Tag Archives: human rights

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 Sani Mu’azu, President of Motion Pictures Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN)

I carried out this interview with Sani Mu’azu, the president of the Motion Pictures Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) on 22 January 2009 at Bayero University, after Iyan-Tama’s second appeal was delayed because the judge suddenly had to travel. (For a background on the censorship crisis in Kano see this post)

 

As MOPPAN president, what are you doing about this latest crisis? I know your film Hafsah is in court and also MOPPAN has a case against the Kano state Govt., so could you give me a quick summary of what is going on.

 

Well, you know, we started this whole process of going to court with our case on Hafsah when it was arrested in the market, and we challenged the authority of the Kano Censors Board to do so. We have since then initiated another suit against the Kano Censors Board, as a national body, that is MOPPAN, challenging the legality of the board as well as bringing out the issues to do with conflict between the National Film and Video Censors Board and the state Censor’s Board as enacted by the state assembly. It is interesting that ever since we did that, we expected the Kano State censors board to allow status quo to remain until when these issues were clearly explained by the legal authorities. But the state censor’s board has gone on to arrest our members indiscriminately without any cogent reasons.

 

The case of Iyan-Tama is one of such cases. Iyan-Tama’s case had been on and off for quite a while. It culminated into this arrest and subsequently the court sentenced him without the option of fine. It is really strange, because any person—you don’t need to be a legal person to know that Iyan-Tama had all the prerequisites to do movies. His movie was appropriately censored at the national level. His movie also had the blessings of all the national associations or agencies in charge of movies in Nigeria like the Film Corporation and the National Film and Video Censors Board. Expectedly Kano should be proud of Iyan-Tama and his works. It is really strange that a person who has done these kinds of feats for the state is the one who is being tormented and thrown into prison without the option of fine.

 

We do know for sure that this is basically an issue that has no relevance or no direct bearing to filmmaking. Iyan-Tama is a victim of his political activities as well. He contested along with Shekarau for the governorship of Kano State, and he had been most vocal among all the contestants who challenged the transparency level of the governor. He challenged the manner of administration of the state by Shekarau. He is a very vocal person. He kept on with this agitation for quite a while. He is being persecuted today as a result of his political activities. We have it from authoritative sources that Iyan-Tama’s issue has gone beyond the Kano Censor’s Board. Kano Censor’s Board is just being used to get through a script written from the Government House. We are however very optimistic that the state chief judge will not want to continue to jeopardize the image of the judiciary in Kano. We want to believe that when the case comes for hearing, we believe the likelihood of getting a favourable judgment is there.

 

As an association, we want to assure all those that have gone through the swords of the Kano Censors Board that we will never leave this issue to just go like that. We will continue on this path until somehow justice is done. Hopefully even if all we achieve is a simple letter from somebody saying what this censor’s board has been doing is wrong and some kind of apology to our members, at least we are hoping that somebody somehow will be responsible for the actions of the government.

 

Let me just ask you, I know your film Hafsah was arrested for being sold when it wasn’t censored in the state. The same thing for Tsintsiya. What was the difference between the two? Why was Iyan-Tama arrested?  I know you said it was politics….

 

The difference is simple. Hafsah was arrested. We went to court. On Tsintsiya, Iyan-Tama was arrested and was taken to court. On our own part, we are the ones who are complaining. On Iyan-Tama’s part, he is the defendant. That tilts the scales against him.

 

Also, as far as the register. MOPPAN has told its members not to register individually with the censorship board. Is that right?

 

Yes, we weren’t very strict about that, though. We did say people should not register individually, but we said all companies should register because they are businesses operating within the state, and if the state has a law that says all film businesses, alongside other businesses, must register, we encourage our members to register. Now by and large when this issue kept dragging, we discovered that we don’t have options for our teeming members who can’t work. So those that sought for our advice to register, we encouraged them to go ahead and register, so that we wouldn’t all remain unemployed. We are challenging that registration and we are hoping that the court will throw more light by saying that the Censor’s board has no authority to register individual members. And once we get that interpretation, the registration will turn to nothing. But people are registering.

 

Is there a clear copy of the censorship laws? Is there a publication that you can look at and know for sure what is prohibited and what is not?

 

The Kano State censorship law? Yes, we have copies of the law.

