Not many would have come across Mr. Dele Balogun, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB) based on his responsibility in the Public Service Office (PSO) before his appointment. But in this interview with our correspondent, he explained that though he has been in the service he is nevertheless vast on film issues. He also spoke on why the Lagos State Government opted to resume censorship of films in Lagos with effect from August and other pressing issues. Excerpts.
You were in the core public service now in censors board, what can you say about the transition?
Very interesting, you cannot just quantify it when you are in service, one it gives you the experience from one ministry to the other, you and gather experience and that makes you a complete civil servants. So being here, I see it as a tour of service.
You are known for managing civil servants, do you think you are adequately prepared for this responsibility?
Yes of course, first by virtue of my training and qualification. I am a graduate of Mass Communication, and in Mass Communication, there is a course called film production and advanced film production which you do for about three years. I went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka, we did that for about three years, so, professionally I am in tune with filmmaking, then at the practical level, I am not a novice in film industry anyway, because I have worked with the media and interacted with some of the people who are in the business of filmmaking, so basically it is a familiar terrain for me.
How has it been?
Well, it is a bit challenging; in the first place, the structure I met on the ground is not what I anticipated. So, I need to revitalise them, then two, as a body set up by law to carry out certain functions, I don’t believe we should subjugate that responsibility to another body. The former management had an agreement with the NFVCB but I believe that that agreement should not have arisen in the first place. One, the state government, if they knew that they can enter agreement with the national body, they can as well scrap this agency and may be one or two person can be appointed to be liaising with the federal on that aspect. That I do not agree with, I do not agree with that MOU with national, I believe we are set up to do the job and we must do it.
So how are you going about it?
First we are meeting with the stakeholders, the association in the industry, the individual producers to inform them that the agreement we had with the national has expired, it is no longer in force and that there will be the need for us to begin our own censorship because the law empowers us to do it. So any cinematograph work that will be exhibited within the state must be censored by the board. We must follow the rules. That is what the law says, we have to register them, we have to censor their works and failure, of course the law empowers us to fine, and seal up.
There has been a lot of resistance in the past about this development what are you doing about It?
Well the law will prevail; we have to do our own bit. If they choose to exhibit whatever they produced in Lagos state, then they must comply with the law of Lagos state. It is not the business of national really, I don’t know why they put it on the concurrent list, it is the business of the state but be that as it may, since the law empowers the national and the state to censor we just have to do it. Whether they comply or not, the law will prevail, we just have to do it. We anticipate that there will be some resistance but I am quite sure that at the end of the day, the law will prevail, they will see reason and they will comply.
You said you are meeting with them, how is their response so far?
Some have reacted positively, we have met almost seven or eight associations and five of them have said they will comply with our directives but three of them are grumbling that they cannot censor with national and censor with state but I tell them that the choice is yours, but if you want to continue to operate within the state you must censor with us, not only censor you must register with us, the law empowers us to do that.
What about the fee, what are you doing to mitigate the effect on producers?
In fixing our own fees, we considered first the interest of those we are going to censor their films, and we also considered that the national charges a particular fee and we decided to reduce our own so that it will be bearable. We are charging N14, 000 for censorship and N1, 000 for the poster.
Are you coming out with your own Logo because the national has its own?
We already have.
Are you satisfied with the quality of films in the market?
I am not totally satisfied, there are some that are of good quality and there are some that should not even pass through censorship and you now begin to wonder if those films passed through censorship at all. I don’t want to accuse anybody now of any complicity, but the board, national and Lagos State must rise up and do what is needful because if the people are complaining that a particular film is not good why should they allow, it is a direct blame on the board and people will assume that the board saw it and they passed it and the blame will be on the board not the producers. So from that stand point, we have our guidelines and we will follow the guidelines to the later and I am sure that any film that passes through the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board will be acceptable to members of the public.
How equipped are you for this duty?
Yes, we are equipped, we have our preview studio, fully equipped, in terms of enforcement, we are working in partnership with the state task force, and anytime we go out on enforcement we have men of the RRS who will join the team to enforce our rule?
The marketers are having a field day because many films in the market are not censored?
We are strategising on that. We won’t tell them when we are coming out. We have identified some areas, Idumota, Alaba particularly, Ilasa, we are strategising on how we are going to enforce and once we go out, it will be total, we will seal up the outlets selling those films and seize those films that are not censored.
On what basis will you be going out for enforcement because you have not started censoring or have you started?
We have started; if you bring your films we censor it.
How many have you censored?
We have censored two films, from the time we decided that we are going to be censoring, and this is less than a week now.
So it is on this basis that you will be going out for enforcement?
That means that any film that is in the market that is not censored by the state government will be impounded by you?
That is after the expiration of the agreement between the national and the state. The agreement expired in early August, so anything from first of August without logo of Lagos state will be impounded.
So when you impound are you going to prosecute?
We are going to prosecute, the law empowers us to do that because the address of the marketer is on the jacket, so the police will pick him out and they will be prosecuted and the law also empowers us to fine.
So what is your projection in terms of profit for the year?
We have a projection because we anticipate that we are going to make money from registration of association and we have about 20 associations and we have producers who will register and some for censorship. So before the end of the year, we are projecting at least N3million and my full year projections is to raise about N30 million annually, everything being equal, and if things are done normally we will even make more than that. But we will get there.
Thirty million (N30 million) is achievable, there are some who will say, yes we want to censor, but what is Lagos state giving back to the industry?
We have alot, there is a programme that has been put in place by Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN, it is called Nollywood Upgrade Project, the component of the Nollywood Upgrade Project, are one, we are going to give grant to those in the industry, they are going to built cinema houses in all the Local government and they are going to offer training for people in the industry. But some people have benefited from it. Kunle Afolayan benefited from it. That is one name I can remember but I know that there are other two filmmakers that have benefited from it. As for the training, they had one last year, it is still ongoing, they might even have one this year. That is giving back to them what they have contributed. So the government has a plan to improve the standards of the industry and to improve the lot of people in the industry, so that project is meant for them.
Do you have a budget?
Yes, but it is not inside the office of the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, it resides in the office of Chief of Staff. It is not one million.
Like how much because the FG is giving out N3 billion?
I don’t know the total figure but I know that some people have benefited, Paula Obazele has benefited from it, not one million, not three million, not ten million. It is heavy million. Kunle Afolayan, I think had N20 million. Obazele, let me not put figure there.
So, why are you not publicising it?
I just came here, may be because the money is coming directly from that end, not that they don’t want the public to know, it is just that the public has not got to know. But they need to know because that is what the project is all about.
What do you think can be done to improve standards of film productions?
It basically lies with the film producers; they need to go for training and retraining to upgrade themselves. It is when they go for training and international film festival that they can improve on standard.
Do you think the Nigerian filmmaker has done enough in terms of projecting our cultural heritage?
We have not done enough but we are trying, you see Rome was not built in a day even the film industry came about by accident, somebody just carried one camera and started shooting and making money and others joined. It evolved spontaneously not that it is from proper planning. It is when it has stated blossoming that people want to organise it properly but we will get there.
So, how does one benefit from the Nollywood Upgrade Project?
They accept proposal from individual producers that have a good film script. They will look at the synopsis and if they think it is good enough to promote the film industry and promote the culture of the state, the government will gladly support such a film. Such proposals are submitted through the office of Deputy Chief of Staff.