Monthly Archives: March 2009

Helon Habila speaks on censorship in Kano

Helon Habila liest, P02

Helon Habila liest, P02 (Photo credit: lutzland)

(a post in which I meditate on my research obsessions and recommend a recent opinion piece on “Art and Censorship in Kano” by multiple award-winning Nigerian novelist Helon Habila)

In Helon Habila’s first novel Waiting for an Angel, which was the subject of my MA thesis, he blurs the boundaries between his characters’ fictions and the reality of the world they live in. Originally self-published as a collection of short stories Prison Stories, the novel is fractured into stories told from multiple perspectives about “ordinary” people living out their lives in the “prison state” of Nigeria under the Abacha regime. The artist, Habila implies, provides a challenge to oppressive structures by gathering up the voices of poor ordinary people, so often lost in official propaganda, and putting them into print. The novel is not merely a litany of hopelessness, although the hardship of poverty is illustrated, but also captures the loud irreverent conversations in a Lagos “Mama Put” joint on Morgan street, which has been re-named “Poverty Street” by its inhabitants and the vivid dreams of ordinary people for a better life.

One striking scene shows the main character Lomba, a journalist and aspiring novelist, watch a fictional scene he had written for his paper come to life. Lomba’s characters reflect what his editor James tells him to capture: the “general disillusionment, the lethargy” of being trapped into a story where “One general goes, another one comes, but the people remain stuck in the same vicious groove. Nothing ever changes for them except the particular details of their wretchedness. They’ve lost all faith in the government’s unending transition programmes. Write on that”  (113). The story that Lomba writes is filled with “ubiquitous gun and whip-toting soldiers,”  “potbellied, glaucomatous kids” playing in gutters alongside the carcasses of “mongrel dogs worried by vultures” (118). This story does, indeed, seem to reflect the despair of life in a prison until the end of the story where he writes of “the kerosene-starved house-wives of Morgan Street. I make them rampage the streets, tearing down wooden signboards and billboards and hauling them away to their kitchens to use as firewood” (118). This moment suggests both the extremity of the environment, which has forced the people of Morgan street against the wall, as well as the agency of the women who take their futures into their own hands. And although James removes the celebratory conclusion before publication, telling Lomba he is “laying it on a bit too thick,” on his way home, Lomba sees an angry mob of women who “set to hacking and sawing” at a large billboard advertising condoms. It is Lomba’s knowledge of the script that allows him to tell the man next to him that “‘They are not crazy. They are just gathering firewood’ I explained to him. It was my writing acting itself out. And James thought I had had laid it on too thick. I wish he were here to see reality mocking his words.”

Although Lomba’s first reaction is one of hopelessness that “we are only characters in a story and our horizon is so narrow and so dark[,]” this episode is a revolutionary moment in the text (119). While Lomba, as well as the women outside the window of the Molue, may be characters in a story, this moment marks a remarkable departure from the prophecies of prison and death foretold by a marabout in another “story” in the novel. The porous borders between Lomba’s fiction and his reality that allow his writing to act itself out indicate the possibilities of the imagination—the possibility that while caught in a the literary metaphor of a prison, the “prisoners” might turn around and revolt. Lomba, and subsequently the mob of women, take the text into their own hands and appropriate the property of the state to sustain their own needs

In recently thinking about my research interests on Nigerian films and  “meta-fictions,” I realize that what obsessed me about Waiting for an Angel is also what obsesses me about Nigerian and particularly Hausa films, both in the reflection of the stories of “ordinary people” so often seen in these films and in a projective imagination that often (although certainly not always) challenges injustices by acting as what Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o mentions as a crucial aspect of art, that of a mirror, which “reflects whatever is before it—beauty spots, warts, and all” (1998, 21). People are rarely passive in these films. Beloved comedians like ‘dan Ibro often skewer the rich and powerful in their satirical stories.

I’ve heard people complain that there is too much “shouting” in Nigerian films, yet to me this “shouting” becomes a powerful metaphor for what Nigerian films have done for the “voiceless.” Gayatri Spivak has asked if the “subaltern can speak”? While I want to be over-cautious about over-romanticizing Nigerian films, which often do reproduce Nigerian society’s worst stereotypes of women and offer alarmingly unhealthy “solutions” to problems, I think one of the reasons I love the films so much is because they do seem to allow the “subaltern” to speak, both literally (in that so many of the film participants come from poor backgrounds) and metaphorically.

