Monthly Archives: February 2009

Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria 1999-2006: A Sourcebook

This weekend I met up with law scholar, Philip Ostien, who walked me through the 5 volume set (a 6th coming soon) he has edited, and which is published by Spectrum Books: Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria: 1999-2006: A Sourcebook. This is an amazing resource that has been made available on the  internet free of charge (in the form of pdfs) by Bayreuth University. The set includes a history of sharia implementation and reproduces important primary documents such as the Sharia Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes and other committee reports and white papers. Volume 6 focuses specifically on the legal cases of Safiyatu Hussaini and Amina Lawal, giving the details of the case that are often lost in the media hype. 

What is specifically useful for me is Volume III, which reproduces much of the censorship law, and Volume IV which reproduces the “Harmonised Sharia Criminal Procedure Code Based on the Harmonised Sharia Penal Code” put together by the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in October 2005. There are extensive footnotes which note wherever sharia law has been modified from the Penal Code of 1960, which was the magistrate law code put into place after independence in Northern Nigeria. So, although most useful for scholars of shari’a, it is also a handy reference for anyone who wants to know what a magistrate law is. Deviations from sharia should be noted in the footnotes and can be followed up by research on Kano State magistrate law.

The Volumes are as follows:

Volume 1: Historical Background

Volume II: Sharia Implementation Committee Reports and Related White Papers

Volume III: Sanitizing Society (This is the volume in which the Kano State censorship laws can be found.)

Volume IV: The Sharia Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes

Volume V: Two Famous Cases (namely those of Safiyatu Hussaini and Amina Lawal)

Update on the Iyan-Tama Case: Bail Hearing set for 5 March

I received an email today updating me on the Iyan Tama case.

An application was made for bail pending appeal, and the hearing has been set for 5 March, about two weeks from now. Also, according to the person who wrote me:

The magistrate judge is still hindering the speed of the process as the record collected by high court is half typed and nobody could read or understand his handwriting. Therefore, the record is taken back to him for type setting. Note, the special panel cannot do anything without the record.

Temporarily removing interviews with Kano Censor’s Board DG Alhaji Rabo and MOPPAN VP Dr. Sarari

I am temporarily removing portions of the interview with the Kano State Censor’s Board Director General Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim and the Vice President of MOPPAN Ahmad Sarari, because I’m writing an article for a publication that will not pay me if the quotes are published elsewhere. Check back next week. I will restore  parts of the interview I haven’t quoted in the publication, and will provide a link to the article.

I would also take down the interview with Sani Mu’azu, but (alas) NigerianFilms.com reprinted it without my permission, so it is out of my control….

(UPDATE 14 March 2009: The entire transcript of the interview  with the director general of the censorship board is back up. A very edited version of the interview can be found at Next. The entire transcript of the interview with Dr. Sarari, VP of MOPPAN, is also back up.

More arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front page

Yesterday evening, I went to Zoo Road to carry out an interview with Hausa producer and actor Nura Husseini and heard that there had been more raids on Zoo Road yesterday afternoon. A couple of editors were arrested. When a singer in one of the music studios asked the police why they came into the studio “ba sallama” (with no greeting), they arrested her too. I’m not sure whether they were held in jail overnight like Sulaiman or whether they were taken straight to the mobile court. Apparently, this time they were looking for individuals who had not individually registered with the censorship board.

In other news, today my article on Iyan-Tama apparently made IPS headlines.

(For a background on the censorship crisis in Kano see this post)

Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama

 

 Dr. Ahmad Mohammed Sarari is the national Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN). He is also an award winning producer of Hausa films and has taken his film Waraqa to film festivals in Cannes and Cairo. Trained in Russia as an epidemiologist, he resigned his position at a Kano-based hospital a few years ago to focus full time on filmmaking. I spoke with him on the 27 January about trial of his younger brother, filmmaker Iyan-Tama, the ongoing MOPPAN lawsuit against the censorship board [as of last week, that seems to have been suspended], and about the impact of the ongoing censorship crisis on the Hausa film industry. [As of today, 16 February, Iyan-Tama was still in prison. On the phone this morning, Dr. Sarari told me that that it has taken at least two months for them to give the record to the upper court. The accountant has been there more than ten times to look for it. He wanted to emphasize the serious delays. Iyan-Tama has already served half of the three month sentence.]

This is the interview I conducted with him on 27 January 2009. For more background on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post. [I also spoke with him immediately after my interview with the director general of the Kano State censorship board and referred to that interview in some of my questions. To read the complete interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, see this link.]

 

CM: We were both at the second appeal for Iyan-Tama’s case yesterday, which was postponed from Thursday to yesterday, and then the judge said it wasn’t on the list. What are the most recent developments on the Iyan-Tama case?

 

AS: The judge has just said that we should file a fresh new appeal, which we did yesterday. So the latest development now is the constitution of the station panel, which will review the case, look at the previous judgment of the case and come out with a final verdict.

 

Did he give a reason why he suggested a new appeal?

 

He said that he would not like to quash the judgment already done by the previous judge. There is an element of controversy in the judgment, so he will prepare to sit a special panel of jurists. Not just a single person—but a number of judges—will bring out the actual judgment of the case. Another advantage of that is that if anything positive comes out of that sitting, there will be no case to apply for appeal for Iyan-Tama. He will just be out pending on the termination of the final judgment of the case.

 

I was reading back over the articles from when he was sentenced on the 30th, and it said he would have 30 days to appeal, so as long as the appeal is in before the end of this month, he should be all right on the appeal, right?

 

Well I discussed the issue with the lawyer yesterday. He said that has no impact on the constitution of this special panel. Because that is we were afraid of. Iyan-Tama has already been almost 28 or 27 days in prison, so we have two to three days for the time to lapse.

 

What can you say about the attack on his family?

 

That was the night before the court case, Thursday morning, the 22nd of January. So early morning, as usual, I woke up and said my prayers. I took my children to school. Immediately I came back, I found Iyan-Tama’s family in my house, his wife, his daughter, and kids… without knowing—I  thought they just came for a visit as usual. I was in a hurry to take my shower and be in the court. I didn’t bother to ask them why they were there, and they didn’t tell me. As I was going, they thought I would come back. But I didn’t come back. I just went to court. After the court, I went to the briefing. After the briefing, I was having a meeting when my wife called me and told me they were there waiting for me to tell me what happened yesterday. I said, “What happened?” So, they narrated the case to me.

 

I rushed [home] and sat down with the daughter. She’s a grown up girl. She narrated everything from A to Z what happened, what they saw, how traumatized they were, how they were terrorized. What she was telling me was that it was around 2:15am on Thursday. They were sleeping with the light off in the entire house. They just heard somebody banging the door, getting into the room, and shouting at them. They all woke up, even the children.

 

He was not alone. There were some outside, in what we call tsakar gida, outside the room. […] The mother courageously asked him “what do you want?” He said “Shut up.” […] She said, “If it is money you want,” she brought out the key to Hamisu’s car, and some of their jewelry, and said “take all this.” He said “This is not what we are here for. We were sent to terrorize you.”  [Name] said “Please, please,” she was crying, she told the man, “Kill me if you want. She recited kamalti shahada. Said rasmulillahi…. Just kill me but don’t touch any of my kids.”

 

At the end, he said, “Ok, I really sympathize with you guys. Now you lay down on the floor. I will go out and tell my colleague that I have done what I was sent to do.”  So they did. They lay down. He went out. They climbed through the wall. This is what she told me. [No one was harmed in the incident.]

 

Immediately as she narrated this to me, I asked “Did they take anything out of the house?” She said “no.” “Was the main gate to the house open or closed.” She said it was closed with the key, and they had the key. So they jumped through the wall because adjacent to his house there is an uncompleted building, through which they could climb and have access to the house. So this is what happened.

 

Immediately they told me, we decided to report to the police. We took them to the nearest police station to his house, where they reported, and they have assured us they have taken some measures for patrolling and investigating to find out who is responsible.

 

Regarding Iyan-Tama’s case, I just had an interview with Malam Rabo and I asked him about three issues. I asked him about the issue of Iyan-Tama having a receipt for 2008 for the renewal of his registration with censorship. He said that the receipt was not a certificate and he needed a certificate. I also asked him about the exemption because the film had been sponsored by the U.S. embassy, and he said that you had to apply for the exemption that it wasn’t automatic and that it had to follow certain guidelines. I further asked him about Iyan-Tama publically saying that the film was not for sale in Kano, even before his arrest. He said he should have communicated that directly to the board that his public statements don’t have any bearing on the legality of it. You are not Iyan-Tama, but as a representative of MOPPAN, perhaps you could speak to this?