 

It seems to me from what I have been hearing there have been new things being added to that?

 

Oh, yes, yes. It is interesting but Rabo has never been faithful to that law. Since he came, he has been manipulating the law to create his own new rules and regulations. He called them “new guidelines.” For instance, here we are with a law that says the highest amount of money you can charge somebody as a fine is N10,000, and we’ve heard of people paying N300,000, N500,000. So, nobody is being faithful to the law. People are just using the law to do what they want to do.

 

So, if he has said that there are new guidelines, have those new guidelines been clearly presented to the filmmakers or to the national associations?

 

Rabo is […] not a person who will say one thing and stick to that. He is always like a chameleon. He says this, and the moment you say yes or no, he will move to the next shade of colours. As a person, we have read him very well, and we feel that where there is no conflict, he will slip. He thrives on conflicts. He believes there must be conflicts all the time for him to show he is working.

 

Does MOPPAN have a record of how many people have been arrested or taken to court over this?

 

No, we have a record of so many people that have been taken. Most of the arrests and prosecutions are done clandestinely. In most cases, people in the studio, working, will just get arrested and will be asked to pay 20,000 a piece and they will just pay the money and quietly walk away. So some of these you hardly hear about. Some of the people who are arrested are children who are in a café browsing or children in a game store playing video games. These are not members of MOPPAN, but, you see, using the same law, these people were prosecuted and extorted for money. So we can’t say for sure, but it is getting to an end. This is the way we see it.

 

Most of the cases are being tried in a mobile court, right?

 

Yes, all cases to do with censorship in Kano go to the mobile court attached to the board. That is the reason why, for instance, the case of Hafsah is not with the mobile court because we were able to sue them in a state high court.

 

Does that court keep records, do you know?

 

The judge is another interesting twist to the entire thing. […] All his activities have clearly indicated that he throws the issue of the week to the dustbin, and he does what ever he feels like. Even in the day of slavery, I don’t think people were treated this way. […] He arrests people and sits in the night in his court with candles. And all kinds of funny things you will never see in a civilized court happen in that court. There are so many petitions against the judge. I don’t know why the Kano State Government is keeping him there. I’m sure it is because they wanted a hatchet man to help them get rid of vocal people like Iyan-Tama.

 

 

If there is anything that anyone wanted to do to help this case, what would be things that would be useful….

 

Some of the major challenges right now are to pressurize the Kano State government to realize what they are doing. They are infringing on the rights of individuals and professionals. They are working against set ethics and standards for film practice in the world. They are throwing people into jail and thereby infringing on their rights to socialize, to exist, to be useful as productive individuals and so on and so forth. We want people to speak out to any person or any group or government that can pressurize the government to realize these issues. We want people to let the government know that this is not shari’a. This is not Islamic shari’a. We want people who can assist to assist us with the legal means because fighting legal battles in Nigeria entails getting the right people who are not just trained lawyers but who have the capacity to influence a few things in the country. We need people with that clout to bear into the matter. We also need support from people to off-set the bills of these legal people. If you have a good lawyer, they are a lot of money to start the process or sustain the process, so we do need resources to help us offset the bills of the lawyers. But it is very important that people keep talking against this injustice and this disregard to the fundamental human rights of people.

 

(c) Carmen McCain

 

UPDATE 13 February 2009. I just discovered that this article was reprinted on Nigerianfilms.com  and on Modern Ghana News without my permission and without crediting me or this blog. If anyone else is interested in reprinting this interview or any other post on this blog, please request my permission first and, of course, credit me for anything quoted. Thank you.

 

Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria

Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN, at Cannes 2008 (c) Ahmad Sarari

Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN, at Cannes 2008 (c) Ahmad Sarari

Before I go into more detail about my interviews with the director general of the Kano State Censorship Board and with the Vice President of MOPPAN, Dr. Ahmad Sarari, let me just give a quick update on the Iyan Tama case, which Dr. Sarari told me about. He said that the judge didn’t want to just “quash the judgment already done by the previous judge,” so he suggested that they “should compile a fresh new appeal” (which they did the following day). “So the latest development now is the constitution of the station panel, which will review the case and look at the previous judgment of the case and come out with a final conclusion, a final verdict on the case.” Dr. Sarari said that the advantage of this “special panel of jurists” would be that “if something comes out of that sitting, there will be no case to appeal for Iyan Tama. He will just be out pending on the termination of the final judgment.”

