After six years ofÂ standing trialÂ following a legal action instituted against her by the National Films and Video Censors Board for illegally exhibitingÂ her films without obtaining a censorship certificate issued by the regulatory body, Apostle Helen Ukpabio has been left off the hook.
The multi-talented movie producer, writer and minister of God celebrated her victory at the celebrity hangout, Oâ€™jez Entertainment, in Surulere, within the week. Ukpabio, who broke down while narrating her touchy story, expressed satisfaction with the way the case ended in her favour.
SheÂ described the judgement as a â€œvictory to Nollywoodâ€, adding that while the trial lasted, her business, including her personality andÂ ministry suffered a terrible setback. The case has lingered for the past sixÂ years in an intensive legal gymnastics.
Ukpabio was taken to court on a one-count charge of exhibitingÂ some of her films without obtaining a censorship certificate issued by the censors board for such exhibition, thereby committing anÂ offence punishable under section(34)2 of the Censors Board Act No 85 of 1993, contrary to section 34 of the same Act. The films, according to her include, â€œCoven 1â€, â€œThe End of the Wickedâ€ and â€œChild Rescue.â€
Mr. M. Owumi of the Magisterial Court ofÂ Lagos State, in his five-page judgement delivered onÂ March 24, 2010, discharged and acquitted the defendant, followingÂ the discrediting of the evidence of the prosecution witness,Â making it difficult for him to â€œsafely convict or call on the defendant to enter into her defence.â€
A mother of three and General Overseer of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries based in Calabar, Cross River State, Ukpabio has had it rough with the censors board. Few years back, she lost a legal battle with the board over the claims that her film entitled â€œRapture 1&2″ hadÂ been deemed ineligible for release because it was a direct attack on a particular religious sect; it was alleged that she infused the film with inflammatory anti-Catholic images.
According to the film maker, â€œI didnâ€™t find it easy at all. I could have been jailed as a church leader and a film maker. Several of my films were turned down by the board. I did a film called â€œChild Refugeâ€, which the censors board refused to approve. They saidÂ because of the fact that I took the board to court, my films would no longer be approved by the board.Â Before now, I used to produce three movies per year. But since the legal battle against me started, I have not been able to produce a single film in the past two years.
Ukpabioâ€™s lawyer, Festus Keyamo said, the celebrated film maker was discharged and acquitted unblemished,â€adding â€œitâ€™s not easy to stand a criminal trial.â€
Movie producersÂ unveil ANCOP
Worried by the level of mediocrity and unprofessional practices that trail film making in Nigeria, especially the English language genre, a group of movie producers under the aegis ofÂ Association of Nollywood Core Producers(ANCOP) has pledged to raise the bar in the area of film production in the country.
The movie producers expressed dissatisfaction withÂ the way and mannerÂ everyone dabbles into film production without paying attention to professional ethics.
At the unveiling ceremony of the new association, which held at the Rita Lori Hotel, Surulere,Â last Wednesday, president of the association, Mr. Alex Eyengho,Â said ANCOP, which many perceive to be a parallel association to Association of Movie Producers, (AMP) is aimed at entrenching sound ethical practices amongst its members.
According to him, the creation of ANCOP remains a unanimous decision of Nollywood content owners, who he said, believe in adopting policies that would help to stimulate and deepen the development of film making in Nigeria and Africa at large.
ANCOP, said Eyengho,Â who was the former Secretary General of AMP, is desirous of adding value as well as deepening the level of professionalism in Nollywood. â€œThe time has come for producers to take their rightful place in the industry as entrepreneurs with a strong voice. You will agree with me that if the head is sick, other parts of the body cannot know peace. Our approach in tackling issues shall be simple but holistic,â€ he stressed.