 

Yes, let me start with the receipt issue. When the board announces the registration of all production companies, there are some steps to be followed, the first step of which was to go and pay and acquire a receipt of 1,500 naira, which Iyan-Tama did, which means he was in the process. He already had a file because all the filmmakers went to register for the last administration in 2005. The association took the responsibility of registering other production companies for a subsidized fee after reaching an agreement with the board, which means, since he had a registration/certificate of 2005, he has a file with all of his documents inside the file for the board. So all the filmmakers, we thought we needed to go and get the receipt. We paid, we got the receipt. It was when we got the receipt—like me it took me about four months to acquire a letter from the municipal local government. It took me some weeks to acquire a letter from my bank. So the same thing with Iyan-Tama. He was in the process of acquiring those documents from local government, from the bank, from the Ministry of Commerce. There were about 7 things you have to get ready. He was in the process. He didn’t say he wouldn’t register. Since he has the receipt it means he was in the process of registering. And unknown to many, there were hundreds of practitioners in that process, when he was caught.

 

Secondly, concerning the issue of censoring the film with the Kano State censorship board. Well actually, yes, it is in the state law, that so and so categories of films, those sponsored by NGOs, by foreign bodies, by these countries belonging to commonwealth nations, should not be censored. That’s one. It’s true it is in the law establishing the board. But with regard to Iyan-Tama’s case, he had no intention—because Kano State had a ban on singing and dancing and there is singing and dancing, though moral singing and moral dancing in his film. So he decided he would not sell, he would not distribute, he would not exhibit his film in Kano. He went on air, on radio stations, and on most of the newspapers circulated in Kano saying his movie is not for sale in Kano, and he did not sell it in Kano. Does that mean somebody living in Anambra or somebody producing a film in Lagos must come to Kano to register because he’s afraid his film may sneak to Kano one day. Of course not. His being a Kano man does not mean that he has no right to go out and produce his film somewhere else. That’s why I’m saying the law infringes on the fundamental human rights of we filmmakers from Kano state. Because if somebody can produce his film in Kaduna and say it is from Kaduna. If somebody from Katsina will go to Lagos and produce his film and sell it in Lagos and not be attacked, we from Kano we have no right to go outside produce our films and sell our films outside Kano? It is not violating any law. They have no proof. I was in the court. I followed all the court cases. It was not proven beyond any reasonable doubt that his film was released in Kano. The board could not prove that his film was released in Kano. They had not any evidence that his film was released in Kano.

 

Rabo just told me that they caught several places in market with the film.

 

No, no, no, no. They got it only in a particular place, that was HRB, close to Government House, CD Palace [the shop attached to HRB productions]. It is there that they got it, and it was not on the counter. They had to break into a particular office. It was in a drawer, some copies. And those copies belonged to a filmmaker called Baballe Hayatu. He was the principle character of Tsintsiya. It was given to him to share with his friends, to give as a gift. It was not for sale. It was for personal consumption. I can go in my house with my wife if I like, we can watch it ourselves, in as much as I don’t bring it to the public. And he didn’t do that. His film was not in the market. There was no single marketer who went to the court and said, “Yes, Iyan Tama sold the film to me.” None. Not a single marketer said, “Yes, I got the film from Iyan Tama.” None. Go to the courts. So the case was not proven that the film was released in Kano. And Iyan Tama aired it out. It was on the Radio Nigeria Kaduna. “My film will be released so, so and so date in Kaduna, it is not for sale in Kano.” That’s the second thing. And the third issue was what?

 

The third issue was about him saying publically that his film was not for sale in Kano, so Rabo said that he should have written to the censorship board—

 

He had no relation. You can only relate with the Censorship Board Kano when you have business to do with Censorship Board, Kano. Somebody who has all his artists outside of Kano, produced his film outside of Kano, refuses to bring his film to Kano, sold his film outside of Kano, what is the relationship—what business does he have to do with the Censor’s Board? Of course, none. Me, I reside in Kano, with my company in Kano, yes if I am producing a film, if I have anything to do in Kano, I have to get the final approval of the censor’s board. But he had nothing to do with the censor’s board, so he wouldn’t have written to them. Why did he have to write them? He had his information, he had his clearance from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board. So, why does he have to come inform the censor’s board that “I want to release my film in Kaduna.” Where is their area of jurisdiction? Their area of jurisdiction is Kano, right? Am I right? They don’t have the power beyond Kano, and he released the film outside of Kano. So, he wouldn’t have had to come inform the board, “I want to do this and that,” since he has no business to do in Kano. So I think the points given are just lacking. We followed it in the court and we understand what is going on.

 

It seems ironic that Iyan-Tama is being given such a harsh sentence—you were just telling me about the family friendly nature of Iyan Tama’s films…

 

Of course, Iyan-Tama was termed, well is still termed, the best producer in the film industry. Because he was the only producer whose films the entire family, regardless of age, could sit and watch happily. And he has received this recommendation for quite a long time. Even the board itself gave him quite of number of awards for the nature, for the kind of films, the cultural and Islamic films he is fond of producing. And everybody, all the people of Kano, when you talk of good films, the first thing they will tell you is Iyan-Tama’s movies. Iyan-Tama’s movies are the best, Iyan-Tama’s movies are the most cultural, Iyan-Tama’s movies are the most Islamic movies. No doubt about it…. If you go and take from Tsintsiya downwards: Wata Rana, Bumi, Halak, quite a number of them. Go and take them with issues life, with issues of religion, with issues of culture, so he has been called the best producer. All the same he is now lingering in the prison, but we believe that justice must prevail.

 

 

 

Ok, I’m going to ask you a few more general questions about the problems the film industry is facing. You are a part of MOPPAN, and I talked briefly to[President] Sani Mu’azu about the case of MOPPAN against Kano State. Could you just tell me a little bit more about that ongoing case?

 

Ok, well that case is about to be over, actually it was due to the strike by the court workers that led to the delay. What principally we needed was an injunction restraining Kano State Censors Board from attacking, harassing, humiliating and imprisoning our members. We dragged four bodies to the court.  One is National Film and Video Censor’s Board for issuing a license to our members which gives them the right to exhibit, to sell, and show their films throughout Nigeria, yet a particular state attacks or arrests them for doing that, and they have not come out and said anything. Is the registration they issue our members fake or does it not have jurisdiction in Kano? So here I’m saying there’s a clash between the national and the state jurisdiction of two boards. What we understand in accordance with discussion with our lawyers is that when there is a clash between state and federal law, the federal law takes precedence, so does the interpretation of that in the court. We dragged the Kano State Censors Board to court for its action. We dragged the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board for the guidelines he issued out which we believe are quite unconstitutional. They contradict some fundamental human rights because the guidelines are too stringent and are quite unbearable. And we dragged the speaker, Kano State House of Assembly for allowing the section of the law establishing the board which contradicts national law. We need them to review the law. We have to look at the laws establishing the board because most of them contradict national laws.  That’s why we dragged the four of them to the court.

 

The case was going fine in the court. We brought our evidence. They said we had to exclude the DG of the censor’s board out of the case. Our lawyer vehemently defended that he had to be in. They said we had to include the Kano State government. We said we sued Censor’s Board and the state house of assembly, because the state assembly are the lawmakers, so Kano State Government is automatically included in the case. He slated 26 of October for the final ruling of the case, and unfortunately [Sarari laughs]… there was this strike [of court workers]. They just resumed this month. So we are just urging our lawyer to find which date are they going to give, and we are very much hoping that the ruling is going to go in our favour.

 

Could you describe a little bit what effect the actions of the censorship board have had on the industry? If you could compare the state of the industry before the Hiyana scandal and now at it’s current state, what is the difference?

 

Well I think I even have a paper here [Screensplash September 2009] where I talked on this particular issue. The financial loss is one. Kannywood contributes about 35% of Nollywood movies. Nollywood generates, according to the report by the Central Government of Nigeria, about forty billion. Let’s say about 35% of what Nollywood makes is about 7 billion naira. That is the share of Kannywood. That share has been lost for a good one year. People have not been going to locations. Many people have lost their jobs. Secondly, the financial strength of the industry was totally weakened. Third, some professionals in the industry have left the industry. Some sought refuge in another state. They moved out of Kano. As you can see right now, you must have seen how different the industry is in Kaduna, how different the market is in Sokoto. It is as a result of this ban on film locations in Kano State.

 

All the same, we agreed. MOPPAN initiated the ban in the beginning. We stopped location activities for the period of three month initially when the Hiyana case happened. Because when the Hiyana case happened, the market was good, the market was moving. They were averaging 1 to 2 films a day, everyday. But now you can see that for the last few months, the marketers were telling me they spent 43 days without a single new film, and all the marketers have moved out of Kano to other states. As I was telling you, some people moved out of the state to earn their living.

