UVA Reaction to the IGP Order on the Use of Police Uniform in Movies and Skits

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

Thank you for honoring our invitation. On behalf of Unchained Vibes Africa (UVA) and our partners, I welcome you to this press conference.

We’re addressing a recent order by the Nigeria Police Force threatening artists using police uniform in movies and skits or portraying the Police in “bad light”.

On July 31, 2022, the Nigeria Police Force released a press statement purportedly expressing concern over alleged incessant and unauthorised possession and use of Police uniforms and accoutrements by some individuals, movies and skit makers, as well as the illegal sale of Police materials and accoutrements by traders in shops, open stores not approved nor recognized by Police authority.

According to the press release, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has frowned at the “demeaning” manner in which movie makers and skit makers portray the Police institution in their movies and skits, using the police uniform without recourse to the provision of Section 251 of the Criminal Code law, and Section 133 of the Penal Code Law which criminalise such unauthorised use with accompanying necessary sanctions.

The statement further reads, “The IGP therefore charged all commands and formations, the IGP Monitoring Unit, Provost marshals and X-Squad, to arrest and immediately prosecute, in accordance with the law, all persons or group of persons engaging in the illegal sales of police uniforms and accoutrements within their jurisdictions, while film or skit makers who portray the Nigeria Police Force officers in bad light, without applying for, and being duly issued a permit letter for such portrayals, to desist with immediate effect or face the full wrath of the law” .

UVA is concerned that the Police authorities appear to be lumping illegal activities of criminals together with issues of artistic freedom. For clarity, we’re not addressing the illegal use of the Police uniform to commit actual crimes like impersonation, fraud, armed robbery and other criminal acts. These are serious crimes that have no connection with movie and skit makers’ artistic works.

The statement by the Police suggests that the Police institution is more concerned about the issue of its portrayal in movies than the security and lives of two Nollywood actors Cynthia Okereke and Clemson Cornell, who were reportedly kidnapped in Enugu in the same a few days before the Police press statement.

In view of this, we believe that the attempt to lump together these distinct issues which have clear irreconcilable differences, appears like a deliberate action and one of those government tactics aimed at silencing conscious artists using the power of film, comedy and other artistic expressions to tell stories about the realities in their society, including the activities of the Police. It is also a threat to freedom of expression of artists who create content purely for public entertainment.

The Police, in its July 31 press release, cited Section 251 of the Criminal Code and Section 133 of the Penal Code to give legitimacy to their proposed actions without taking cognizance of Section 110 of the Criminal Code which has the substance of the issue with a clause that protects the rights of artists and entertainers by exempting them from criminal liability when the purpose of using the uniform is for their production and performance. The clause in Section 110 states that, “Provided that this section of this Code shall not apply to the wearing of any uniform or dress in the course of a stage play or in any bonafide public entertainment”.

UVA will be responding to this development in collaboration with the Network for Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) and other partners. The organization will embark on a campaign to dissect the issues, with a view to eliminating the confusion and sensitizing the public on the rights of artists to express themselves and create legitimate content. It will engage and sensitize the Police on the rights of artists and the best approach to engaging the artistic community in the interest of national security. UVA will bring together members of the artistic community for proper engagement with the police on the need for sensitivity to serious national security issues in their productions and performances.

Signed
Ayodele Ganiu
Executive Producer

About the organization
Unchained Vibes Africa is a cultural organization and social enterprise committed to developing arts and culture projects geared towards social causes. Our mission is to leverage the power of the arts to promote civic education, human rights, cultural diversity and the spirit of solidarity in Africa.