Attempts to suppress these films, therefore, seem like the attempts of the prison superintendent in Waiting for an Angel to suppress and co-opt the voice of the writer Lomba. The writer is imprisoned, seemingly muzzled, but attempts to suppress his voice ultimately prove to be impossible. Lomba smuggles stories about his “life in prison” through metaphoric language in his “love poems” commissioned by the prison superintendent for the woman he is woo-ing.

Hausa films are often dismissed for being “just love stories.” But stories of love can be powerful. There is often more going on than the reader of surfaces will find.

I was thrilled, therefore, this morning to find that Helon Habila has recently brought together my two research obsessions in a recent article in one of my favourite new publications, NEXT: “Art and Censorship in Kano.”  In the article, he both challenges simplistic critiques of Nigerian films and meditates on the “politics” of censorship. As Habila points out, while Nigerian films are not always polished “cinema” pieces, they have “made movie making a grass roots experience.”

[UPDATE: 19 October 2013. While I was doing a little blog maintenance, I was afraid I had lost access to this article because NEXT went out of business a few years ago and took all their content with them. Fortunately, Sola at Naija Rules had copied the article over on her site. I've previously been irked when Nigerianfilms.com and other such sites have copied my blog content without permission, but I am beginning to be grateful for these sites that make articles available long after the original sites have gone down. I am re-copying Helon Habila's article here for archival purposes.]

Art and censorship in Kano

By Helon Habila

It is so easy to underestimate the achievement of the Nigerian film industry, and this is because we always measure such achievements using false parameters—we compare Nollywood to Bollywood and Hollywood.

Whenever we do that, Nollywood will always come short of our unreasonable expectations. How long has it been in existence? Ten, maybe 20 years? What of Hollywood, over a hundred years? And Bollywood, when was Sholay made, 1960?

The extent of what our film makers have achieved in the short time they have been here was pointed out to me by a Nigerian/South African director friend.

When I asked him to compare the two film industries, he said, South Africa has all the right tools and techniques, they make movies on celluloid and with multiple cameras and have the right post-production requirements, but Nigeria doesn’t have all that, yet South Africans can’t get people to watch their movies whereas the Nigerian movies are practically jumping off the shelves.

It is true South Africa makes great movies, like Tsotsi, every once in a long while, but Nigeria has made movie making a grass roots experience. That is the paradox: whereas movie making in Nollywood is nondemocratic and cliquey, yet the consciousness towards it, and the patronage, is widespread.

This mass patronage and consciousness is indispensable if any nation is going to have a viable film industry. And we are achieving all this without government participation, or should I say, in spite of government participation.

And government participation is what brings me to Kano. The industry here is called Kannywood (what else?) Most people outside the Hausa speaking world aren’t really aware of it, but it has been going on for a while. Just as Nollywood’s progenitors are the early Nigerian soap operas like “Behind the Clouds”, “After the Storm”, etc, Kannywood also grew on the back of popular Hausa TV ‘dramas’ like “Samanja”, “Karkuzu”, and of course “Kasimu Yero’s Gagarau”.

Other unmistakable influences are Bollywood movies. The Indian influence on Hausa films can at best be described as odd, at worst weird—here I am not only talking about the excessively romantic nature of Hausa movies, the love theme could easily have come from Hausa literature, but I am talking about the song and dance numbers. It seems each film has about three songs and dances.

I remember the first time I saw a Hausa film, nobody had warned me that there was going to be singing and dancing, and so when it came I was taken totally unawares, and yes, I was disconcerted to watch these Nigerians singing and dancing on the streets of Kano.

That was the first impression. The second impression was: Well, the songs are really not that bad, if you are a song and dance kind of person. All in all one wished the songs would end quickly so the movie would resume.

But this piece is not really about aesthetics, it is about art and politics.

These actors would have gone on singing and dancing in peace, and mostly unnoticed by most Nigerians outside the Hausa speaking world if not for what has come to be dubbed the “Hausa Film Porn Scandal”. It seems in August 2007, a popular Hausa film actress, Maryam Hiyana, was filmed making love to her boyfriend, by the said boyfriend. In their defence they said it wasn’t for commercial purposes, so that technically means it is not porn, but somehow the eight-minute clip was leaked to the public and this began a series of what can only be described as a siege on the film industry by the Kano State government. And to quote a source, “So far, according to Ahmed Alkanawy, director of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, over 1000 youth involved in the film industry and related entertainment industries ‘have been arrested in the name of shari’ah and sanitization.’ … However, although shari’ah law is invoked, most ‘censorship’-related cases are being tried in a state magistrate court, a mobile court on Airport Road presided over by magistrate Mukhtar Ahmed.

