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Fat Lie: FG Denies Rumuored Clampdown on Skit Makers

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has strongly refuted rumoured plans to arrest skit makers who release content online without approval.

Reports suggesting a government crackdown on content creators stemmed from remarks attributed to Dr Shaibu Husseini, the Executive Director and Director-General of the National Films and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB), recently.

Husseini reportedly cautioned filmmakers and content creators against producing and distributing unapproved content, particularly highlighting concerns related to themes involving same-sex relationships.

These reports implied imminent arrests and legal actions against those failing to comply with censorship regulations.

In response, the NFVCB issued a statement on Saturday debunking what it termed as “misleading headlines circulating across various media platforms.”

“The attention of the National Film and Video Censors Board has been drawn to this and other misleading headlines, making the rounds. We want to categorically state that at no time and nowhere did we issue such a statement,” the board’s management asserted.

The NFVCB reaffirmed that recent public communications were aimed solely at filmmakers and content creators involved in unlawful activities, particularly concerning content prohibited under Nigerian law.

“Our last public statement targeted filmmakers and content creators producing, promoting, and distributing unlawful content, including same-sex themed contents prohibited by law,” the statement clarified.

Furthermore, the board emphasized its commitment to engaging with industry stakeholders as Nigeria transitions from censorship to a classification-based system. This shift aims to ensure that all films and videos undergo appropriate classification by the NFVCB before public distribution, irrespective of format.

Earlier in the week, the NFVCB had stressed the legal framework under which it operates, specifically citing the 2014 Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, which explicitly prohibits the public exhibition or promotion of same-sex relationships in Nigeria.

A statement issued by the board’s director of corporate affairs, Ogbonna Onwumere, reiterated that all content, including skits, films, or music videos, must adhere to these regulatory standards to avoid legal repercussions.

The statement said, “The Board regrets that despite its recent sustained engagements with filmmakers and the leadership of guilds and associations in the motion picture industry for a safer and healthy screen, there are still filmmakers who indulge in producing obscene and unlawful content.

“The Board said it is working with relevant security agencies to track the filmmakers and production companies involved and will stop at nothing to ensure that those already identified face the full wrath of the law.”

In addressing public concerns, Dr Shaibu Husseini engaged Nigerians on the matter via social media, stating, “In classification, as done from Cape to Cairo, a classification fee is required. It’s about having these contents rated, not censorship. We’ve also improved the turnaround time for short content to an hour maximum for rating.”

He further clarified, “The warning issued is not about taxation, stifling creativity, or targeting skit makers as suggested by some commentators. It’s about ensuring that our content creators, in exercising their freedom to express and create, remain within the bounds of the law.”

The controversy surrounding the alleged clampdown elicited reactions from various quarters, with stakeholders in the entertainment industry expressing both concern and relief at the NFVCB’s clarification.

Many content creators, initially apprehensive of potential repercussions, welcomed the assurance that the board’s actions were focused on ensuring compliance rather than stifling creative expression.

Reactions

Emeka Martins (@Emmynwaeze): “@nfvcb is on the right track and should stay focused. Misinformation is being spread by lawless individuals on various issues, but they should be disregarded.”

Tambay Obenson (@TambayObenson): “An important question here is how ‘glamorization’ is defined within a Nigerian context. It’s crucial for the NFVCB to maintain transparency throughout this process and engage directly with industry stakeholders and the public to ensure clear guidelines.”

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