 

So why did we suspend location activities for three months? It was mainly for two reasons. One, for the protection—for the security of our members. It was when the Hiyana case happened. Clerics came in. They seized the opportunity to call for our heads, to abuse us, to expose us. We were exposed to very serious danger, and they started harassing and storming houses of some actresses, started attacking some actors in their cars. So we ordered the suspension of location activities for three months.  Secondly, we find out that lack of professional ethics and lack of knowledge on filmmaking is what made Hiyana do what she did. Did she know her value, did she know the ethics regarding the profession she was engaging in? [If so,] she wouldn’t have done what she did. So we decided to use the opportunity to inculcate professional ethics into all the associations. That is what led us to form a document called the “harmonization of the film industry,” that is, every guild and association was given the objective of the association, the ethics of the association, and the goal of that association.

 

It was that harmonization process where we gave a comprehensive detail of how to start from idea to censors board, the steps and how to follow. But unfortunately all this was not very successful, as the Censor’s board came in and increased the ban to 6 more months, that is 9 months. After nine months… now we are already into another year now. You cannot in good faith produce films in the Kano market. None. So if in two years time, the censorship board could not sanitize the industry, if you could not find films produced in Kano in the market, then what have they been doing for this long? Over a hundred practitioners got arrested, got fined. Tens of them imprisoned, those who had no money to pay. What is the improvement? There is no life in the film industry in Kano in particular right now. That is one of the consequences.

 

One of the accusations against the film industry which I keep hearing over and over is that the films are spoiling religion and culture, so how would you respond to that accusation?

 [UPDATE: 14 March 2009: The underlined text below was quoted in my article "Hard times in Kannywood" published by NEXT on 8 March 2009 and is copyrighted to Next]

Well, let me start by giving you a little history of the situation, as a recap. Initially, we know in every association, in every business, in every organization, there are what we call quacks. We also had quacks in the industry. This industry as I keep saying was initiated by the practitioners of films. The industry is nurtured at the present level by the practitioners themselves without the hand of any individual, any government. As a result of the high level of unemployment in the society, youths seek this opportunity to join the industry in mass, most of whom did not even attend school. Some attended only primary school. Most of us were drop outs from secondary school. Some were among those who sell petrol on the street. Some were real hooligans. In fact, some were even armed robbers, in the industry. But can you imagine, they got a job! Everybody got a job to do. Those who were armed robbers, they abandoned that armed robbery, got engaged. Those who did that, they didn’t have the full knowledge of the business, but they were making a living out of it. Some bought houses. Some got married with children, right? But how could you imagine something beautiful, reasonable, sensible from somebody who has never been to school, from somebody who was never guided on how to do it, you understand me? Of course there were films that exposed our children to undesirable culture, I believe. But it was not intentional. It was because these people were not trained, they were not taught. Government did not give a damn about them. There was not any concern. That is why they produced those movies. They did it not to spoil, not to undermine, the Islamic values of our children, but this is what they could do with their lives.

 

So what government could have done was to turn them, take them to school, give them all the support and then bring out the guidelines. But the guidelines come before the training. So our argument was, train them first, take them to the table, teach them. After knowing that, they will know what they are doing.  If they had the prerequisite knowledge for making a film first, then you bring out your guidelines: “from now on we don’t want dancing. From now if you do this or that…” But without teaching them what do you want them to do? What do you want them to produce? They don’t have the technicalities, they don’t have the knowledge to produce what you dream up. And I keep saying if they were their kids they would not have sent them out of Kano. They must have trained them. If your child does something wrong, you counsel him and show him the way to do it right before you start punishing him. This is how it is supposed to be. But this is not what the government did.

 

Secondly as a result of this tussle between the film industry and state government, some clerics got in and seized the opportunity to gain our pity, portraying the filmmakers as people who are fighting against Islamic values, who are against Islamic values, as people who are trained or sponsored to come and spoil the Islamic values of the  youths. This is very wrong. There was never a statement, there was never a write up, there was never a comment by any official of MOPPAN. Quote me anywhere I said that we happen to be against any advice, where we happen to be against any motion that will enhance in inculcating Islamic values to our youths. Never. Never. But we are termed unIslamic. That is the propaganda in the media. In fact we were the first to go before the board and present a document on how to Islamize the movie industry. I was before the committee, before the Kano State Governor, his Excellency Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. The committee asked me what is the way forward, how do we sanitize? I said you could start sanitizing by banning singing and dancing in our movies. They asked why? I said because now quite a large number of girls from Niger, from Adamawa, from all over Northern Nigeria troop to Kano to make movies. Out of 150 girls that come to Kano to make a movie, maximum of two happen to be successful. Do you know what the rest engage themselves in doing? They said, “no.” I said, “They remain in the industry, they don’t go back to their house because there is an avenue of background dancing. So if there was no dancing, they would have no business to do. And that background dancing alone will not earn them much for their living. So they have to be involved in some risky activities to earn their living. Going for gala. Going from town to town doing gala night shows all over. But if you say there is no dancing and singing, these girls will have no where to go. At least you will decrease the number of girls flowing into the industry.” They all agreed with me. And if you need real culture to be portrayed in our films—real Hausa culture, you must stop singing and dancing. Because singing and dancing you can only be attracted in the Indian way. We have our own singing, we have our own dancing, right? But that does not attract the youths, that does not attract the women in the house, that does not attract the rural people who buy, most of those who patronize the films. So this is what we told them. There was never a time when any member of the association uttered a word which was termed unIslamic. Or we happened to fight anything Islamic. Only that the public do not understand the tussle between the censors board and the association. Here we arrived at the same conclusion. We agreed with each other, but they never informed the public about it.

 

Our question is what is the responsibility of the association? What is the responsibility of the board? We believe the board went beyond its line. The Association is the only body responsible for the conduct and registration of its members. Not the Board. They insisted. If the Board said they had the right to register and regulate the conduct of the practitioners, then there is no association. It is only the professional association that has the right to ban the practitioner from featuring in any film, not the board, not the government. It is only the association that has the right to fine you, to license you. It is only the association that has the right to train you. It is only association that has the right to state the prerequisite qualification for being a member. Only the association that can grade you—you are a grade one actor, grade two, grade B, grade C, grade D—not the board, so really, as a result of some activities that happened during the Hiyana case, we agreed. The board can only be supporting the Association. This is what we suggested. They said no, they had to apply everything….

 

Let me ask a final question. There is a lot of talk about how the film industry has been bad for youth or has spoiled youth, what redemptive or positive aspect is there in the industry for young people?

 

Of course there are quite many. Now film practitioners in Kano are really blackpainted. People have been blocked through media propaganda from seeing the good side, the positive side of the film industry. All the announcements, all the adverts on the radio, the television, the billboards, this is on the negative side of the film industry. So I would like to use this opportunity to portray some the positive aspects of the film industry. There are quite many. First of all, there is employment. This is needed all over the world. This is the largest employer in Kano state. Nigeria, in fact, it has been proven through research, that apart from agriculture, the film industry is the largest employer in Nigeria. The same thing in Kano. For you to make a single movie, about 500 people must benefit from it, directly or indirectly. According to research, it was 400, but I say it is about 500. From the idea, the script, the production, preproduction steps, those involved, postproduction, marketing, cinema shows, video, censors, printers. A lot of people are engaged. Production designers, carpenters, shops that rent clothing. There are a lot of them: restaurants, those who cook food, that is the welfare people, the transportation, drivers conveying artistes from here to there. A lot of people get involved. It is very healthy, and this should not be allowed to die. Always train the people, get the right people. Don’t bring the enemy of the industry to regulate the industry. The industry should be regulated, but we have educated, reasonable and respected people in the industry. Why can’t the government pick any of them to run the regulatory hand—that is the censor’s board.

 

As I was telling you before, there were some people engaged in other employment, maybe those who used to sell petrol on the street. I know many of them. I know those who were engaged in quite a number of bad habits, in those professions or those jobs that are not needed by the government, that are not welcome in the society. But with the advent of the film industry, they left those professions and moved to the industry. Then, it is the avenue by which a lot of our actresses projected themselves on the screen and have got suitors, quite a number of them who got married. Some of them got married with the practioners within the industry. Some of them got married out of the industry.

 

Secondly, I’m a living witness that the film industry, in recent history, is the biggest medium through which Hausa people, their culture and their religion is sold to the outside world. Nothing is near competition with the film industry. I was in Cannes May 2008 last year. I said I was from Nigeria. People did not seem to know I was from Nigeria. What is my language? I said “Hausa.” What is my religion? I said, “I’m a Muslim.”  People could not believe there were Muslims in Nigeria because all the Nigerian films they watch are done by the Christians. I said, “I’m Hausa, I’m from the Northern part Nigeria, that’s the largest part of Nigeria.” They said, “no.” All they knew were that there were Igbos and Yorubas in Nigeria. So you can find Hausa films all over the world now, in the internet, in the market, in the shops. So I was proud to represent society, to represent my culture, to represent my people, to represent my religion. Nothing has ever done that apart from this. This is another good side to the film industry.