Defendants are often arrested and convicted within an hour, without the benefit of legal representation. Some are given prison sentences while others are given the option of paying a fine.”

A popular actor, Rabilu Musa (Dan Ibro), was arrested for “indecent dancing”!

What I find most chilling is a book-burning ceremony staged in a girls’ school. Book burning, in a school! The government may as well close down the school, for by burning books in front of students, the whole aim of educating them is defeated.

Even individual writers were required to register before writing!

The most recent case is the arrest of a former gubernatorial candidate Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama—a film maker whose film, “Tsintsiya”, is an adaptation of the Hollywood classic, “Westside Story”. He was first arrested in May 2008 for three months and fined 2,500 naira, then in January 2009 he was sentenced to 15 months with a fine of N300,000. It seems in the movie, he acted the role of a governor and carried out an investigation into the causes of sectarian violence.

Here, at last, the government is showing its hand. Whenever an art form begins to go beyond entertainment and to appeal to people’s political consciousness, the people in power become scared. That seems to be the case with Kano.

The question to ask is, are the censors working in the interest of the people, or are they using religion for political ends as we have seen so often in the shari’ah states? Any society that seeks to silence the artist is attacking the people, for often it is only the artist that can articulate the secret hopes and yearnings of the people.

NEXT

 

Federal High Court strikes down Kano State Censorship Board’s objections; MOPPAN’s Lawsuit will go on

Excuse me if I do not use the correct legal terminology in this post. I’m new to the court scene and slowly learning…

Yesterday, the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the defence in MOPPAN’s lawsuit against the Kano State Censorship Board, the Executive Director/Director General of the KSCB Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, and the Kano State House of Assembly,  (I’m not sure if the National Film and Video Censors Board is still being included in the lawsuit, since there were attourneys representing only three of the bodies) meaning that the lawsuit will continue. The court will meet again regarding this on May 20.

This is the first court proceedings I have attended for this particular lawsuit, so I’m not as familiar with the case as I was the Iyan-Tama case. However, according to my January 27, 2009  interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari , Vice President of MOPPAN,  the motivation for the lawsuit was as follows:

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.

 

Yesterday, 26 March 2009,I arrived in the court a bit later than noon, but there was another case in process: a series of rather pitiful looking men in frayed clothing accused of being “Indian hemp” dealers, including a very, very old man with a white beard and blind in one eye who was the only one among them who seemed to speak English. (There was a translator for the rest.) “I am guilty, your worship,” he said, after the charges were read. The judge spoke up, “This is an appeal case,” the judge says. “You can plead not guilty.” “I’m guilty” he maintained several times, until the judge told him he could sit down.  I probably looked quite sympathetic to them, so during a break in the proceedings, the old man who I was sitting quite close to asked me if I were from the BBC and asked me for money. I felt bad, but said sorry, and moved over to the side of the room where the Kannywood folk were seated.

 

The MOPPAN case started around 1:30pm. The judge read a summary of the previous accusations and appeals (sorry, I know I don’t have the legal terminology down). Apparently, the defense had objected to the individual inclusion of the director general/executive director of the Kano State censorship board in the lawsuit. Since I was at the back of the courtroom and there was no mic, I couldn’t quite follow everything the judge was saying, but it seems that there was some confusion over the terminology used for Rabo in the lawsuit/defense. Apparently, the censorship law makes provision for an “executive director,” while Rabo calls himself the “director general.”  The judge said that regardless of which terminology was used, it was clear that MOPPAN was intending to sue the author of the “guidelines.”

 

Another objection was apparently that MOPPAN had not obtained leave to sue one of the bodies. The judge said he cannot strike it out just because they did not obtain leave.

 

Another objection was that they should include the Kano State government in the lawsuit. The judge said that no one can be forced to sue a body they do not wish to sue.  

 

My description is quite sketchy since this is my first time attending one of the proceedings; however, the basic gist is that the judge struck down the objections of the defendants and said that the lawsuit would continue. The mood after dismissal was bouyant. Among the surprisingly large number Kannywood stakeholders who had come to court in support of MOPPAN, there were grins, handshakes, and congratulations all around.

Raids on a film set last weekend and other developments in “Kano State Censor’s Board vs. Kannywood”

[NOTE: 25 March 2009: This is a corrected version of an earlier post.]

