All films, local or imported have to be censored and classified before they are sold, hired or publicly exhibited in Nigeria. The present state of film censorship in the country, seem not to be sufficient to maintain a perfect moral tone for society. CHINYERE OKOYE writes on the shared responsibility among the various stakeholders on censorship
Film censorship entails examining the contents of a film or video work. This helps to determine the age group or the target audience of the film, which may carry possible or inherent psychological, sociological and moral impact, among other factors on viewers. Various cases have risen in the past and present on what should be the primary content of the movies. Most of the movies produced in Nigeria only go a long way to deposit in young minds the act of wooing a lady, sexual appeals, violent attacks and most times the use of vulgar languages which most children have stored up in their memories for future use.
It is quite difficult for movie producers in Nigeria to have children as their target audience and produce a film quite suitable for their viewing pleasure. Be that as it may, film censorship that was established in Nigeria since 2001 seems to be failing. Recent attempt to forcefully position the good image of films only succeeds in demonising filmmakers making them appear as anti-elements. Films are produced as a private enterprise and censorship is necessary only at the end of the process, and not at the beginning.
The main area of conflict and disagreement between the censorship board and film makers is the want of the former to censor scripts, appoint consultants for film project, approve shooting schedule, issue permits for the use of locations, issue guidelines on how location activities are conducted, check the conduct of actors on location, peg the time period shots can be called and when it must be struck. This makes censorship a muddled activity and certainly not viable option to respond to these challenges as other agencies should be saddled with these other burden.
In Nigeria, film censorship is carried out through all six zonal offices as well as the headquarters in Abuja. The National Film and Video Censor Board (NFVCB) Act provides that the Federation be divided into operational zones for the purpose of censorship. Each operational zone has a censorship committee made up of at least a representative from each of the states covered by the zone and such other number of persons as may be appointed by NFVCB.
A film and video work would be regarded and registered as a Nigerian film or video work if the producer of the work was throughout the time during which the film or video work was being made, either a Nigerian or a company registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Decree 1990. However, the new paradigm of production and distribution which the movies have come to represent has not been fully exploited either by the government, religious organisations or private bodies to attract a requisite socio-cultural investment.
In 2005, NFVCB censored almost 2000 titles, and in 2004, it decreased to about 1800 films. An account for the drop revealed that the Nigerian film censor board became much strict in terms of how films are scrutinised and counted. But this does not give offending producers sleepless nights as they continue to churn out new uncensored films in the market. The NFVCB Act provides that; a notice of films imported shall be given to the Censors Board; application for exemption from censorship and approval for the exhibition of such a film or video work shall be made to the Censors Board and exclusively the Board may decides to verify the Information contained in the application or may even arrange the viewing of such a film or video work.
With the submission of a duly completed application that meets all of the Board’s requirements, the censorship can be completed in no later than 14 days. Unless there are major issues arising from the application and the movie submitted, you will be notified of the Censors Board’s decision within three full working days after the screening date. You will be notified of the Board’s decision in writing, in the form of a classification certificate, as soon as the decision is made. The decision takes effect from the date you receive notification. When the application is closed the decision will appear on the NFVCB public database. The applicant’s name will appear on that record.
Director-General of the NFVCB, Mr. Emeka Mba reinstated to resolve the objectives of film censorship to regulate the distribution and marketing of Nigerian movies. At the inception, while many affected stakeholders, especially, movie marketers/producers welcome the initiative; a few others who were opposed to its implementation saw the framework as a way of flushing them out of business.
As from the commencement of the NFVCB Act No.85 of 1993 no person is allowed to exhibit, distribute or supply an unexempted film or video recording without a Censorship Certificate issued by the Censors Board. That means all feature films and video works produced in Nigeria or imported, must first be submitted to the Censors Board for registration, censorship and classification before exhibition, distribution or supply to members of the public.
The big question is, how would the audience know that a film is censored while the content of the film is weak and unrated with scenes that Nollywood has outgrown? With joint regulatory task force which includes the Copyright Commission to help check video piracy under the NFVCB Act, all distributors and importers of video films are expected to show evidence of copyrights assignment prior to censorship classification. The same applies to the registration and license of video clubs operators.
The law requires the Censors Board, apart from censoring films and video works, to license a person to exhibit films and video works. License premises for the purposes of exhibiting films and video works; and regulate and prescribe safety precautions to be observed in licensed premises, thereafter control cinematographic exhibitions and other functions as are necessary for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it by Decree No.85 of 1993. Yet the story is still the other way round.
In censors, Certificate of Censorship on all films and video works censored by its Committee and in the certificate the classification of the film or video is indicated. All videos sold outside Nigeria are considered to be uncensored when brought into the country. The Board works closely with the Customs, and Immigration Services to check that travelers who bring in uncensored and obscene videos at the nation’s airports and borders. However, the Board always adopts a very rational approach to persons who bring in VCDs, and DVDs bought outside Nigeria for personal consumption. Some of the VCD/DVDs brought in may be from the exempted categories which do not require classification. All videos brought into Nigeria should be declared and submitted to the board for classification.
Every well-developed and viable film industry across the world has put one form of development agency or the other in place, to stimulate its growth and development towards a direction it so desires. At this point, development as a people in an information age in which film is a serious socio-cultural development tool; the state must not kill film through obnoxious guidelines and tactless propaganda.