 

And when you say culture, there are those movies that are really good. There are people—like when you talk of Iyan Tama’s movies, the Iyan Tama who is in custody now, when you see his movies, all his movies are great and they teach you moral, Islamic lessons, and he has been receiving commendation from elite, from quite a number of respected people in the society. In fact even censor’s board, not only once, awarded him an award for producing reasonable and very sound cultural movies. So there are quite a number of good things through the industry….

 

Of course I know the majority of the films produced during and after the Hiyana case were technically not very good. This is not unconnected with the financial situation we’ve found ourselves in, the economic position of Northern Nigeria. The lack of training also contributed. The average budget for a film in Lagos right now is about five million, the average budget for our film is 500,000 and you will see they have 10 times as money.  

 

I would not like to be biased with regard to the activities of the board. Really there are some positive steps taken by the board on which I would like to comment. Yeah. In the last one year, the Board has succeeded in getting almost all of the practitioners to register. That is what we are trying to do, but people were not willing to go and register. All those who registered were not willing to go out and do the registration annually with the association. Secondly you can see now. We have been trying to get rid of the problem of crowds of artists around the town, moving everywhere, displaying themselves around. That was what was happening. People are now afraid to come out and do these things.  And I believe it has a sort of impact on the moral activities of the practitioners in the state. I can see that.

 

But when you talk professionally, nothing has improved. In fact, in some instances, as far as morality is concerned, things are worsening. What is happening outside Kano now, what is happening in Kaduna and Jos, as far as moral activities, is far, far worse than what was going on in Kano.

 

There are quite a number of positives to the industry, but people look only at the negative aspects of it. And the film being the most powerful medium through which messages can be sent cannot be neglected. Kano State claims to be a shari’a government, right? And I tell you this, there is not any medium through which they can propagate shari’a to the people better than film. This is what I think the Government should do, to train the people, to use the medium, to sell itself, to sell its ideology. I talk with people who came when I was in Egypt last year [at the Cairo film festival] and saw how they do it. Government financed. Government trained. Government regulated. But not by imprisoning people. Not by arresting. Not by attacking. Not by exposing people to the stigma of being killed. Not by that. They have their own system.

 

I asked them to go borrow a model from some Islamic Republics, like Iran, like Pakistan. See what they do, what they have on the ground, come argue with us and take what does not suit you out.…. Because the world has changed now. We are in the 21st century, and film is a very powerful tool. The civilized and developing nations use the film medium to send their messages, to send their ideologies, to enlighten people in whatever program they are doing. If you kill the film industry that means we don’t have any way to sell ourselves, to sell our culture, to sell our people what we are doing. So, I believe the approach and the attitude of the government towards industry needs to be checked. It needs urgent attention.

A surprising move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday

I opened the middle page of the Sunday Trust today and was surprised to learn some information that I would have, assumedly, known since Monday had I arrived at the opening ceremony of the Alliance Francaise DOP workshop on time. According to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Daily Trust from Tuesday 10 February 2009,

Speaking at the workshop, President of the MOPPAN Alhaji Sanni Mu’azu officially announced that the association had withdrawn all its pending court cases against the state censors’ board.  Mu’azu, who spoke through secretary general of the association Dr. Umar Faruk Jibril, said the decision to reconcile was taken by the association in order to ensure continuity and progress in the areas of their operations which could only be achieved through harmonious relationship with board. He also said MOPPAN was a law abiding association and was therefore ever ready to accept constructive criticisms and corrections put forward by the board.   Also speaking, director general of the state film censors board Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim said it had become necessary for the board to reciprocate the decision of the association as there was a need for conducive atmosphere for their workings.

Apparently MOPPAN has suspended their suit against the Kano State Censorship Board. According to This Day:

The Motion Pictures Practi-tioners Associationof Nigeria (MOPPAN) has announced that it has withdrawn all court cases it instituted against the Kano State Censorship Board.This was contained in a statement issued by MOPPAN President, Alhaji Sani Mu’azu,  yesterday in Kano and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
It explained that the move was to give room to the two bodies to start working in harmony for the benefit of all.
The statement said collaboration between the two agencies could be the beginning of new vistas in a common bid to use film production to make the society better.

 

[UPDATE: 16 February 2009: The full text of the speech "Redefining Moments in Kannywood" read at the DOP Workshop can be read at Sani Mu'azu's blog.]

 

However, the day after this statement was supposedly read at the opening of the workshop on Monday, a friend of mine Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) an editor with H2 Concepts was arrested and detained overnight before being released in an out of court settlement, indicating that whether all is well between MOPPAN and the censorship board or not, all is still not well between the film industry and the censorship board.

I had just spent a day helping proofread the subtitles for a film Jagora (Guidance) made with DFID funding and also supported by A Daidaita Sahu, which premiered last night, 14 February 2009 at Mambayya House. Dr. Sarari, VP of MOPPAN and owner of Klassique Productions where I had been working, was driving me home, when he received a phone call about Sulaiman’s arrest. Sulaiman spent the night in jail, and was released the next day in an “out of court” settlement at the mobile court at the Airport. I didn’t write about this earlier because I didn’t want to publicize the arrest if he didn’t want it to be publicized. However, in an interview that I carried out with him last night, he said that I should publish it and I should use his real name, because he had done nothing wrong, he was not charged with any crime, and the incident had caused him a lot of trouble.

According to Sulaiman, he had returned from his lecturers at Bayero University, where he is a first year student, and was working with his friend Umar Gombe in his office on Zoo Road. He said that around 7:30pm,  two uniformed policemen came in with guns and asked for their certificate of registration with the censorship board. They were being directed by a hisbah police. Habib Yaro, Sulaiman’s boss at H2 Concepts, said that the papers were at the office they had just moved from the month before. Habib said he would go get the papers, while Sulaiman went with them to the police station. However, Sulaiman said that once he entered the police vehicle, they stopped on the side of the road, and the hisbah made a call to someone. He said after the call, the hisbah said that whether they brought the papers or they didn’t bring the papers, he would sleep in the prison tonight. And that is what happened. Although Habib Yaro brought the certificate of registration from 2008 and the 2009 receipt of payment for renewal, they told him they would settle the case the next day and that Sulaiman would stay overnight at the police station.

Sulaiman told me that once they arrived at the police station, they put him in a dirty mosquito-filled cell with thugs and prostitutes.  He said that from 7:30pm until 11am when he was taken to the mobile court at the airport, he was not given anything to eat. His friends brought him supplies and food (and gave the police to give him), but the policemen took most of the supplies. He said they brought him a package of mosquito coils and they gave him 2 out of the package; They brought him a package of candles, he only brought him 2 candles. They brought him biscuits but they didn’t give him any of them. The next morning, apparently friends brought him a flask of  tea, and he was settling down to drink it when a policeman came and told him to give him the flask. That was the last he saw of it.

I went out to the mobile court a little past 11am when we received news that Sulaiman had been transported to court. We saw him in a holding cell with three other men. Sulaiman said one of them had been caught selling a Sadiq Zazzabi’s music video “Gari ya yi tsaf” made for an Abuja politician. The second one had been caught selling cassettes, and the third selling traditional medicine with supposedly pornographic pictures.

After about 20 minutes after I arrived at the court, they released Sulaiman from the cell and he came out grinning. His boss settled with the court and received a receipt for the settlement. However, he said they were not charged with any crime. They had done nothing wrong. Their papers were in order. They had the certificate of registration with the censorship board from 2008, and they had paid and had a receipt for registration for 2009 (although they had not yet recieved their certificate from the board). The only problem they had was that they had relocated from their office in Fagge to Zoo Road, apparently without informing the censorship board. They were charged with a N10,000 court charge and another N5,000 fine paid to the censorship board [ladan gabe]. They were given receipts for both. NOTE: This contradicts what Rabo told me in his earlier interview about the censorship board not recieving any of the money from the censorship court. They had refused to plead guilty, as they had done nothing wrong, but apparently the judge told them they would have to pay the charges anyway. (I’ll put the details up when I transcribe the interview.)  MOPPAN sent their lawyer, but they were afraid that if the lawyer got involved Sulaiman would be held “like Iyan Tama.” 

Sulaiman said he had several lectures at the university that morning, which he missed because he was being held in jail.

I plan to transcribe and translate the interview with Sulaiman, and when I do, I will try to post it here.

[UPDATE: 14 March 2009: For the interview with Sulaiman and an article featuring Sulaiman's experiences see the links to the following articles published by NEXT on 8 March 2009: Hard Times in Kannywood. and We didn't do anything Wrong.]