Kannywood filmmakers have only recently begun shooting their films in Kano again. For the past several months, more and more stakeholders have gone ahead and registered individually with the Kano State Censorship Board, so that they will be able to work in Kano State instead of travelling outside to surrounding northern states. (Such travel is not ideal for filmmakers who live in Kano: several stakeholders have been killed in road accidents going to and from location, and the cost of production goes up when everyone is staying in hotels.) However, the registration process involves both the payment of a registration fee and an interview with the censorship board before an id card will be issued that gives the holder permission to work in Kano. Those I talked to about registering a month ago had a resigned air. “We have to work,” I was told over and over again. Baba Karami, producer, actor, and marketer, told me he had a family he was trying to support and he would follow the law. Another director and actor told me that although he was not going to register as a director in the state (he would keep shooting his own films outside of Kano), it would not be fair to the producers of other films he appeared in as an actor if he did not register as an actor. Apparently the Kano State Censorship Board will not allow any film in which an actor who is not registered individually with the censorship board appears to be released in Kano State. Among those I ‘ve spoken to over the last few months, there has been the feeling that registering with the Censorship Board–“following the law”–would provide them with some modicum of security from being included in the sweeping arrests of Kano film industry stake holders. A few even told me they thought the Kano State Censorship Board was trying to improve filmmaking in Kano.  However, the stakeholders I talked to yesterday–the same ones who had been resigned to registration–were angry.

According to several crew members I spoke to yesterday, last Saturday, 21 March, a film set on the outskirts of Kano State was raided by police. According to my sources, every one on the location was registered with the Kano State Censorship Board and the necessary paperwork to shoot the film in Kano had been completed. Two police vehicles showed up and police asked the director to show proof that he had registered the production with the censorship board. The director produced it. Then they began to call out crew members randomly to check if they had their Kano State censorship board identification with them. About three actors had forgotten their id cards at home. The police served them with a “court summons,” but the summons said that rather than going to the mobile court they should go to the censorship board to present their identification.(Readers, please correct me if I’ve made errors on this.) 

The feeling among those I spoke to was that with such raids on film locations the Kano State Censorship Board was not merely trying to “sanitize” the industry but “destroy” it. One  actor told me that he paid the fee to register with the censorship board three months ago, but he is yet to be called in for the interview that is necessary before he is given his registration. As seen in the Iyan-Tama case (for more explanation in the words of the director general of the censor’s board, see this interview), the magistrate court attached to the censorship board does not find proof of payment for registration acceptable proof for registration. In the case of this actor, he has tried his best to complete the paperwork and the delay in completing it is from the board. If this actor works in state, he is at risk being arrested and fined by the censorship board. There are directors who have asked him to appear in their Kano productions but he has had to turn down the work because he does not want to be arrested for not having completed his registration.

In other news, there has been a radio announcement on the government radio station, Radio Kano, that actor/director Adam Zango (who currently resides in Kaduna and was among the first to be jailed by the mobile court attached to the censorship board after the Hiyana scandel) is “wanted” by the magistrate court in Kano and that he should be brought from anywhere in the country back to Kano to pay a fine of N100,000 and continue the prison sentence he had not completed in Kano. I spoke with Zango’s manager Falalu Dorayi yesterday, who told me that an appeal has been made to the high court and Adam Zango had been given bail. He also told me that their lawyer had said they have no business with the magistrate court in Kano, since they are on appeal at the high court. According to Dorayi, the magistrate court has no authority to make such an announcement, but the announcement has succeeded in causing extra worry/danger to the “wanted” actor/director/musician and his colleagues.

I am trying to transcribe and translate the interviews I did with Dorayi and with the crew member of the film whose registered colleagues were arrested. If I complete them, I will post them on this blog.

Today I also went to the latest court case in MOPPAN’s (Motion Picture Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria) lawsuit against the Kano State Censor’s Board. I arrived late because I went with my neighbor to pay a “get well” visit to a friend, and discovered via the lawyers who were chatting outside that it has been adjourned until Thursday at noon, at the federal high court, Court Road.

For more information about the ongoing censorship crisis in Kano, see other posts:

From/On Censor’s/Critic’s perspective:

My interview with the Director General of the Censorship Board, Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim

Kano State Censorship Board Opens a Website

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences

On/From Filmmakers:

My interview with arrested editor Sulaiman Abubakar in NEXT

My Interview with Vice President of MOPPAN Dr. Ahmad Sarari

My interview with Sani Mu’azu, President of MOPPAN

On the current censorship crisis in Kano

Outside links:

Hard Times in Kannywood from NEXT

Award-winning film Lands Director in Jail from IPS

5th Jos Festival of Theatre 2009

(just recieved the following announcement via the Jos-ANA listserve. Wish I were in Jos…. Anyone in Kano want to take a trip?) 