 

I asked him about about the thirty day deadline Justice Mukhtar Ahmed had given him on December 30 to appeal his sentence, and asked if this continuous delay of the appeal by the court would affect that. Sarari answered that he had discussed this issue with the lawyer. “He said that has no impact on the constitution of this special panel. Because that is we were afraid of, because Iyan-Tama has already been almost 28 or 27 days in prison, so we have two to three days for the time to lapse.”

(For more background information on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

Now for some of the other details of the interviews: 

I interviewed Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim on Tuesday January 27, 2009. I went with a journalist I met last week, and “Malam Rabo,” as he is called here in Kano, kindly welcomed me to his office and allowed me to interview him after he said azahar prayers. I’m a bit embarrassed I wasted so much of his time (over an hour and 8,500+ words), but though he grew a bit impatient towards the end (I really did keep asking too many questions…) , he answered almost all of my exhaustive list of questions. He was quite gracious, but as the interview went on I could see that he is passionate about his calling to protect “Hausa-Fulani culture from illicit and alien influences.” He shed some more light on the Kano State interpretation of Iyan Tama’s “crimes.”

 

The most unfortunate part of the interview was that my digital recorder cut out at one point without me realizing it had gone off. And, excruciatingly, it cut out on the most important questions I was asking him, namely about the Iyan Tama case. Fortunately, I usually take extensive notes, so I was able to reconstruct the main gist of what he said. I will place here a summary of what he said about the Iyan Tama case, which will hopefully not conflict with the copyright of the two articles I am writing from these interviews. 

I asked him about several points that confused me about the case

 

1)Iyan Tama was charged with not having registered his company with the censorship board, but he has a receipt for registration with the board dated 2008, which anyone interested can view at http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com 

Malam Rabo answered that a receipt for payment was evidence of payment for the registration but is not the registration certificate itself, which requires further paperwork, letters from the bank, local government area etc. He asked me if I had a receipt for application to the university whether it would be proof of my admission, and then said, “of course it wouldn’t be.” He claimed that Iyan Tama had refused to follow up on the initial payment with the rest of the paperwork.

 

2) I pointed out that Part IV, item 16 of the 2001 Censorship law, which he says is the law under which filmmakers are currently being tried, says that “no films produced or issued by the diplomatic representative of a foreign country will be subject to censorship law.” Iyan Tama’s film Tsintsiya was sponsored by the U.S. embassy, so why is it being tried for not having been censored under this law? 

Malam Rabo answered that this was only one part of the law and that elsewhere there are other specifications for how to gain exemption from censorship. He said that to receive this exemption, you must apply to the board. He also said that the law was intended for non-profit educational type projects and that Iyan Tama’s film was a “purely commercial venture” and was not exempt under the law.

 

3) I asked him about how Iyan Tama had made public statements about how his film was not for sale in Kano. Why was he being held responsible for copies of the film which may have been smuggled into the states and sold by unrelated marketers? 

Malam Rabo basically said that if Iyan Tama did not want to be responsible for the films sold in the state, then public announcements were not enough. He had to communicate officially with the board about that.

 

From Malam Rabo’s office I went immediately to Klassique Productions, the office of Dr. Ahmad Sarari, elder brother (same father) of Iyan Tama and Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria. Dr. Sarari is an extremely kind and gracious man. He was trained as an epidemiologist in Russia and worked for years in a hospital. It was only a few years ago that he quit his job to focus on full time filmmaking—a pursuit the censorship crisis has greatly affected. I waited in his office while he did the La’asar prayers, and was particularly interested in a trophy sitting on his desk from the Kano State Censorship Board. When he came back in from his prayers, I asked him about it and he said that Iyan Tama had also received several awards for the Censorship Board for making good moral socially constructive films.

