Is Lai Mohammed really interested in the creative industry or are we just playing here?

“This is totally unacceptable! This Administration is determined to fight this scourge, and the good news is that we have the backing of Mr. President!” Minister Lai Mohammed scowled as he “unveiled” this administration’s plans to tackle piracy in the entertainment industry. 

An exasperated Mohammed as he spoke about how much of “monstrous disincentive” piracy has been to the entertainment industry before stakeholders of the Nigerian movie industry at an event set up for this discourse at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Media Centre in Lagos.

Mr Mohammed has been on about the Federal Government’s interest in the creative sector for a little over a while now.

“The creative industry contributed 84.1 billion pounds Sterling to the British economy in 2014. It also contributed $698 billion to the US Economy, according to a 2015 report. So, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind; hence, we are ready to explore and exploit the new oil” he declared at a Creative Industry Financing Conference which held in Lagos barely two weeks ago. That’s months after he bitterly complained about the last edition of Big Brother Naija being hosted in South Africa and only five days after he tried to mend his relations with a large creative demographic after announcing a Code that will purportedly ban all music videos by Nigerian artistes shot outside Nigeria.

To the last point, Lai Mohammed said all he said he “didn’t say that henceforth, all music videos and films will be produced in Nigeria, or that the production of music videos or films outside Nigeria will be banned… all I said was that if a programme is designated as a Nigerian (local) content programme, we will amend the Code to ensure that it is produced in Nigeria.”

Potato. Potato as far as you are concerned right? We kind of thought the same thing too. But it’s Mr Lai Mohammed and even though the Culture ministry he’s charged with only contributed a little over 600,000 Naira to the economy last year, he’s somehow still permitted to say things like this and designate media houses as #FakeNews because he’s the Lai in charge of Information. That’s Mr Mohammed. That’s our Minister of Information and Culture.

And his new obsession with the creative (arts and entertainment industry) necessarily must be taken with at least a little bit of salt especially when he does things like go to a roundtable of Nollywood stakeholders to unveil this administration’s plans to tackle piracy in the entertainment industry he does not quite unveil it. Instead he goes on about how he knows that

He mentioned the fact that the entire arts and the entertainment industry has become plagued the monstrous disincentive called piracy and that it has almost killed the industry while citing the exact. He also mentioned that the Federal Government would establish a national endowment fun for the art sector while acknowledging that “films, books and paintings were blatantly hawked in the open.”

He said there had been instances whereby some films and books were even sold a few days before the official release of the original work.

“I am told that a recent study revealed that there are eight pirated works to two original works out of every ten works you find in the market” he said.

“This is totally unacceptable! This Administration is determined to fight this scourge, and the good news is that we have the backing of Mr. President!”

“In fact, one of Mr. President’s early charges to security agencies was for them to tackle piracy so that practitioners can be able to recoup their investments; and that way contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.”

“We shall work with the necessary agencies of government to activate that Presidential directive.’’

It is at this point you’d imagine that he finally pulled the black cloth off some dummy version of the FG’s step by step plan to fight piracy in the entertainment industry. But no, all he did was say that his ministry would explore the possibility of moving the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) back to his ministry where it rightly belongs.

At a Federal Executive Council meeting in 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo had ordered the transfer of the responsibility for the supervision of Nigerian Copyright Commission from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Federal Ministry of Justice. This was supposedly done in order to “properly align the mandate of the Commission with the overall administration of justice in Nigeria as well as ensure conformity with international best practices in the copyright system.”

“We will address this complaint and explore the possibility of moving the NCC back to where it rightly belongs.’

He then went on to lament the fact that Nigeria,  “in spite of the position we occupy as the giant of Africa in the area of entertainment, Nigeria is yet to ratify the World Intellectual Property (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which it signed in 1996 and the more recent Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, which it also signed in 2012.’’

“We will see how to quickly correct that. But while we are at that, we shall work with the relevant agencies and Ministry to see how we can tackle piracy.’’

He then went on to make suggestions on how piracy can be made an economic crime while we review and strengthen existing copyright laws as well as impose stiffer punishments for copyright infringements.

“Perhaps a longer jail term with no option of fine and a speedy trial of suspects as we have in other countries will help in this fight.”

“I think also that the entertainment industry is ripe enough to have a dedicated National Task Force on Piracy.”

“We shall propose that and see how it all works out for the good of our cultural industries and the nation.”

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