JOS REPERTORY THEATRE

                                             presents

                       5TH JOS FESTIVAL OF THEATRE 2009

10 DAYS OF EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES TO WATCH LIVE ON STAGE

ATHOL FUGARDS WOZA ALBERT directed by Tunde Awosanmi, 20 / 21st March,

BOSE AYENI-TSEVENDE’S MORNING YET AGAIN, a musical based on the book U ARE A
POET, written and choreographed by Bose Ayeni-Tsevende, 22nd March

SPENCER OKOROAFOR’S VISA TO NOWHERE directed by Eucharia Egah, 23rd March

PHILLIP BEGHO’S SMALLIE directed by Wapi Barau, 24th March

JEAN PAUL SARTRE’S NO
EXIT directed by Patrick-Jude Oteh and supported by the
French Cultural Centre, Abuja , 25th March

ADINOYI OJO ONUKABA’S A RESTING PLACE directed by Emmanuel Degri, 26th / 27th
March

WOLE SOYINKA’S THE TRIALS OF BROTHER JERO, directed by Austin Efe Okonkwo,
28th / 29th March

……………..all plays are suitable for all ages………………….

ALL PLAYS END AT 7..15 P.M.

DATES: FRIDAY 20TH – SUNDAY 29TH MARCH, 2009

VENUE: ALLIANCE FRANCAISE, OPPOSITE STANDARD BUILDING , JOS

TIME: 5.00 P.M. DAILY

GATE: N500, STUDENTS   N 200.

PLEASE CALL 0803 700 0496, 0805 953 5215, 0803 701 8172 further enquiries

Or e.mail: josreperthea@yahoo.com for tickets.

TICKETS WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE AT THE GATE!

Jos Festival of Theatre is made possible by the FORD FOUNDATION and the French
Cultural
Centre, Abuja

PLEASE BRING A FRIEND TO THE THEATRE

The Kano State Censorship Board opens a website

[UPDATE 19 October 2013. Doing a little blog maintenance here. Unfortunately the KSCB website was taken down shortly after the Shekarau government left power in 2010. I saved the pages to my computer before it was taken down, but it is no longer available online.]

On the 18th of March I attended the Mambayya House premier of the film Yancina made under the auspices of “Promoting Women’s Rights through Shari’ah.” While chatting with Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at the event, he informed me that the Kano State Censorship Board website, which was under construction last time I checked has finally opened.

The site is a really fantastic resource for researchers and filmmakers alike. The homepage includes an essay, which appears to be written by the director general of the board Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (whom I interviewed at the end of January), laying out the purposes and philosophy of the censorship board.

Also on the blog are links to the state censorship board publications including the law of 2001 and subsequent guidelines, press releases, lists of registered stakeholders, a list of registered production companies, a list of registered cinemas,  a list of registered soccer viewing centres, a list of censored books, and a list of films censored in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. (Noticeably absent is 2006). Another link on the website is to “articles on the Censorship board.” So far there is one article with no byline, titled “Kano Censorship and the Burden of Moral Defense.” Here are some exerpts from the article:

But when the charismatic Mal. Rabo Abdulkareem was wisely appointed as the executive secretary (110w Director General) by Mallam as a result of the infamous Hiyana saga, the name of the Kano state censorship Board became a household name.

[...]

Tasked with the burden of control and supervision of the information and ideas that are circulated in the society, the activities of the Kano state Censorship Board have already started impacting favorably and this is appreciated by the public All of a sudden tile public happily realized that the previously otiose board can now really defend their helplessly invaded morality.

The hitherto unprecedented expansion and circulation of immorality via the activities of the so called Kannywood or Hausa filmmakers was perfectly checked and stopped by the Rabo led censorship to the admiration and pleasure of the public.

The shameless and destructive activities of the filmmakers were thriving to the chagrin of’ the society to the extent that some pessimists have given up. All the pleas, calls and sermons by different groups of people to the filmmakers to effect corrections in their activities as well as their films were sternly’ rebuffed by the filmmakers. This is the reason for the euphoria that trailed Rabo’s bold move to tackle the disturbing activities of the filmmakers which was timely successful.

[...]