(For a background on the censorship crisis in Kano see this post)

Interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board

Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim was appointed Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board by Governor Ibrahim Shekarau in August 2007 following the leaking of a phone video of a popular actress having sex with a boyfriend—a scandal that rocked the Hausa film industry and culminated in the Motion Picture’s Practitioners Association of Nigeria suspending shooting in Kano for 6 months. “Malam Rabo” as he is popularly known in Kano cracked down on the industry with stricter interpretations of the 2001 censorship law than had previously been enforced. Malam Rabo has a BA special honours from the Department of Mass Communications, Bayero University, and was formerly the commandant of hisbah, shari’a police.

I met him in his office on 27 January 2009, on the third floor of the Broadcasting House, Hotoro. I accompanied another journalist who did a brief interview with him, and then Malam Rabo asked me if I had any questions. I’m afraid I did, quite a long list, in fact, and I asked almost all of them. He was gracious enough to accommodate me, though by the end, as he pointed out, he had a long line of people waiting to see him. I’m grateful that he granted me such an extensive audience. After he completed the azahar prayers, we began. He speaks clearly and precisely with a voice that could have benefitted him in radio or television had he chosen that career path rather than one of regulation and enforcement. He grew more impassioned and impatient as the interview went on.

Since this is such a long interview, here is a “roadmap.” I first asked him about the mission of the censorship, his definition of culture, specifics on the ban on dancing and singing, and then on the Iyan Tama case (during which the battery on my digital recorder unfortunately cut out without me noticing it. I’ve attempted to reconstruct, to the best of my ability, what he said. I mark clearly where I transition from direct quote to summary and then back to direct quote again.) After discussing the Iyan Tama case, I went on to ask him about the jurisdiction of the mobile court, the Ibro trial, in which Ibro was convicted without a defense council present. I go on to ask him about the specifics of what the censorship board is censoring including films from outside, whether Nollywood, Hollywood, Bollywood, and what the board is doing about films available through satellite. I follow this up with questions about the specifics of a press release from November 2007 and the requirements that anyone involved in the film industry register individually with the board. I also asked him about the special restrictions placed on women in the film industry, and about the supposed censorship board “hit list” published by Fim magazine. Finally, I concluded the interview with a couple of questions about the censorship of books and literature in Kano state.

Would you mind giving me a brief summary of the goals and the mission and what the Kano State Censorship Board is trying to accomplish?

Kano State as an entity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is mandated by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the concurrent list of the Federal constitution, section 16, subsection A and B, to establish a censoring organ or agency. The entire federation units are mandated by the same constitution, meaning the state can have their independent censorship in addition to what the federal or central government has. So we are using that constitutional provision to benefit the regulatory measures presently under the state edict, the Kano State Censorship Board Law 2001. This law has been in operation for the last 8 to 9 years, and of course, yes, the mandate of the law is to ensure all filmmaking, film productions and related projects, cinemas, viewing centres, video, satellites, were properly managed, properly registered. And of course there is the marketing aspect of this business, and of course there’s the stakeholders, equally accommodated by the laws, to be regulated. So the other aspect of the law has to do with publications in general, including literary, especially creative work. This is where the law mandates that all literary projects should be censored, the original manuscript should be submitted, to ensure all these projects are all free of pornography, free of obscenity, you understand. Things that are unwanted, things that are not part of our societal values are checkmated, and of course there are things that are illegal, meaning things that violate the law of the land. So this is what is all about in the law in addition to other similar assignments. The law is quite broad, because there is the issue of pornography. Pornography in its entirety has been prohibited by the law, notwithstanding other electronic services. In a nutshell, media, film, broadcast, film inclusive are accommodated in the law, and this is what we have been trying to implement all the while. So this is the provision of the law and of course yes, it was made out of the original philosophy, cultural heritage, and our societal ideals. They were the major principles, the major issues that made the law to be a reality in addition to the constitutional mandate given to federated units.

I had a related question. This is a quote from one of the publications of the censorship board. It says “All productions must not jeopardize sensitivity of the general public, thus religion, culture, law, state, and ethics of the profession.” Could you clarify—and you had mentioned that the censorship law is based on cultural values—how are you defining culture?

How am I defining or rather how the law is defining what?

Culture.

The definition of the culture is in the hands of the original people, not adulterators. History is very favourable in this case. And of course, yes, the definition of culture goes with the people. We have what we call material culture. Material culture is very flexible and Hausa as a society, Hausa Fulani as a society, accept changes. We don’t have quarrel with any material culture that comes our way with regard to our accommodation, you understand, our housing, our environment, anything that is going to be developmental, constructive, even from our neighbors or from far, Sahara, Eastern, Middle East, you understand. We can welcome that kind of development because culture is flexible. But the uncompromising culture is the attitudinal culture, and it has to be well represented, and it has to be well portrayed in the course of any project, be it literary, be it electronic. Because that attitudinal culture represents the societal values. It is what is being transferred from generation to generation. It is not the individuals of contemporary Hausa society that represent Hausa as a community. They are all mortals. One day we are not around. Our forefathers are no longer with us. But the attitudinal aspects of our culture remains. So if it is being poisoned, or if it is being adulterated or if it is being misrepresented in this literary or in this creative arts, obviously there will come a time where Hausa-Fulani will have no place to be traced or to be placed, you understand. Now in the course of borrowing culture, we are very mindful of our societal values. We are a very good society of which we believe in dignity. Anything that will tarnish the culture of the Hausa Fulani when it comes to dressing, we will not allow it because it is a clean and respected clan—Hausa Fulani— you understand. So the same thing, when it comes to neighborliness, you understand, we are very good in treating our colleagues, irrespective of your religion, if you have opportunity to be our neighbor, we treat you well. So anything that will come undermining, you understand, such principles that made Hausa-Fulani as a society, we see it very uncompromising. Because when these projects are taken away, or rather taken to other continents, maybe to Europe, maybe to America, you understand, Hausa-Fulani will not be there, might not be there when people will be busy saying, “Ok, this is another society in entirety,” the way we dance in the film will mean that [this is the way] we are and of course we are not, because it is the culture of the Indian film—the influence of the Indian film to the Hausa society in the 70 years, you understand. The mass audience of the Indian films are the women and the youth, and of course, yes, now they are the bulk stakeholders of the Kannywood creative arts, so the influence of what they have been used to in the seventy years, you understand, make them to produce, or sometimes to plagiarize, or sometimes to copy or translate things that were done in another society, in another culture. So obviously that’s why you see that’s why all things were done in a misrepresenting way. So in a nutshell, the definition of culture has to do with the attitudinal culture we want to remain original. Anything that is not we, that is not Hausa-Fulani, shouldn’t be regarded Hausa Fulani. So that’s where we measure things in the context of culture.

Just one thing, and then I want to move on to a few other specifics: on the ban on dancing and singing. I know it was initially banned but then it said it would be all right if it was done in a cultural way. Could you clarify on that—

Yes, to be very specific. In the olden days before the new management of this board, dancing, the illicit dancing, the immoral dancing in a reckless dressed way, in a very obscene code of appearance, sometimes in a seducive and, of course, yes, abusive way, where the culture were the order of the projects, in fact were the 95% content of the Kannywood projects. Go and buy. You will see it yourself. You cannot imagine a film project that is supposed to be for the entertainment, education, and, of course, yes, enlightenment of the general public in accordance with the law and the societal values are now jeopardized. So that is what made the state government sue this board to ban all alien dancing, all alien cultures that were smuggled into our projects, the Kannywood projects, and were made to be representing the Hausa Fulani, where we may not be there. Let’s say in Australia, you understand, we may not be there when the people will assemble and start watching the Kannywood projects. So believe you me, we are saying original dancing, the rawan dab’e, you undertand, the lugude, you understand, which are original, the cultural play between the Fulani, you understand, and the Kanuri, you understand, the Fulani and the Tiv, you understand. In fact, there are other types of jokes, plays, between respective professions, the mahautas, and the fishers, you understand. All these entertainments are accompanied with some unique moral entertainment sort of things. Why shouldn’t it be packaged so that we are portrayed the actual way we are, the original way we are? So in as much as things will be [indistinguishable word] wrongly, and will be made on our behalf, then government is very unbecoming to allow such things to continue being spread, you understand, because the social responsibility of the government is to ensure the dignity of the people, the dignity of the subject is protected, because they can’t protect it themselves, unless if you want people to take law into their hands. This is it.

