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DStv Ripping-off Filmmakers, Kick Them out Now, Ugbomah Tells FG

 Chief Eddie Ugbomah, former Chairman, Nigerian Film Corporation
Chief Eddie Ugbomah, former Chairman, Nigerian Film Corporation
After devoting five decades in show-business Chief Eddie Ugbomah has indeed come a long way. He is an all-rounder who has made his marks as promoter extraordinaire, an outstanding filmmaker and the only Nigerian living to have made the highest number of celluloid films.

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Till date he has made over 20 films, with at least 13 on 16/35 mm format (celluloid). They include The Rise and Fall of Dr. Oyenusi, Omiran, The Death of a Black President, Oil Doom, The Mask, Apalara, Vengeance of the Cult, Bolus 80, Tori Ade and The Boy is good.

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Ugbomah carved a niche for himself early enough in London, after equipping himself with what is required for a long lasting career in show business.

He was at Tottenham Technical College, London, City of London University, London Film College, Television School, Holborn, School of Journalism and Mount View Arts College and High-gate, London. Ugbomah established the first Afro-Caribbean Drama group, an agency which he used for casting Africans, Asians and Afro-Americans on television and screen movies.

By 1962, he emerged the only black model in England. On his return to Nigeria, Ugbomah went into concert management with Millie Small, Chubby Checker, Danny Williams and Soul Messengers.
A cinematographer by training, Ugbomah will be 73 in December and he is planning to mark 50 years in entertainment with an elaborate celebration in 2015.

The programme includes a book launch, formal presentation of Edifosa Entertainment Organisation and a hall of fame that will chronicle activities of those who have made major contribution to entertainment in Nigeria.

Already, the filmmaker has spent thousands producing art works of icons of entertainment in Nigeria. They include, the late filmmaker, Hubert Ogunde, Ade Love, chairman Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji, former chairman Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) Mr. Obafemi Lasode, the Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and so many others.

He believes that he should be celebrated alive and not when he is dead based on his achievement in the industry.

“I am 73 this December but I am saying that I want to celebrate my 50 years in entertainment and I want to be celebrated alive, not when I die or have heart attack or liver and they said this is the money to operate on him. No, I am strong, nothing is paining me. I want to be celebrated, I want to launch a hall of fame, history centre where people can learn about Nigerian filmmakers because the other day somebody was writing a story about Nigerian filmmakers and he just mentioned Ogunde, Ade Love and Baba Sala and I laughed at him.

“This is a so called professor who was writing about film and look how low he has gone, how tribalistic he went, I have to call him and said what happened to Eddie Ugbomah, the father of all, because before Ogunde came in I have made eight films and they saw that film was paying that was why they dropped their stages and came to cinema”, he said.

Ugbomah is calling on the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, that of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and that of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson to key into the programme, stressing that support from these governors, whom he identified as personal friends will make his day.

Ugbomah who spoke in Ilogbo resident in Badagry, touched on a lot of things, including plans by a group of Nigerians to build a film village in Kuje, Abuja at a cost of N18 billion. In his words, there are 500,000 hectares of land in Kuje but that the group building the film village is only interested in 100,000 hectares of land.

“It will consist of 12 sound stages so that 12 people can shoot films at the same time. It will have cinema and hotels. So that you can just come down from the hotels and go to the beach of that river in Kuje with boats, so we are lifting Florida here, what they are asking for is only land”, he said adding that over 17,000 people will be working on site when construction would commence, from carpenters to bricklayers, mixers, designers and that when completed at least 20,000 people will be employed to work in the hotels, restaurants and the clubs among others.

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One of the films to be shot in the village is Aba women Riot. The project is expected to be finished in five years. But he explained that the film village will be opened in the first two years for filmmakers to begin shooting films. He said the village is the first of such projects in Africa adding that what is present in South Africa are film sets.

“That is why most of the Hollywood films are now shot in South Africa and they go and finish it in America because it is cheap to shoot there”. Ugbomah explained that the Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC) needs to shoot locations like Ikogosi Warm Spring, Idanre Hill, Mabila Plateau, the Slave Camp in Badagry and the holes, called moths that the imperialists built in their attempt to take over the ancient kingdom of Benin.

He explained these as locations that must be exposed to the world through film. “There are so many things we can show to the world and they will come hear”, he said, stressing that it is wrong for the world to project Nigerians through their films as violent in orientation.

According to him, there are more violence in America than we have in Nigeria but that unless government invests in films in terms of infrastructure to showcase the best of Nigeria to the world nobody will do it.

“If government does not come in terms of infrastructure or by way of support nobody will put his money there”, he said. But as Nigerian films continue to gain ground, the need for collective management organisation in the rank of COSON for the film industry cannot be over emphasized.

“When I look at atrocities of exploitation in the film industry, when I enter luxurious bus from Lagos to anywhere, they show people’s film, when I enter a small car, they show people’s film, there is no hotel in Nigeria today that is not permanent on Nigerian films. I am talking of about 200 hotels. The best they say is you have television in your rooms.

But when you enter there it is Nigerian films. And I know that all over the world they pay royalties for films which they share later with the script writers, producers and the actors, whether it is 50 kobo per film, when you show somebody’s film 24 hours, you know what that means. If you show the film 12 times, multiply by 50 kobo you owe that person N6”, he said adding that the exploitation has been on since 2006.

Ugbomah who also condemned sales of films by filmmakers to MultiChoice operators of the Digital Satellite Television (DStv) alleged that the cable station has robbed filmmakers billions of Naira in the past 10 years that it floated Africa Magic for African and Nigerian films in particular, noting that the solution is to kick DStv out of Nigeria.

“But then, how did these people sell their films to Africa Magic? Was there a contract of unlimited show? he asked, stressing that few years back when Mrs. Roseline Odeh was Director General of the National Film and Video Censors Board(NFVCB) the Government of Kenya wrote the board, indicating its preparedness to pay royalties to Nigerian filmmakers.

“The Kenyan Government wrote to Mrs. Odeh that Nigerians should tell them how much to pay to show Nigerian films on their television stations. Odeh sent me and some people to Onitsha, they shunned us and they said they have sold the films and that they have eaten the money and that they did not want royalty”, he said, stressing that Nigerian films are exhibited in hotels across Africa without payment of royalties. He is also angry that today pornographic films are now shot in Asaba. He is calling on the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board to rise up to the occasion and bring sanity to the sector.

Emmanuel Ukudolo

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