year, showbiz activities are yet to fully peak as some states are yet to open cinemas.

The minister said the government was ready to reposition the NFC for effective service delivery in this trying time.

"What we are doing today is to simply reposition the NFC in a manner that will enable it to play the role statutorily assigned to it," he said.

Mr Mohammed added that the film industry drives entertainment that has brought fame to the country, hence the need to reposition the sector and provide the necessary enablement for the industry to thrive.

He then called on state governments to invest in the provision of infrastructure for the entertainment industry, in view of its huge potential to generate employment and contribute to the economy.

"It is important to appeal, especially to our state governments, to invest in infrastructure in the industry. I don't think it will be too much for the state governments to ensure they build at least one cinema house in each local government area of their state. That will give us additional 774 cinema houses," he said.

In his remarks, the director-general of the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE), Alex Okoh, clarified that the reform of the NFC is not privatisation but commercialisation, with no transfer of ownership and sale of share, so as to ensure that the resident values of the corporation are enhanced.

Members of the committee include the minister as chairman; permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Isu-Gekpe; director-general, BPE, Alex Okoh; managing director, NFC, Chidia Maduekwe, and director, Industries and Communications, BPE, Abdullahi Dikko, as secretary.

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