So if it is done in a culturally appropriate way, then…

We allow it, especially when it tallies with the storyline. There will come a wedding party, you understand, a wedding ceremony. I allow the process of wedding, you understand. That is where you will see modern cultures. People will come with their cars. We don’t have cars in the olden days in the Hausa Fulani, you understand. We have donkeys, we have horses. But now that we are in modern time, if you are trying to give a scenery of the wedding congregation, you will see people in their respective dresses, some in English wears, you understand, some with barbed head, some without barbing, you understand, we allow all those things, we see it material. But in the course of performing it, there are fundamental things supposed to be there. If you have Kalangu people trying to make what we call “rokon baki,” you understand, the town criers mentioning all what is happening there in a joking way, creating jokes, trying to extract money, you understand, from the wealthy individuals in the congregation, why must we quarrel with that, and of course there are some with their drums, you understand, so they are purely our culture…. I am talking where you see a girl, you understand, coming down from a mountain, kneeling down to a rose, to a flower, you understand, as if she is worshipping that flower, you understand. Somebody hugging a girl, making a dance, you understand, a rock way of it, you understand, a puff way of it, definitely it is not ours, it has to be out of our projects. That is what we mean.

I was wondering specifically about the mixing of men and women,  because I was at the opening of the Goethe Institute back in October, and the Koroso International Troupe—I believe there was a representative of the governor and also the emir there—and the Koroso International Troupe with men and women were dancing together. I was wondering what the difference was between the dancing in the films and that particular kind of dancing?

You don’t have to be wondering, you understand. To us, you understand, any person that is defaulting any side of the law, we see him as an offender, you understand. And of course, yes, whether it is an official occasion whereby, you understand, government representation is there, whether it is a public occasion where there is no government agents in attendance, it doesn’t implies. What it implies is what they are doing and what is the position of the law on it.

(and my battery died on my recorder without my knowing it, so I will  reconstruct the following portion from my quite detailed notes until I get to place where I realized by recorder had died and changed the battery.)

Malam Rabo further stated that the censorship is concerned about any individuals who are undermining the morality of the society. “It gives a bad picture of society.” He particularly focused on how “if women are commercialized, we see it as unbecoming, dehumanizing.” He also stated that the censorship board makes no difference between the individual and the government. So even if there was a representative of the government or an emir at an event, this does not mean it is exempt from the law. If it breaks the laws it is banned. He mentioned that last year, during Eid el Kabir, they took the government agency, the Zoological Garden, to court over some displays they had performing there. “Ours is not selective justice. If they breach our guidelines, the law disallows it.”

I then asked the following question from my notes:

I also wanted to ask about the case of Iyan Tama being charged. One of the charges against him is that he did not register his company Iyan Tama Multimedia with the censorship board, but there is a website where he has scanned in the receipts for payment to the censorship board in 2008. Why is he being charged with not renewing his membership?

He told me that he was glad I had brought up this case of placing receipts on the internet. He said that a receipt is evidence of payment; it is not a certificate. He asked if Iyan-Tama had a certificate from 2005, where were those of 2007, 2006 or 2008. He asked me if I purchased a form for admission into the university whether it was proof of admission. He said that he would have to return the forms with attached documents, and that the censorship board had not received further documentation. He showed me a stamped piece of correspondence and said that the board stamps all mail brought in to them, but that they did not have further documentation from Iyan Tama. He claimed that Iyan Tama “refused to follow up on the registration.”

I then asked this question from my notes: Part IV, item 16 of the 2001 Censorship law says that no films produced or issued by the diplomatic representative of a foreign country will be subject to censorship law. Why is Iyan-Tama’s film Tsintsiya, which was sponsored by the U.S. embass,y being censored under this law?

He answered that this was just one side of the law, and that elsewhere, there are other provisions and legal documents that follow up that law. He said the exemption process is spelt out as to what sort of content will be exempted and Iyan-Tama’s film is not exempted. When I asked him about these procedures for exemption, he said that in order to receive exemption, you must apply to the board. He said that the law was originally intended more for informational projects for projection, like teaching people irrigation and other such viable projects coming with nonprofit motivations. He said, “There was nothing like that in his film. It was a purely commercial venture.”

I mention that Iyan-Tama had stated publically, even before his arrest about how the film was not for sale in Kano. He said in an interview with Fim Magazine at the Zuma Film festival that because he did not want to have legal trouble with Kano state that he was not going to release his film in Kano.

This was his answer, as close to direct quotes as possible that I recorded in my notes—with some very rapid scribbling:  “As for his stating that the film was not for sale in Kano, he is our stakeholder, and if he has information like this we deserve to be informed. Was there that official communication? Was there any correspondence between his company and us? Even if he made a public announcement, we were not officially intimated of that. We found it in the Kano Market. Three stakeholders were selling films, without being liscensed…” The basic gist of the rest of his response was that if Iyan-Tama did not want to be responsible for any of the films being sold in the state, then he had to communicate officially with the board about his decision not to sell in the state and that a public announcement was not enough.

I further asked him if Iyan-Tama was to be held responsible for any copies of the films that might have been smuggled into the state without his knowledge. That is when I discovered that my recorder had stopped and started it back up again. The remaining interview is transcribed from my recording:

He is in a position to testify how it comes in, but we know it comes in a business way, because we found it on sale, and that is how we apprehended the marketers. They were punished before the law, much earlier before he was arrested, meaning, whether smuggled, whether brought officially, now that is his own problem. That is why we are saying that knowledge should work in filmmaking because if somebody is knowledgeable and you have your project, you will strategize how to circulate your film, so that it will not be abused, you understand, so you can only strategize the marketing procedure if you are knowledgeable, if you are learned, if you know the marketing, the distribution strategy of film projects. So that is what we are saying, but if things are loosed and done in an ignorant and illiterate way, then obviously somebody might abuse your production, or you yourself you will be abusing the law unknown to you. So, we don’t know which one it was, all we are saying is that the law says anything that is intended to be marketed in Kano, in as much as it is a film or related project, must be censored by this board. If it is an exemption, application should be made to that effect, of which we will clear and we will grant that exemption certificate and then the project or the film will remain in circulation. None of this has been actualized, has been regularized, has been formalized with this board. Therefore we see it as very illegal. We see it as unbecoming and it deserves to be punished.

Ok, I have a question about whether there a publication available for purchase that I could get for my own research—a publication of the censorship laws?

Yeah we have it, you go to the Gazette Unit of Kano State. You will get our law. Our law is public. It is meant for public. You can purchase it there.

When was the last update to the law?

No, since the very day the law was made in 2001, up to this very moment, there has not been any amendment. It remains original, and the original authors of the law are no more around. It is not even this administration, you understand. It was made much earlier than now, my dear.

Ok, so I think I quoted part of the interview with Sani Mua’zu where it says “The law says that the fine should be no more than 100,000, whereas he has records that people have paid 500,000…

I think I can [only] partially answer this question because I shouldn’t assume the duty of a legal officer, a prosecutor, or a judge, you understand. To the best of my knowledge there are other provisions of which specific fines were spelled out. Some fine, or imprisonment with option of fine. There are some provisions which would combine all. There are also other sides of the law which fines illimitably. I am very aware of such sections of the law. If you go to your research you will see it. And there are other types of offences of which the imprisonment is not also spelled out. Some will say not less than one year, some will say not more than one year, as per issue of imprisonment, you understand. So for the one that you were asked by the law, as a judge, not less than one year, now is at your discretion as a lay man, to me, to quantify the gravity of the offences to make it one year, one day, you understand or make it one year, five days. So this is best to be answered by the judge of the mobile court, but to the best of my knowledge, there are other provisions that do not spell out specific amounts to be charged or to be fined. And above all, the issue of fine is not our affair, it is that of the judicial service commission. The board does not take any kobo. Even the receipts that were issued, is not that of the board.

Also, again, this might not be part of your jurisdiction, but could you clarify the jurisdiction of the mobile court, there have been cases where people have been taken before the court and sentenced, for example Ibro, I think, was sentenced to three months in prison without option of fine without having a lawyer present. So could you explain to me the jurisdiction the mobile court is given to convict people without the benefit of lawyers?

[UPDATE 14 March 2009: Please note that the following linked passages were quoted in the article "Hard Times in Kannywood" published in NEXT on 8 March 2009. The quotes are copyrighted to NEXT."]

It is a misinformation for somebody to say that the board or our mobile court tries people without being given the right of legal representation. Over 85% of the cases dealt by the mobile court of this board were undertaken in the presence of defense counsels or respective accused persons, so it is a misnomer, it is mischievous and misinformation. But of course yes, if somebody pleads guilty immediately after a charge is mentioned to him, and, of course yes, there is not any council, and he did not intend to present any counsel, then obviously the judge has every right, you understand, to respond to his confessional statement before the court of law, because a charge is mentioned to the actual accused, and, of course yes, he confessed guilty and he has no representation and he is not willing to produce any. Such few cases were equally judged, judgments were fast, you understand. So in a nutshell, it is a misnomer to say that people were not given the right of having representation, a legal council to represent them in the course of our trials. This is misinformation.