 

I asked him to respond to what Malam Rabo had said about Iyan Tama’s case. He said

1) In the issue of the receipt. It was true that there were other materials that Iyan Tama was gathering for the registration, but that he was in the process of acquiring materials that took quite some time to receive from banks and local government areas. He pointed out that almost all of the filmmakers in Kano were going through the same process of gathering files. Iyan Tama had also earlier told us, when I visited him in prison the first time, that the censorship board had not released certificates to anyone by the time he was arrested in May 

2) Dr. Sarari said that the law did make the provision for the exemption of films sponsored by foreign development agencies, but stated that in Iyan Tama’s case this law was not even relevant, because Iyan Tama had decided he would not release the film Tsintsiya in Kano State. One of the reasons for this was that Kano State had a ban on singing and dancing in films and there was singing and dancing (“though moral singing and dancing” Sarari hurried to point out) in Tsintsiya (as any good adaptation of West Side Story, not to mention Hausa film would!). So, whether he could have legally released the film in Kano State or not, he chose not to release it at all and made announcements on radio stations and in major newspapers that the film was not for sale in Kano State.

 

3) When I asked him about Malam Rabo’s insistence that there must be an official communication with the censorship board about the film not being released in the state, he responded passionately, asking what was Iyan Tama’s business with the censor’s board if he had entirely produced, exhibited and released the film outside of Kano state, and had the approval and support of agencies like the National Film and Video Censors Board and the National Film Corporation. Just because Iyan Tama is a “Kano man” does not mean he cannot go elsewhere to make and exhibit his films, he argued. “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? So, 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.” 

Finally, when I asked him about Malam Rabo telling me about there being multiple places where the film was found in Kano, Sarari said that he had been at every court case and that the censorship board had not been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any marketer had received the film from Iyan Tama. He clarified that the copies of the film they had used in court were impounded from CD Palace, the shop owned by HRB Productions. But they had not been in the counter or in the main shop area; the police had broken into an office and found a few copies of the film in a desk drawer. These particular copies belonged to the actor Baballe Hayatu, who was the star of Tsintsiya, and he had been given copies of the film for his own personal use.

 

There was much more to the interviews with both gentlemen, but I will let it rest there for now, and I welcome either of them to leave comments on this blog if they have any corrections or additions.

Come back later for details of my interview with Iyan-Tama’s brother and the Director General of the Censorship Board yesterday

I am currently busily transcribing interviews for a couple of articles that are due (elsewhere) soon, but wanted to write a quite note to alert readers to come back later in the day for details of my interviews yesterday with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, the Vice President of MOPPAN and also the blood brother of Iyan-Tama, and with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board.

Both interviews were quite informative about the ongoing Iyan-Tama case, and Dr. Sarari gave more details on the intimidation of Iyan-Tama’s family the night before the court case last week.

After the articles I’m working on are published, I hope to publish the full transcripts of the interviews here (including a brief interview with President of MOPPAN Sani Mu’azu).

(For more background information about the censorship crisis in Kano, see this report.)

Iyan-Tama’s case “not listed”

Today I arrived for Iyan-Tama’s rescheduled appeal (readers will remember that it had been scheduled for Thursday but the chief justice suddenly had to travel–see two posts back) at 9:51am. The appeal was scheduled for 9:30am, so I was afraid I was late. I waited until 10:43am in the back of the court room with a few other journalists (lawyers at the front), for the chief justice to arrive.

He said that the case was “not listed.”

This is the third appeal case I’ve been to that has been delayed. The first one was dismissed because the court was not satisfied with the way the appeal was prepared. The second one was postponed because the chief justice travelled, and now this third one was “not listed.”  I do not have a lot of experience in courts of law, but it makes me wonder if all cases have this problem or if it is just Iyan-Tama’s….

For more background on Iyan-Tama’s case see our report on the censorship crisis in Kano.

2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s family

Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama with his family. Courtesy of freeiyantamas flickr photostream

Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama with his family. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of freeiyantama’s flickr photostream)

 

UPDATE 27 January 2009: Article in Leadership by Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz about the attack

(see also on BBC and TopNews.IN)

UPDATE 26 January 2009: Iyan Tama’s appeal postponed again when chief justice says it was “not listed.”

Sitting in an internet cafe, enjoying the non-stop Hausa musical selection (including such banned hits as Maryam A. Baba’s “Rabo Rabo” and Nazifi Asenik’s “Dawo Dawo”) coming from the administrator’s computer, I was writing my advisor an email, when I recieved the following text:

Iyantama’s house was stormed by unknown people who claimed to be sent by some people to terrorise his family. The incidence took place on thursday around 2:15am. The terrorists did not take anything out of the house.

