#MOPICON: How Does a Bill Become Law in Nigeria?

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Much has been written and said about the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) draft bill of 2006 that would essentially police motion picture practice in Nigeria.

MOPICON itself was established to help regulate Nigeria’s film industry and ensure it conforms to global standards. The key provisions of the MOPICON controversial bill which is aimed at enabling a stronger industry with “infrastructure” are as follows:

  1. The MOPICON council will define who qualifies as a motion picture practitioner.
  2. The MOPICON council will determine and set the standards for the type of education and skills that qualify a person to be registered as a MOPICON member.
  3. To register as a member of MOPICON, a movie practitioner will have to be 18 years old, have no criminal record, have a good moral character, and be mentally sane.
  4. A motion picture practitioner has to be a registered member of MOPICON to practice in any area of the film industry in Nigeria.
  5. An unregistered person engaging in the business of motion picture is doing so illegally and if caught, tried and convicted, will pay a fine of 100,000 Naira or will be imprisoned for two years.
  6. Each year, MOPICON will distribute the list of persons “entitled”/eligible to practice as motion picture practitioners.

Needless to say, the aforementioned provisions, among others, have enraged many, and many practitioners have had a lot to say about it. The key arguments have been that the bill is elitist, will stifle creativity and also attempts to regulate the motion picture industry much the same way the advertising and legal professions are regulated.

For the most part, I have observed, shared links on the views written by industry stakeholders and the public at large and just followed the conversation. However, I believe there is a need to ask a fundamental question that seems lost in the arguments or is outright ignored. It is as follows: how does a bill become law in Nigeria?

For me, as I follow the conversations, I am left wondering if the average stakeholder understands how a bill becomes law in Nigeria; and whether the MOPICON review committee knows to enlighten the public and ensure that voices of stakeholders are heard? I believe the MOPICON review committee, through its currently appointed coordinator, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, needs to be transparent, and should educate the public and stakeholders about the legislative process. I believe this eases the tension that seems to continue to escalate each day; and all can cut to the chase on how to best protect practitioners and ensure a sustainable film industry.

Further, I say this often. We tend to look at western creative industries and believe that Africa’s creative industries must mirror the west. We also almost always cite western industries as an example of what is working, compare and declare our own industries or achievements as  failing, not up to par or substandard. I disagree, strongly, with this kind of mindset and way of resolving issues for Nigeria and Africa. Just like westerners have come up with their own solutions, Nigerians and Africans in general need to come up with their own. It is not a cut and paste of systems that perhaps are not quite a fit for Africa. In the MOPICON example, is the real issue the lack of infrastructure or is it a lack of resources and technical know how to train our young men and women? We must separate the issues and also understand the uniqueness of Africa’s own industry so we don’t create draconian laws with far reaching implications. It is not every opportunity we get that we should use to point to Hollywood or even Bollywood as the perfect blueprint to emulate. Let’s put our own African creative “umph” into the mix.

Here are some questions I believe MOPICON committee review members, the council or the minister can and should answer.

QUESTIONS:

1. How does a bill become law in Nigeria? Every stakeholder should know this and have this information and it should be readily accessible to all.

2. What is the specific role of the MOPICON review committee? This needs to be transparent and clearer.

3. Since the 2006 draft bill is now before the review committee, will the committee conduct public hearings to invite interested stakeholders, independent of committee members, to share their opinions on the bill? If the answer is “no,” in what way can stakeholders have their voices heard?

4. The committee has been charged to review and issue a report to the culture minister. What is the likelihood that the culture minister will adopt the suggested amendments?

5. For the culture minister, what exact criterion did he use to select the 29 member MOPICON committee review members?

6. What steps, if any, has the culture minister undertaken to ensure there are no conflict of interests so members truly advance the interest of all stakeholders and the industry at large?

7. Finally, what steps has the culture minister taken to ensure committee members understand their duty to present an objective report with recommendations that ensure a stronger and more sustainable Nollywood?

The above questions, to me, are very important and will go a long way in ensuring transparency and trust in the review process.

-Ms. Uduak

__________

Read the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed’s, speech at the inauguration of  the MOPICON review committee for the draft bill. The inauguration was held at the Conference Hall, National Theatre Lagos on April 12th, 2016.

‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today to inaugurate the Ministerial Committee on the Review of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) draft document. This event was earlier slated for Friday, April 8 2016, but we were forced to postpone it because of the emergency Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja on April 7 on the 2016 budget. Let me therefore use this opportunity to apologise for the postponement.

‘Today’s inauguration is a fulfillment of the promise I made at the 3rd edition of the Kannywood Awards in Abuja on March 12, 2016 to set up a Ministerial Committee to review the MOPICON document with a view to fast-tracking its passage into law.

‘I have heard all the arguments for and against MOPICON. Some have argued that government has no business in helping Nollywood to set up a self-regulatory structure. I want to state here that in line with our overall responsibility for the nation’s information, culture and tourism policies, our role in helping to set up MOPICON is simply to enable Nollywood to play meaningful role in national development.

‘One of the ways we think we can tackle frontally the many challenges militating against professional and career fulfillment in the movie industry is to have a central body we can always refer to in decisions aimed at improving and modernizing the motion picture industry. Also, government’s interest in the setting up of MOPICON is driven by the fact that we at the supervising ministry need to work with a formidable representative group that is empanelled to lobby for the growth, development and welfare of the industry and its practitioners as well as make for a better organized and more visible and vibrant Nollywood industry. We have no hidden agenda and we will not be part of anything that will stifle the growth of the burgeoning industry.

‘Let me say that with our latest efforts, we are only building on past, commendable efforts to set up MOPICON, which started in the early 1990s, when Nigerian Motion Picture Practitioners under various bodies craved for the Council to engender sustainable growth of the industry based on best practices as well as practitioner’s protection and structured membership.

‘One of the best efforts in this regard was the setting up of the first Steering Committee for the Practitioners Council on April 4th 2005. The 17-member Committee, headed by Chief Tunde Oloyede, did a comprehensive work and submitted its report to the Federal Government in Nov. 2006. This was followed by the setting up, in April 2015, of an Advisory Interim Council to commence activities leading to the actualization of the take-off of MOPICON. Unfortunately, paucity of funds prevented the inauguration of the Interim Council.

‘We are not here to reinvent the wheel but to build on the good efforts of those who toiled hard in the past to set up MOPICON. Fortunately, some of the members of the Steering Committee that was set up in 2005 are also members of this Ministerial Committee.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I need the support of the industry to achieve some of the plans I have outlined, both at the Roundtable with key stakeholders in the movie industry in Lagos on Feb. 5th 2016 and at the Kannywood Awards in Abuja on March 12th 2016. These plans include a revved up battle against piracy, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the need to reverse the lack of policy direction in the movie industry.

‘But I am wondering if I can get that kind of support with the level of disunity in the industry and the prevailing structural deficiency, which have not allowed the industry to speak with one voice. I cannot count the number of petitions I have received either for non inclusion in this committee or against the idea of MOPICON since I announced the constitution of the review committee. Some have even suggested that we are about to set up another agency that will muzzle creativity and dictate to them the kind of movies to produce.

‘It is however important at this juncture to clarify that this is not another attempt to set up another content regulatory agency or another parastatal of government. Government is even thinking of merging existing institutions, hence it is not prepared to waste scarce resources in establishing another agency. MOPICON is and will remain an industry-run lobby and pressure body that will foster the achievement and maintenance of the highest professional and commercial standards in the motion picture industry as well as ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of motion picture practitioners in the lawful exercise of their profession.

‘I therefore urge the various interest groups to rise above their differences and work towards the harmonization of their positions. I have no doubt that things will change for the better for Nollywood once you all work towards properly setting up MOPICON. I believe that like APCON, MOPICON will emerge the most important intervention tool that the Nollywood requires to address some of its structural deficiencies.

‘I congratulate all members of the Review committee and charge them to, in the course of reviewing the document, elicit appropriate contributions from stakeholders and members of the public. To stem the controversy generated by the uploading of a certain MOPICON document, I am handing over to this Committee the following documents.

‘The fact that I am sending the documents back to the same source it came from for a review should absolve government from the allegation that we are about to set up another agency. The document I am handing over is your document, so please review as appropriate.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby formally inaugurate the Review Committee of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON). The Committee has three weeks to conclude its work and submit its report to government. The Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) will provide Secretariat Services for the Committee.’

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