Even that of Ibro you mentioned, you understand. He was the person—he pleaded guilty, and he repeated it. He was even asked what he was appealing to the court. He responded to the court that he wanted mercy, he wanted some sort of leniency. That is how the judge, you understand, went ahead to pass his verdict.

I don’t believe there was any person denied lawyers. Because we are known in a battle of law with various many chambers in the state, you understand, to tell you that, really, we allow legal representation.

The very rapid nature of the mobile court. Does that allow for people to procure lawyers if they need it. For example, I know Ibro was arrested and within maybe 30 minutes of arriving….

What we are operating is a mobile court. And our law was very categorical. Mobile court is of strict liability. You do this. You don’t do this. We have been campaigning, we have been enlightening our state holders to always have in their possession, certificates of registration, licensed for their business premises, so that if the law, if the court of law, if the mobile courts charge, you can immediately present that “this is my certificate,” you are free. For nonproduction of your certificate to the mobile court, you understand, you are bound to be charged. If you will plead guilty, you understand, the prosecutor has every right to tell the court that, yes, I am, rest assured that this person is guilty because he confessed guilty. Subsequently, after that the judgment must be fast. So this is how in certain cases, some people, we will ease things for them because they know they are wanting. They know they are faulty, they are defaulters, they immediately confess. So in that case, what do you do, especially if you haven’t expressed any interest in producing a legal counsel. So, in a nutshell, my dear, nobody was ever prosecuted by this mobile court without being given a fair hearing. Judgment is judgment. A count charge will be mentioned. If there is no fair hearing, why must he be told of the count charge? After you were told of the charge, then you will be asked for a response. If you say I will not talk until my counsel is around, nobody will force him to talk, you understand. If he says, yeah, I breached that section of the law, but I am pleading with the court to temper justice with mercy, this and that, no problem. Of course there’s the prosecutor, and things has been eased for him, he will just go with his last prayer to the court that the judgment should be passed.

One last detail about the Ibro case. I know Ibro Aloko, which was one of the films that was being charged with indecent dancing in it….

Point of correction. We did not charge him with a film but rather with an album. There is a film, really, earlier produced and certified by this board as Ibro Aloko, rest assured. But what we charged him to court was an album, which is entirely different with a film, and that was how he was prosecuted on that album because nor Ibro and his production company, neither the producer could produce certificate from this board that Aloko as an album was certified and censored by this board. So that was how he was charged.

Ok, so the compilation of his songs and dances from films….

I don’t know what was the compilation, whether it was originally from his company or from other joint productions, but all we know is that an album was apprehended in circulation in the market, you understand, of which, of course, yes, we did not certify, we did not censor. You understand. So the marketer, you understand, and of course, yes, the company, and, of course, yes, the key principle producers were apprehended.

Another question about the jurisdiction of Kano state censorship law, does this fall under shari’a law or under constitutional law—

Never, when we had this law in 2001, there was nothing like shari’a implementation in Kano. It was purely a constitutional and a literary law. And it is a global issue. You are aware everywhere there are censorship agencies. We are a regulatory body. There is censorship in U.S., you understand. There is censorship in Britain. The Hayes code of the U.S. censorship is even stringent compared to what we are exercising here in Africa, here in Nigeria, in Kano. So believe you me, when the law was established, there was not this campaign for shari’a, so it was not made out of the agitation for shari’a. No, the law was very much on ground before the shari’a agitations. It was coined and it was provisioned by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, but our elected members of the house of the then 2001 were very mindful of our culture, were mindful of our philosophy, were mindful of the law of Nigeria before they came up with the law. So that is why the law fits Kano people.

So what exactly is the censorship board censoring. Is it all films in Kano or is it just Hausa films?

All films in Kano, including those that were produced outside Kano but intended to be marketed or to be sold in Kano. Obviously, if you are interested in Kano market, you must bring the film for us to view it, to censor it, to re-preview it, to be rest assured that [there is] nothing damaging to Kano society. If we see it free of immorality, if we see it in consonant with our Kano principles, if we see it contributive to our people, then we allow it, and you continue with your business. But if you bring something destructive, maybe you are producing a film that belittles holy Jesus, we don’t allow it because there are non-Muslims in Kano. If you bring a film, being a Christian, that belittles the Prophet Mohammed, we don’t allow it. If you bring a film that cast Yoruba as a clan, we will not allow it even if it is being produced outside Kano, because it is our social responsibility to ensure social respect, social dignity of the entire community that are living in Kano, whether they are original Kano people, or they are settlers, or they are passerbyes.

Ok, so what about the Indian films, Hollywood films and southern Nigerian films that are being sold, are they all being passed through the Kano State censors’ board?

We have what we call secondary censoring. Films that were produced outside of Kano, and we don’t have access to original producers who we’ll ask to make some editing. Then the best of our own measures secondarily is to ensure that film is banned from circulation in the state. But for somebody who is producing a Nigerian movie, the Nollywood type of movie, and intends to circulate it in Kano, they have been submitting. In the series of films we have been clearing, there are a lot of Nollywood films, English films that we have certified. Of recent they brought three of each of which I cleared because they are interested in the Kano market. They were produced by the Nollywood producers, you understand. But of course there is the Indian films, this and that, if they are so reckless, if they are so obscene, if they are so immoral, then the next thing for us is to tell the marketers, don’t bring this film again, please, take it away from our Kano market. So this is the secondary way of it, because we don’t have the original producers as applicants before the board, for us to work on it. But if somebody brings it and is interested in the Kano market, we will censor it and we will make sure that he doesn’t blackmail or undermine our society, we will allow it.

I know I’ve seen these dvd compilations of Hollywood films, and I know there are sex scenes in some of them. I know part of the Kano State censorship law is no touching between men and women, no clothing that—

It’s not true. It’s not true. There are certain storylines that will allow. You understand, because if you are filming a scene, where it involves someone who is giving birth to a new baby. As you are aware we have multiple hands to ensure a woman delivers successfully, there will come a time an assistant to the doctor or assistant to the midwifery who may be an opposite sex, be it a male assisting a woman or a woman assisting a male. So for that, if it is intended to reflect—you see them forming shelters, working together, because it is not an issue of obscenity, it is not an issue of arousing sexual desire, it is a professional thing. Somebody is on a duty, dedicated, he doesn’t even think of things. But [if] you allow free mingling in a seducive and abusive way sexually, you don’t have to allow that. If you have such compilations, it is against the law of the land, Kano State Censorship Board and National Film and Video Censorship. We have been fighting these compilations of dvds by Hollywood because it is even undermining their projects. I know it is an act of pirates, you understand. It is something that is 100% illegal by all constitutive authorities. Copyright board is fighting that. National Film and Video Censors is fighting that. Our board is also equally complementing and fighting that.

So all these dvd compilations are illegal?

They are illegal. All these dvds in circulation. You will see a compilation of somebody’s project. I produced more than 10 films. Hard earned money is used to produce these films. But somebody is compiling them, at the cheapest rates. He is undermining my business. He is cheating me. I see it as very, very unbecoming.

So, as long as the touching between men and women is in the storyline of the film….

Apart from the storyline, it doesn’t entail any seducive. It doesn’t attract sexual harassment, it doesn’t pass any message, you understand. Sometimes, my dear, if you give me an extreme close up of a woman on a screen, with her lips wetted, you understand, costumed… Are you harassing me with her? Why must I allow that? Are you passing a message? It is somebody’s daughter, it is somebody’s wife next time. To our culture we don’t allow that. Because you are exposing her, you are abusing her. And imagine the scenery I am prescribing to you. It is not the issue of touching but herself alone, but being done in an abusive way. We will not allow that.

So it is up to the interpretation of the—

Of course and our interpretation goes with our society, goes with our locality.

Ok, you had mentioned at the very beginning of our interview that the Kano State censorship board is responsible for cable and satellite and that sort of thing, so what is the Kano state censorship board doing to—

We have a think tank working together at state and federal level to ensure we approach it in a global way. Now we have similar projects in Dubai, you understand, it is not all stations you see in Dubai. And we are part of the advocacy that really films should be attended in Nigeria. So our colleagues in the southern and eastern part of Nigeria are teaming up together to ensure that what we have been receiving through our satellite are in consonant with the Nigerian people, not something alien that will disabuse, or rather relegate the image of Nigeria as a people.

So for example, a satellite with Africa Movie Magic—

We have not come up with a position, I told you. We are in advocacy. We are trying to come up with a conclusion. So it is hard for somebody to say we mean this we don’t mean that. We mean this, we don’t mean that.