The hearing of the second appeal of Iyantama’s case is scheduled to take place on monday 26/1/09 at court one Audu Bako secretariat kano by 9:30am.”

(from a member of the MOPPAN Exco. [not sure if i should put the name])

(For more background on the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s appeal

UPDATE: 26 January 2009: Iyan-Tama’s appeal postponed again when Chief Justice says his case “not listed.”

 

 

I went at 9:30 am to High Court 1 at Audu Bako secretariat for Iyan-Tama’s appeal case, which I had been informed of yesterday by a journalist friend and also Dr. Umar Faruk Jibril, the secretary of MOPPAN (The Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria) and Head of Department of the Department of Mass Communications at Bayero University. After being led up to the High Court by a friendly guard, I found Ahmad Alkanawy of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, Sani Maikatanga of Fim Magazine, and other reporters from Trust, Leadership, BBC, gathered to wait outside the court. After some time, we heard that apparently the Chief Justice, a politically appointed judge who was to hear the case and apparently set the date, travelled and the case will be postponed until tomorrow or Monday.

 

After spending some time chatting with journalists, I went with National President of MOPPAN, Sani Mu’azu and other members of MOPPAN exco, to Goron Dutse Prison to see Iyan-Tama. This is the second time I have been to see Iyan-Tama in this prison. After depositing our phones and bags, we went through heavy iron doors to a dusty court yard and a small office where after a few minutes Iyan-Tama arrived. He joked with the friendly “keeper” and other guards and said (in Hausa–my translation from my memory of what he said) that he was fine. He didn’t have a problem in the prison; he just wanted to get out and continue with his life.  He also explained that if someone was trying to find the registration for his company “Iyan-Tama Multimedia” and neglected to put in the hyphen, it would not show up in the search. That would explain the “mysterious” (see discussion on the Finafinan Hausa listserve from people who had never heard of her in the film industry or in related publications and accuse “her” of being a front for someone else) Asabe Muktar’s claim in the Daily Trust of 8 January that “Hamisu Iyan Tama did not register with the Corporate Affairs Commission” because “she” supposedly,

 

” applied for registration to the Corporate Affairs Commission with the names of the two companies, i.e. IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD and LENSCOPE MEDIA SERVICES LTD. As it is normally done the names would go for “Availability check and Reservation of Name” at the CAC office. The following information followed my applications: […. Lenscope Media was found to be registered, while]

 

2. IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD, a letter/notice form from the CAC was sent with the following as content: “The CAC is pleased to inform you that one of your requested names has been approved and will be reserved for 60 days. Approved Name: IYAN TAMA MULTI MEDIA LTD. Serial Number: 1394473 Reserved Until: 25/7/2008. Approved By: Oyindamola Daramola. Submitted By: Ibrahim Adamu. “So Hamisu Iyan Tama did not register with the Corporate Affairs Commission.”

 

Of course, since “she” did not put “Iyan-Tama” with a hyphen the search would not have come up with “Iyan-Tama Multimedia.” It struck me as somewhat suspect that “she” would “trust” a bureaucratic search over a hard copy of a receipt from CAC that Iyan Tama presented before the court. I had also been surprised to see it in the Trust, because I had seen a slightly different version in The Daily Triumph, a state government-owned publication, which regularly publishes editorials condemning the film industry. (See also this recent article by Muhammad Mahmud in The Daily Triumph, a vocal supporter of the mysterious “Asabe” on the Finafinan Hausa listserve.)

 

Following our visit, I also did a brief interview with Sani Mu’azu, which I am going to try to get published. If I do, I’ll post a link here. If not, I’ll post the entire interview here. (UPDATE: 12 February 2009. Here is the interview with Sani Mu’azu.)

 

(For more background information about the censorship crisis in Kano, see this post.)

On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, Nigeria

 

freeiyantamas flikr photostream

Iyan Tama on the day he was released. Courtesy of freeiyantama flickr stream. (Click on the photo to be taken to flickr)

On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, Nigeria

By

Carmen McCain, Coordinator, Hausa Home Video Resource Center, Bayero University

Nazir Ahmed Hausawa, Manager, Golden Goose Studio

Ahmed Alkanawy, Director, Center for Hausa Cultural Studies

The authors may be contacted at hausahomevideoresource@gmail.com

UPDATE: 26 January 2009: Appeal further delayed with chief justice says the case is “not listed.”

