By UJU MBANUSI
Last week, the Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, petitioned Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) over the N50 million largesse donated by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State to support the Nigerian movie industry. The association alleged massive fraud in the disbursement of the fund and therefore, asked the agencies to invite the National President of the Association of Movie Producers, AMP, Zik Zulu Okafor, the National President of the Directors Guild of Nigeria, DGN, Andy Amenechi; the Secretary General of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Yakubu Abubakar and actress Stephanie Okereke- Linus Idahosa for questioning in respect of obtaining the fund and disbursing it without the consent of the industry’s stakeholders. In this interview, AMP president, Zik Zulu Okafor and AGN Secretary General, Abubakar Yakubu react to the petition.
What’s your reaction concerning the petition forwarded to EFFC and SFU, by the leadership of ANCOP?
Our problem with Alex Eyengho started in 2009, when he was the Secretary-General of the Association of Movie Producers(AMP). During that year, he vied for the position of Vice-President of the association which he lost at the election. As a result, he renounced his membership of the association as he formed a parallel association known as Association of Core Nollywood Producers (ANCOP) with some of our members. A move that was observed by the association as gross misconduct. However, we invited him a couple of times to address his grievances but he never paid attention to us.
Base on this development, all the stakeholders in the industry met, and set up a committee to look into the matter. At the end of the investigation, he was expelled from the association; and a disclaimer was published in one of the national newspapers.
Nollywood is made up of ten major guilds including three regional guilds. The regional guilds are the Motion Pictures Practitioner Association of Nigeria,MOPPAN, which is based in Kano, United Movie Producers Association of Nigeria UMPAN which is based in the eastern part of the country, and the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners,ANTP, which is the umbrella body for the South-West practitioners.
These ten guilds collectively formed the Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations. ANCOP was not recognized as it was not part of Nollywood. We also set up the MOPICON guild otherwise known as the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria. This guild signed the paper for MOPICON. It is still between the Judiciary and National Assembly to set up the Nollywood Council.
Meanwhile, Alex Eyengho and his members who are not more than six people were completely excommunicated from Nollywood. They have continued to fire petitions against the industry for everything they were not involved in. T
here is no other association in Nigeria today where this ugly trend is being tolerated. This is happening because we are yet to form the Nollywood council.
On what informed the allegation contained in the petition?
A few months ago, precisely in April, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim invited Nollywood practitioners for a briefing on the centenary celebration. Again, Alex Eyengho petitioned the industry, but despite his actions, we secured the funds.
Also, in the same month, the Akwa-Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio gave the N50 million to Nollywood to organise a ‘Reward for Excellence’ Award which will hold later in the year. We reasoned that there is need for continuous training on capacity building as well as making films that will help to boost our income so as to enable us sustain continuity in respect of the awards.
I communicated all these ideas in writing to the guilds. Consequently, we have series of awards lined up till 2014. In order not to mismanage the funds, we have resolved to invite all the Organising Committees of the various Awards about a month or two to the hosting of the event. This is to mobilise them with the sum of N1 million each as they will be made to sign to this effect.
We have also disbursed the sum of N1 million to the members of the planing committee of the African Audio Visual Awards. So, there is no room for fraud here. We are following due process in every project we want to embark upon. We have disbursed the sum of N4 million for the capacity building programme. Receipts are being prepared for the disbursement of the agreed sum of N1 million to the organising committees of the four different Awards that will be coming up later this year and early 2014. Right now, receipts is being prepared for the disbursement of the sum of N1million to the planing committee of the Yoruba Movie Academy Awards. We have the Africa Movie Academy Award,AMAA, the African International Film Festival, AFRIFF and many others.
Given the fact that Alex and his members were not involved in this project,they quickly forwarded a petition to EFCC and SFU, alleging gross mismanagement of the funds. His allegations are absolutely baseless. We are men of integrity. Every Kobo disbursed will be accounted for. It is a privilege from the Akwa- Ibom State government and we would not abuse it.
Alex Eyengho’s grievances?
He has been invited by the association on several occasions in order his grievances. But he has frequently ignored us. Till date, Alex has not been able to articulate a concrete allegation against AMP. But as the president and leader of the association, I see it as my duty to bring everybody under one umbrella. I am disappointed with Alex but I am not angry with him. Deep down in his heart, he knows that we cannot swindle Nollywood.
ANCOP leadership didn’t get its facts right – AGN Sec-Gen
No money was misappropriated here. All the relevant guilds heads were contacted and briefed accordingly, and ANCOP leadership did not get its facts right. The matter is before the Police and I wouldn’t want to talk too much.
Let the Police investigate the matter and whoever that is found wanting, let him face the music. You cannot because you are expelled from an association and decide to constitute a problem to the industry. What has ANCOP members contributed to the growth of Nollywood? How many films have they made in recent times?