It is quite surprising the way some of the writers chose to confront the board in a Kannywood like manner. Even the hitherto respected among them inanely wrote many things that put their integrity to question. They sound and behave as worst as any lawless uneducated could. While the board is saying that all forms of obscenity should be stopped and that the books should conform with the culture and religion of the targeted audience in addition to the registration of the writers with the board among other things, these people are busy writing different sorts of bunkum in order to blackmail the board. All their arguments were based on subauditions, or more correctly, assumptions, and nothing more. Some of them were even proposing to take the matter up to their masters i.e. the international community in order to come to their aid, just as the Kannywood cohorts tried, as if the so called international community is that rotten.

I will likely do more analysis of the site later on this blog or in my own academic work, but I note a few interesting things:

1) On the homepage of the Censorship Board are a list of “useful links”. They include A Daidaita Sahu (the government agency for “societal reorientation”), the Sharia Commission, Gamji (a news website that focuses on northern Nigerian news), the National Film and Video Censors Board, and two newspapers, the Kano-state government owned Triumph Newspaper,  which regularly publishes pro-censorship and anti-Hausa film opinion pieces, and the Abuja-based Daily Trust, which has several times re-printed the said opinion pieces from the Triumph [as I have noted elsewhere]. Noticeably absent is the newspaper, Leadership, which most often publishes news about Kannywood and opinion pieces critical of the censorship board.  Of course, this isn’t surprising, but I do find it interesting that Triumph and Trust were the two papers chosen to be included on the list.

2) A related observation: in the “Censorship Board in the News” link, the only two articles posted (as of today) were the Open Letter to the American Embassy in Nigeria, by Asabe Murtala (later published in Trust under the name Asabe Muktar, as I point out in an earlier post), and the director general’s response to a critique of the board published in This Day.

3) I love it that the Censorship Board is making all of this information available to the public. Open access to the 2001 censorship law and related publications is especially encouraging. However, I wonder how frequently the website will be updated and how that might impact arguments the board makes in individual cases with “erring” stakeholders. For example, will the list of registered stakeholder, production companies, and censored books be updated every time a new stakeholder or production company registers and a new book is censored?  Will each company and stakeholder be removed from the list at the beginning of each year and be added back when they have paid their renewal fee for each new year?

On the whole, I find this an extremely positive development. I am encouraged by the open access to information, but also cautious about the “spin” placed on that information by the board. Of course, as I note of my own blog, it is their website, so “spin”  that presents “their” side of the story is certainly their prerogative. It’s certainly a rich resource for my own research.

Iyan-Tama granted bail, The judge calls for a new trial

Yesterday, Iyan-Tama was finally granted bail after almost two and a half months in prison.

According to Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz, in Leadership newspaper,

Delivering the judgment, Justice Umar said the court has nullified Iyan-Tama’s earlier trial, saying the trial, which was carried out by chief Magistrate Ahmad, contravened due process of litigation and was not properly conducted.

She, therefore, ordered for a retrial of the case.

The court has, however, granted the appellant bail on self-cognisance with a bond of N500, 000 pending the trial by another magistrate.

Iyan-Tama apparently is to be given no compensation for the two and a half months in prison (from the end of December until mid-March) he has  already served for the conviction after a trial, which was  “improperly conducted”  in the mobile court attached to the censorship board.

Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywood

I’m sorry I have been scarce on this blog lately. I’ve been working at home, where I do not have internet, and then travelling (BOB TV in Abuja) so have had scanty internet access. The best place to find an overview of the latest events in the Iyan-Tama case are on the blog of my friend Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz, where he posts the articles he writes for Leadership.

Leading up to the hearing that took place on Wednesday, March 11, (later than initially planned), one of the houses associated with Iyan-Tama was attacked. According to Abdulaziz, at the state high court hearing, the attorney general of Kano State challenged the  original ruling in the Iyan-Tama case given by magistrate Mukhtar Ahmad, the judge at the mobile court attached to the Censorship Board.

He said the trial was “improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requires retrial before a more “competent magistrate”.

“I am not in support of the conviction in this trial”, said the attorney-general, “It is obvious that the trial was not completed before judgement was delivered but there and then the presiding magistrate went ahead and delivered a judgement”, he added.

On March 16, the high court will rule on the appeal.

In other news, here is an article on the Kannywood crisis  and featuring my friend Sulaiman Abubakar published by last Sunday’s NEXT, and interviews I carried out with Sulaiman Abubakar and an edited down version of the interview I carried out with the Director General of the Censorship Board, the entire transcript of which can be found on this blog.

And finally here is an interview Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz carried out with chairman of the actor’s guild of Nigeria, Kano chapter (this group being separate from MOPPAN) for Leadership