UPDATE: 22 January 2009 (see update on Iyan-Tama’s appeal being postponed here)

Nigeria’s northern city of Kano was until last year the home of a thriving film industry in the Hausa language. Hausa language “video-films” are similar to the larger “Nollywood” Nigerian film industry but are stylistically different from their southern cousins, with most films including song and dance sequences influenced by Indian films and hiphop music videos. In August 2007, a sex scandal involving a leaked cell phone video of a Hausa film actress Maryam “Hiyana” Usman having sex with her boyfriend Usman Bobo instigated a change in the leadership of the Kano State Censorship Board. The board had been instituted in 2001 after the implementation of Islamic shari’a law as a compromise measure between the filmmakers and the government. The censorship board enabled the films to continue being made but with some restrictions on dress and interaction between male and female actors. (The Kano State Censorship Board is a separate entity from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board which files and gives ratings to all films made in Nigeria. Hausa filmmakers are required to submit their films to both bodies if they want to sell their films in Kano State.)The scandal exploded onto an already tense atmosphere. Earlier in the year, four actresses had gone into hiding after hisbah,shari’a police, had interpreted a party in their honor as a “polygamous lesbian wedding,” and in June before the “Hiyana” scandal broke, A Daidaita Sahu, a Kano state agency for the “reorientation” of society, organized several book and film burnings.

Following the sex scandal, a new director general of the Kano State Censorship Board Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, formerly commandant of the hisbah, was appointed in August 2007. Since the administrative change, there have been multiple arrests and acts of intimidation against the film industry and related entertainment businesses in Kano. Actor, musician, and director Adam Zango was arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment and a fine of N100,000 in September 2007 for releasing a music video cd Bahaushiya without first submitting it to the Kano State censorship board. In October 2008, wildly popular Hausa comedian Rabilu Musa (‘dan Ibro) and his colleague Lawal Alhassan Kaura were arrested and sentenced to two months in prison by a mobile court for 1) “indecent dancing” in a film Ibro Aloko and film Ibro K’auran Mata that had been released before the change in administration of the Censorship Board and had a certificate of approval from the Censorship board [UPDATE: In a 27 January 2009 interview I carried out with the director general of the Censorship Board, he said that though the film Ibro Aloko had been censored, a music video compilation of song and dance sequences from other films also named Ibro Aloko, had not been censored.] and 2) for supposedly operating a production company without registering with the board. They denied the charges but were convicted and sentenced to two months in prison with no option of fine, in less than an hour after they had been arrested and brought into the mobile court. The November 2008 Fim Magazine points to speculations that the arrests were political as the satirical song “Mamar Mamar” in Ibro Aloko, which made fun of a striped cloth often worn by Governor Shekarau of Kano State, was being used by critics to mock the governor.

In another rumoured political move, Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, one of the pioneers of the Hausa film industry, was arrested in May 2008 after his film Tsintisya, sponsored by the U.S. embassy, won an award for best “Social Issue” film at the Zuma Film Festival in Abuja. The actor, director, producer, and 2007 gubernatorial candidate was accused of not registering his company with the Kano State censorship board and for releasing the film Tsintsiya in Kano without passing it through the state censorship board. Iyan-Tama has receipts for his registration with the board (now uploaded to http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com) and had publically stated that the film was not for sale in Kano State, although a copy of the film, which an actor claimed was a personal copy, was confiscated from a desk drawer in a video shop during a police raid. Although on bail while the court case was ongoing, he was again arrested for a week in August. Most recently, on December 30, after a police witness who had been subpoenaed did not show up in court, the judge refused to reschedule the court date as the defense and prosecution had agreed and went ahead and to sentence Iyan-Tama to 15 months in prison and a fine of N300,000 [UPDATE–26 January 2009: specifically, the judge gave him a three month sentence along with a N300,000 fine, and another sentence of one year or an option of a N10,000 fine. See the blog of Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz for more details], saying, according to Leadership reporter Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz, that “justice delayed is justice denied. Justice is three way traffic; justice to the accused, justice to the state and justice to the prosecution.” On January 12 an appeal was struck down because the court was not satisfied with the way it was prepared. Iyan-Tama is currently serving his sentence in the Goron Dutse Prison, Kano.

