On Saturday, March 26, 2022, members of the artistic community and some civil society actors in Nigeria reconvened at the Freedom Park in Lagos for the fourth edition of Freedom Vibes Series, tagged Freedom Vibes 4.0. Stakeholders were united in amplifying #NoBeNolly, the hashtag arising from the event’s resolution against the plan by Nigerian authorities to enforce a new censorship policy that threatens filmmakers’ artistic freedom in telling stories inspired by happenings and realities in Nigeria.

With the theme Not Nolly: Asserting Filmmakers’ Artistic Freedom, the artistic community were able to ramp up public support for Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry, by advocating for reforms that would accord the guilds and associations the responsibility of professionally playing gatekeeping role in their industry when necessary, as opposed to the politically motivated regulation by censors boards whose statutory responsibilities should be limited to film classification in line with international best practices.

The theme of the event was necessitated by calls for censorship by the Nigerian Police, the House of Representatives, and directives from the Minister of Information and Culture. In recent times, there have been rising cases of ritual killings in Nigeria involving young people. On January 29, 2022, a girl was reportedly murdered for money ritual by her teenage boyfriend and three others in Abeokuta, Ogun State. While parading the criminals, the State’s Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, made some comments about Nollywood movies, alleging that some criminals had claimed they learnt the acts from movie scenes. Subsequently, the House of Representatives, while passing a resolution declaring a national emergency on ritual killings, blamed Nollywood movies. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reportedly said that most of the recent ritual killings for money were influenced by some Nollywood films. He then directed the National Film and Video Censorship Board (NFVCB) to enforce a policy that would restrict filmmakers from releasing movies with money ritual content.

There were audiovisual presentations by the Executive Producer, Unchained Vibes Africa, Ayodele Ganiu and the Research & Advocacy Manager, Sola Alamutu (the Green Queen) which provided information about the arguments driving the calls for censorship of Nollywood movies by the Police, House of Representatives, Minister of Information and Culture, and a section of the civil society. The result of a research conducted by Unchained Vibes which sampled public opinion about the allegations was presented.  Contrary to allegations that Nollywood influences young people to become involved in ritual killings, the research revealed that majority of young people understand the messages and lessons in Nollywood movies and do not believe that movies with money ritual content are responsible for the rise in ritual killings in Nigeria. Most of the respondents, majority of whom are young people, attributed the rise in ritual killings to bad parenting, bad governance and greed.

A drama titled “Not Nolly” was performed by the Crown Troupe of Africa, directed by Segun Adefila, to showcase the event’s theme and usher in the panel discussions. The panel featured veteran actors Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, OON, Norbert Young, Francis Onwochei and Segun Adefila. The National President of the Directors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN) Victor Okhai and human rights lawyer Kola Alapinni participated virtually as panelists via Zoom.

Ajai-Lycett articulated the many contributions of Nollywood and the entertainment industry to Nigeria’s development. She said the government interferences were uncalled for but advised the practitioners to take the government actions as a compliment. The veteran actor implored practioners to take ownership of the gatekeeping role and sanitization of their industry which should not be left in the hands of government.

Nobert Young vehemently dismissed the allegations against the movie industry and described the calls for censorship as nonsense. Citing messages from the music of the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the veteran actor likened the role of an actor as that of a teacher who helps shape the conduct of people in the society. He also gave a historical context referencing the old Greek society and advised politicians to look elsewhere for who to blame for their failures.

Segun Adefila enjoined practitioners to ignore the calls for censorship and take it that the politicians had begun to recognize the power of the industry. He encouraged stakeholders to continue to exercise their artistic freedom positively for nation building and be mindful of the limitations of their freedom of expression to ensure they’re not using it in violation of others’ freedom.

Victor Okhai encouraged artists to get involved in politics in order to influence policies that impact artistic freedom while Kola Alapinni, a lawyer with expertise in international human rights law, provided legal analysis on freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, its applicability to filmmakers and how artists are gradually losing their artistic freedom to religion.

There were stakeholders inputs from the National and Financial secretaries of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) Abubakar S. Yakubu and Emeka Duru; National President of the Association of Movie Practitioners (AMPRAC) Ifeanyi Azodo; National President of Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria (SWGN) Yinka Ogun; National Secretary of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) Baba Agba; directors of the Abuja International Film Festival, Mr Fidelis and Mrs Temitope Duker; representative of the National President of Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria (CDGN) Sele O. Sele; representative of the National President of Association of Nigeria Movie Directors (ANMD) Kenneth Ibeanusi; representative of the National President of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) veteran actor Femi Durojaiye and other key stakeholders. 

Conversations, performances and artistic showcases revolved around the theme while the event afforded movie practitioners and stakeholders the opportunity to sensitize the general public, mobilize support for Nollywood and prepare for engagement with government officials on these issues in a summit on censorship to be organized by Unchained Vibes Africa at the end of April 2022.

Attendees were held spellbound by AREA, a drama piece by the Crown Troupe of Africa, directed by Segun Adefila. The drama chronicled Nigeria’s socio-political challenges, the paradox of Nigeria’s oil and natural resources from 1960 to date. Attendees also experienced the beauty of conscious music which was at display with B-Meri Aboki, the Lagos born award-winning Hausa pop artist and Muyen, the Nigerian singer currently on international collaboration with Chicago based Urbanized Music. DJ Valentino was in high spirit highlighting the issues and complementing presentations with freedom tunes carefully curated for the event’s theme.

The Artist of the Month Spotlight celebrated actor Segun Adefila in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the advocacy for good governance in Nigeria. Goodwill messages were sent by the Co-founder Chicago Hip Hop Initiative Amina Norman-Hawkins and German percussionist Anselm Ramacher, Unchained Vibes partners from USA and Germany respectively. The citation was read by DJ Bola Browne while the award was presented by Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, OON, on behalf of Unchained Vibes Africa.

Latest from the Blog