Folks, a few weeks ago, Linda Ikeji, a popular blogger turned media entrepreneur, released a video promo clip announcing the launch of a new reality television show titled ‘King Tonto.’ The clip featured Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh who was quite dramatic in it. Her dramatic antics was nothing unusual. What was unusual, however, was that the promo featured her child who is at the heart of a bitter fight between Dikeh and her “ex” husband Olakunle Churchill. I say “ex” because it appears the only dissolution of marriage has been a traditional one i.e. Dikeh returning her bride price money. The parties are yet to file a formal dissolution of marriage in a court of law. In fact, one of the key issues Churchill raises in the public sphere is that Dikeh has denied him all access to his son. If the couple have in fact filed a formal petition for divorce, their lawyers or someone else reading this with that information, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a record of the divorce petition so I can update this article.
Back to the video promo clip. In the video, 50% of it is dedicated to showing and referencing Dikeh’s son. The other 50% is dedicated to Dikeh’s decision to obtain plastic surgery. While everyone rejoiced over the clip and the “juice” waiting to be spilled, it raised my curiosity as to child protection laws in Nigeria, especially where child performers are concerned. I also questioned whether Churchill gave consent to have Dikeh exploit their child.
In relevant part, here is what I said:
“Finally, as an aside, I wonder if Olakunle Churchill, Dikeh’s ex-husband, is concerned about the welfare of his son and gave consent to have their child featured on this reality TV show. Clearly, Dikeh is exploiting her son for fame and profit. Her son is vulnerable and voiceless, and can’t make an informed decision whether to participate in a show that may have far-reaching negative psychological effects on him.
Assuming Churchill gave consent, or that his consent is not needed, I am curious how Nigeria treats child performers and their earnings under the law. In a place like California where I practice, child performers are afforded strong protection with laws that help regulate their working conditions, education and finances.”
Read the full article here.
I don’t know if Churchill or his representatives read my article but Churchill has now filed for an injunction against Dikeh, Linda Ikeji, and Linda Ikeji TV seeking to prevent the airing of Dikeh’s new reality television show. Despite his attempt, Dikeh is now on social media saying no one can “stop” her.
Let me be clear. Dikeh can be stopped and so can any persons who do business with her that insist on not obeying a court order if it is granted.
Disobeying a court order puts you in contempt of court and courts do not like that because you make them look like a fool. So, typically, they will issue a warrant for your arrest in such a situation. I know you are saying that doesn’t happen in Nigeria. But, in case you haven’t noticed, when celebrities are involved, the media pays attention, creates a viral story, and that puts pressure on agencies and people to act. I mean who would have thought that we will see a day where local Lagos police are conducting official press conferences involving entertainment celebrities and their run-in with the law?
The point is there is a high probability that a Nigerian court and judge will not let Dikeh disrespect their order while the country and the whole world watches.
Also, if everyone that does business with Dikeh has to be dragged into court the way Linda Ikeji has been dragged, the probability is they will not do business with Dikeh, effectively stopping her.
Finally, if Dikeh attempts to produce and distribute her reality tv show with her son in it online, that is an easy shutdown. Most Internet Service Providers (ISP) used by many Nigerian entertainment brands are based abroad, particularly in the U.S. These ISP providers tend to follow the law and would not even think twice when it comes to immediately removing content that a court has said, “take it down.”
So, all Dikeh is doing is making unnecessary noise.
Protecting children comes first. If Linda Ikeji TV does not have the consent from Churchill allowing Dikeh to use their son in an Ikeji produced reality show, then Ikeji can and should simply edit the child out, and focus on Dikeh. Dikeh is dramatic and interesting enough to carry a show, all by herself, and draw a large viewing audience. There is simply no need to exploit her child in the process and without the consent of his father.
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine.
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