In addition to these prison sentences, there have been many other acts of intimidation against studios and lower profile film industry workers, including a requirement that each participant in the film industry, from actor to editor to video seller, register individually with the censorship board. So far, according to Ahmed Alkanawy, director of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, over 1000 youths involved in the film industry and related entertainment industries “have been arrested in the name of shari’a and sanitization.” Among those arrested are “download and transfer business” workers who have been convicted for using cell phones for transferring Hausa music, audio and video, those who sell traditional medicine for advertising their wares over a loudspeaker and displaying of graphic photographs or drawings to illustrate their cures, those who run video gaming centres and football viewing centers without registering with the censorship board. However, although shari’a 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.

One case, which did not make it to court involved a hisbah raid on the home of Hausa film actress Zainab Umar and her sisters in March 2008. According to witnesses interviewed by reporter Nasir Gwangwazo, they were accused of living “in a house without suitable relation,” detained without food and water overnight in a cell with other men, propositioned by police, and warned not to speak with media. More recently, in November 2008, there was a sweep of arrests of industry workers. Following a mass protest by film actresses who publically changed political affiliation from the party of the governor ANPP to the majority political party PDP, police raided studios along Zoo Road, where most studios are located, closing studios and arresting 21 studio managers and other studio workers. Those who could not produce certificates of registration with the censorship board in the mobile court were given large fines. The November edition of Fim Magazine reported that Rabo had said there were specific film practitioners the court particularly wanted to catch and the magazine printed a list of 32 practitioners “in danger” of being arrested. (On the list were two of the co-authors of this report: Ahmad Alkanawy and Naziru Hausawa). [UPDATE 13 February 2009: In a 27 January interview with me, Rabo claimed that there was no such list and that what was being reported in the Sunday Trust and by Fim Magazine was “junk journalism”]  In December 2008, according to Fim Magazine with additional information from Ahmed Alkanawy, Director Rabi’u Ibrahim of HRB studio, whose name was on the list printed by Fim, was arrested and fined N80,000 for selling in his shop a DVD compilation with an “indecent cover” of the American television series  Desperate Housewives. His shop was closed and sealed for three days. When the authorities came to re-open the shop three days later, they saw the remaining copies of Desperate Housewives and the recently banned film Ibro Aloko, and he was taken back to court and given another N60,000 fine. He has not been allowed to re-open his shop since that time.

–13 January 2009

For more information about these ongoing events, see the following selected articles available on the internet:
“Kano Bans Film on Jos Crisis.” By Mansur Sani Malam in  Leadership. 12 January 2009.
“The travails of Kano entertainer, Iyantama” by Jaafar Jaafar in the Weekly Trust. 4 January 2009.

“Iyan-Tama: Another Case of Injustice: An Open Letter to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau” by Ibrahim Sheme, editor of Leadership Newspaper and publisher of Fim Magazine on his blog http://ibrahim-sheme.blogspot.com/

“Court jails CNPP chief over illegal films.” by Guardian reporter Adamu Abuh. 31 December 2008.

Filmmaker, Iyantama Sentenced to 15-month Imprisonment,” by Leadership reporter Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz, 31 December 2008, on his blog http://abdulazizfagge.blogspot.com/
“Nigeria: Hausa Actor, Ibro Sentenced to Two Month Imprisonment” by Mansur Sani Malam in Leadership Newspaper. 7 October 2008.

“Writers, Film-makers Defy Censors” by Amina Koki Gizo on IPS News, 12 September 2008,

“The War Against Film-making” by Nasir Gwangwazo, Leadership, March 2008.

“Press Release: Brief report on the state of film industry in Kano State, Nigeria” by Ahmad M. Sarari (National Vice President MOPPAN), 28 February 2008.

“Taking on Nigeria’s Islamic Censors” by Andrew Walker, BBC. October 2007.

“Censoring movies and books in Kano: text of press release by Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim” posted by Ibrahim Sheme on his blog, 25 September, 2007.