I also have a question about registration. In your press briefing of February 11, 2008, you say “every individual operator MUST register and be issued with a license to operate be it artiste, scriptwriter, designer, director, producer, and other related persons.” So, what if for example, an actor from Lagos appeared in the film, do they have to register with the Kano State Censorship board.

They don’t have to. We are referring to our resident stake holders, professional crew. You don’t have anywhere except Kano as your domain, domicile domain, where you registered to be in production, you understand. Then you deserve to formalize all what is expected of you as a stakeholder with the local authority where you are residing. So our expectation for a Lagos based producer is that all your things were duly formalized with the state government or the professional guilds there in Lagos. So we assume he is a very law-abiding producer. So when he comes here then we will absolve them. Unless, if he is now living here, then of course, yes, he has to register.

So anyone living in the state?

Of course, yes.

What about someone living in Kaduna and based in Kaduna?

No, our jurisdiction is purely in Kano. The same thing.

Also, in the law it says every practitioner has to have a minimum diploma. What of those, for example, who are not Western educated, but have the skill. For example, very talented actors—Are they not allowed to act?

We are not referring that to actors. Artistes are purely talented sometimes and are gifted, so you don’t have to, maybe, measure them from educational qualifications. We are referring to a professional crew, a producer, a director, a cinematographer. For that you are supposed to go to school. How to handle camera, how to direct artistes, how to actualize quality. But for an artist can be categorized into various many groups. You can have the naturally gifted artists, who you can’t produce without him, but if he is taken to school, he will be well polished and will do it better, you understand. So we are encouraging education because education is the best way you do it. So in a nutshell, it is not applicable to the actor or to the actress.

And related to this, you say that a director or producer must produce a diploma or certificate in the field of production from a recognized institution. So that means every director or producer must have this?

Either a diploma or equivalent. Because what we are now doing. We are considerate, we are mindful, can I say, of the baby industry we are operating this time. Things are now becoming better. Now if we insist on diploma almost everybody will be out of it. But at least maybe attended a seminar or workshop where he has been taught the basics of production, basics of directing, basic of lighting, sound, this and that, you understand. You will feel courage to give him the license because he knows A and B, some basics, I mean, of production. But if he has nothing, what will he want to be? He brings nothing. He will produce nothing.

Ok, and number 7 of that particular press release says that “female artistes, musicians, and lyricists must be under the care of her husband, parent, or guardian. Not independent as the case may be”… Could you clarify what you mean by that?

A freelancer in the industry who can be a lyricist, a musician, especially the womenfolk by our culture, by our tradition, by our religion, has to be under the custody of her parents or guardian, because of what we call historical factor. They were abused. There were [cases of] domination. There were a lot of sexual abuse cases to be handled by the board. That historical factor, that nasty experience made the board to assume the social responsibility to ensure the dignity of the womenfolk is to protected in this act. So this is why we say she will be brought to us as somebody certified by her guardian, you understand, so that if we absolve her, nobody will see her as a prostitute or a harlot because they have been passing all these nasty allegations by the larger society, and we can’t stand for her even in a court of law if somebody abused her by saying she is a harlot. Because we know that she did not come to us as a harlot, she came from somebody who introduced her and signed, you understand, that she is an operator and he is a guardian, with his consent the woman is producing. So we want to actualize her dignity and respect. That is why we are determined to do it that way.

Is there an age limit on that or is that for any woman?

For the woman only, because for the man there were not these nasty historical issues, like I mentioned to you.

So that refers to ANY woman or just women from Kano state—

No, you know there are some women who are very old and who are playing motherly roles in the film. You don’t expect all this abuse. That is what we are ever determined to ensure, you understand?  So for an old woman who is 55, getting to 60, what do you expect from her. On her own, she is also guardian for somebody. I am referring to teenagers, 13, 14, 15 year old girls in her puberty period, during her youthfulness, during her maybe promiscuous  period, people will harass her. Some of the stakeholders who are her seniors will harass her or rather will force her into forced sexual whatever, you understand. We are responsible, the government is responsible to ensure things are not done in an exploitive way sexually.

Then, just finally, to the issue of literature. I know you have talked to the ANA [Association of Nigerian Authors] national president. Do writers still need to individually register or is it just the associations now.

What we are said is that we are to register all our stakeholders. They are plea-ing with the board and we accepted their plea that after they perfect registration at the association level, we have our own procedure, you understand, for registration. We register them through the association. A compiled list is sent to us by an association that has registered with the board. We don’t have any right to reject unless if that very individual in the list is a lawbreaker. If that individual in the list is a cultist or a secret society agent, you call on the leadership of the association, you caution them, why are you with this? We are government. We relate with other law agents, intelligence agents as well. Our information about so, so, and so person is that he is illicit, he will destroy the image of your association. Please take him out of your list. We guide them to ensure that they are operating a very good and responsible association, free of anything that will tarnish their image of membership.

Ok, and how is the government aware if a stakeholder is a lawbreaker?

My dear, my dear, we have dossiers for all our citizens. We know where you reside. We know where you are a counselor, we know you are a ward head. We know everybody. Come on. If we want to know that you are illicit, we know better than anybody. It is not government that you get things that you [indistinguishable words] people. I have my file everywhere, personally, talking to you. I have my file in the SSS. I have my file in the police. I have my file everywhere, and they know all my dossier there. If I am mischievous, it is there in the file. It is very easy for a government to tell about her members, the members of the society, I mean. You understand? Very easy.

So, you check the list of writers against—

Yeah, we vet it, we make sure that, yeah, what they are submitting is something that is pertainable. But if they are racking the list with somebody who we know is causing an ignoble  element, then we caution them, that “why for this man? he is not supposed to be registered.” It is we that maybe will educate them. They’ll say “lalala you are helping us. Please, we will fish him out.”

Ok and also just related to the idea of a list. Fim Magazine in November 2008 published a list of 32 people that they said censorship board wanted to catch.

That’s what they said, according to them, but to every, maybe, partial reader will conclude it the way you do. But there was no that interview. It was a junk journalist reporting, and it was mischievous to distance our stakeholders from the board. This is how I see it. They were called. They apologized. They were making fishy explanations. But be it whatever, we are a forgiving agency, you understand. We are very considerate of the atmosphere. We don’t have to be on court cases on everything. We want to be on court cases with something that is objective, you understand. Not misinformation. It is not all misinformation that you react to. So, it is not true. And of course, yes, those that were published and those that were not published, we regard everybody equal. In as much as you will not breach the law, you are free, but if you breach the law you will be corrected for the first time. We have that benefit. We will call you and call your attention. If you refuse or rather if you persist to be breaching the law, I’m sorry for you. Whether you are published there in the magazine or whether you are not published, it is your own palaver.

One of the writers explained to me that there is a way of printing the books where the writer doesn’t have a lot of money. So they gradually raise the money to print the books. So they print the plates first when they find the money, they’ll print the cover. So they said, what if they had printed the plates before this latest issue of having to bring everything to the censorship board?

A loss to a stakeholder, as an individual, is better than for someone to publish unwanted material that will tarnish the entire image of our society. I hope I am well understood. We better, you understand, sanction that person and he lose whatever he is losing, then to allow his publication to go on circulation belittling the society in its entirety, wherever Hausa Fulani is will be blamed for that. Because the power of media cannot be quantified, my dear. So we will not allow that because somebody is losing. He is in a market, so it is an adventure. He can lose or he can gain profit. We are very aware of this.

And finally, are books and films produced before the censorship laws were enacted, can they be sold freely or do they also need to be censored?

They have been in circulation. For those that were very, very serious, you understand—even much earlier before this law, we have Kano stakeholders, who our bound duty to ensure that Kano is well represented in media. So all sorts of things that were very unbecoming for long have been pitched out. But yet, if there is anything that was being produced in the forty years or fifty years and are still very alarming, we are appealing to the general public to get back to this board and ask us to please reconsider the circulation of such things. If they are worthwhile for editing, for re-preview, we will go ahead for that. If they are to be banned, we are ever determined to do that because ours is quality service to the general public.

Finally, does the censorship board have any plans to establish a publishing company, perhaps in conjunction with A Daidaita Sahu, to publish the kind of literature you would like in Kano state?

We have our printing agency already on the ground and it is meant for the state government, of course, yes. But of course, the general public is equally benefitting from it. The charges, the ideals are easily respected and observed there because it is also a government agency. So believe you me, we have where we can publish all we have, because it is the only government owned publishing company in the north. It is the only government-owned publishing company, the Kano printing press, and of course, yes, there is also the Triumph publishing company which is for the media and of course has been used to assist in other publications, both government and other stakeholders in other literary works.

Thank you very much. You’ve cleared up a lot of things.

Ba komai, ba komai, Talatu.

(c) Carmen McCain, 13 February 2009