• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Timely protests save Lagos from losing position as creative hub

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Relief has come the way of creative content producers in Lagos State, Nigeria’s bustling commercial hub, as the state’s Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB) reconsiders the 5 percent tax on creative contents produced and marketed within the state, as well as withdraws the 30-day ultimatum it gave content producers to register with its agents.

The Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, which supervises the censor’s board, has quietly initiated the review with a letter to Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN), while disassociating the ministry from the development.

Confirming the reversal move, Pretty Okafor, president of PMAN, tells BusinessDay in an interview that the LSFVCB cannot continue with the new tax.

“I have documents from the commissioner’s table; they have already disassociated themselves from that,” the PMAN president says. “I also got a letter from the LSFVCB that they are reviewing what they presented, that it was not presented normally and that the presentation was not about the levy. They implored everybody to exercise patience as they go back to the drawing board. I have that release.”

Speaking further on the turnaround by the LSFVCB, the PMAN president notes that his official notice to the censor’s board on the impending protests, coupled with agitations from across the stakeholders resulted in the change.

“From the way the letter I wrote them sounded, they knew that we were going on the streets to protest because I have already mobilised boys, musicians, creative people, producers, among other stakeholders, to go on the streets and we would have shutdown Lagos. When they noticed our plans, a lot of people started calling and that was why LSFVCB withdrew the 30 days ultimatum,” Okafor says.

It would be recalled that the new tax was announced recently by the LSFVCB during an event organised by the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria, but it seemed dead-on-arrival as creative industry practitioners sustained protests against it.

PMAN, the chief protester against the new tax, notes that the move is illegal as LSFVCB’s statutory obligations are restricted to rating of films and regulatory services, hence it lacks constitutional powers to introduce any tax or revenue drive that would amount to double taxation as creative industry practitioners already pay personal income tax, value added tax, among other levies on the same contents.

For Ikem Ogbalu, a copyright lawyer, the LSFVCB stepped out of its legal mandate with the new tax, as its statutory obligation as a government agency is regulation, rating and not revenue drive.

“Under the Act setting up the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), revenue drive is not part of the board’s obligation. So, why will a state chapter that is still under the Federal Government Act differs by forcing taxes on struggling people, is Lagos not under the Nigerian law,” the lawyer states.

Moreover, Demola Ogunyombo, another lawyer, insists that LSFVCB lacks the authority to impose tax and levy on an industry it did not create.

Explaining the Lagos board’s mandate, Ogunyombo notes that even at the national level, the film and video censors board’s powers and functions are limited to censoring and rating films and cinemas produced and exhibited within the state and country.

However, the new tax could have cost Lagos its position as the creative hub of Nigeria if implemented.
Michael Odiong, general manager, Premier Records Limited, Nigeria’s foremost recoding company, fears that the tax would stifle the creative industry, which is built with individual sweat and commitment, and instead of waiting for the tax to stifle their business, a lot would relocate to other states with friendly business environment.

Tunde Amusan, a movie producer, notes that lots of businesses are moving to Ogun State because of the friendly environment, and creative industry businesses are also ready to move out of Lagos if their survival is further threatened.

“Most movies are shot outside Lagos now. Delta and Enugu states are becoming location hubs and producers are now producing for streaming companies like Netflix, which can stream from any part of the world. Lagos should encourage than discourage the creative industry this hard post-Covid era, where producers and the industry at large are struggling for survival,” Amusan says.

Taiwo Olapade, a movie promoter, urges Lagos to wake up as producers are now taking advantage of technology and online platforms to beat their challenges, including shooting locations and distribution, which are bases for the LSFVCB’s tax.