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Speaking at the workshop, President of the MOPPAN Alhaji Sanni Mu’azu officially announced that the association had withdrawn all its pending court cases against the state censors’ board.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The Motion Pictures Practi-tioners Associationof Nigeria (MOPPAN) has announced that it has withdrawn all court cases it instituted against the Kano State Censorship Board.This was contained in a statement issued by MOPPAN President, Alhaji Sani Mu’azu,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.
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)