The information in this report comes from oral testimonies and the following news articles: Al-Amin Ciroma, “Hiyana’s Sex Scandal,” 19 August 2007, and Mansur Sani Malam, “Kano Reels out New Censorship Laws,” 24 September 2007, Leadership <http://www.leadershipnigeria.com>; “Nigeria ‘lesbian wedding’ denied,” BBC News, 28 April 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6603853.stm; the following articles from Fim Magazine publisher Ibrahim Sheme’s blog: “Hiyana – Tsiraici a fagen shirin fim,” 12 August 2007; “Nude Video Causes a Stir,” 13 August 2007; “Censoring Movies and Books in Kano,” 25 September; “Film Burning in Kano,” 26 September <http://ibrahim-sheme.blogspot.com>.;Ahmad M. Sarari. “Press Release: Brief report on the state of film industry in Kano State, Nigeria”, 28 February 2008, <http://en.afrik.com/article12615.html>; Lamara Garba Azare. “Rabo is our problem—Sani Mu’azu” New Nigerian. 20 April 2008, <http://www.newnigeriannews.com/movies.htm>;Sani Maikatanga. “Shekara 1 da Mallam Rabo a Industiri: Ci Gaba ko Koma Baya?” Fim. January 2009. pp. 33-42.

In 2008, the censorship board began a campaign against Hausa novelists as well. For an overview see the following articles: Maryam Ali Ali. “Kano Government is Using Religion to Kill Literature. Daily Trust. 2 August 2008. <http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200808040546.html>; Sumaila Umaisha. “Kano censorship crisis: Far from over (report) Everything Literature Blogspot <http://www.everythinliterature.blogspot.com/>; Amina Koki Gizo. “We Will Write About Them”
Interview with Hausa novelist Sa’adatu Baba.” IPS News. 6 September 2008. < http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=43816>; Amina Koki Gizo. “Writers, Film-makers Defy Censors” IPS News, 12 September 2008,<http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=43857>; Muhammad K. Muhammad. “Kano Writers Call off Strike.” Daily Trust. 24 August 2008. <http://www.dailytrust.com/content/view/16676/75/ >

Yusha’u Adamu Ibrahim, “How Adam A. Zango Ended up in Prison,”Weekly Trust, 1 October 2007, <http://allafrica.com/stories/200710011384.html>

Mansur Sani Malam. “Hausa Actor, Ibro Sentenced to Two Month Imprisonment” Leadership 7 October 2008. http://allafrica.com/stories/200810070348.html;  Nasiru Muhammad. “Dan Ibro goes to prison for 2 months” Daily Triumph. 8 October 2008. http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/dan8102008.html; Nasiru Muhammed. “Prison controller refutes Ibro’s release rumour.” Daily Triumph. 16 October 2008. < http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/prion16102008.html>; Sani Maikatanga and Ibrahim Musa Giginyu. “Rabo Ya binne Ibro a gidan yari” Fim. November 2008. pp. 10-14.

Jaafar Jaafar. “The travails of Kano entertainer, Iyantama” Sunday Trust. 4 January 2009.<http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2102&Itemid=49&gt;;  “Alk’ali Ya D’aure Iyan-Tama Kafin Kammala Sauraron Shaida” Leadership Hausa. 2-8 January 2009. p. 14;

Adamu Abuh. “Court jails CNPP chief over illegal films.” Guardian. 31 December 2008. <http://odili.net/news/source/2008/dec/31/13.html&gt;;“No Justice: Iyan-Tama Jailed by Corrupt Officials” Free Iyan-Tama blog, 31 December 2008. http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com/200…y-corrupt.html; Ibrahim Sheme. “Iyan-Tama: Another Case of Injustice: An Open Letter to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau” http://ibrahim-sheme.blogspot.com/20…injustice.html; Sani Mai Katanga “Iyan-Tama a Kejin Rabo” Fim. June 2008. pp. 49-55; Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz.” Filmmaker, Iyantama Sentenced to 15-month Imprisonment,” The Musings of a Young Journalists. 31 December 2008. http://abdulazizfagge.blogspot.com/2…ced-to-15.html: (UPDATE–26 Jan 09: According to Abdulaziz  A. Abdulaziz, the judgement was as follows: “Reading his judgment in the absence of the defence counsel the magistrate said ‘I Muhtari Ahmad Chief Magistrate and presiding magistrate of Censorship Board Mobile court 2, hereby sentenced you, Hamisu Lamido Iyantama, to a term of one year imprisonment or to pay a fine of N10, 000 for violating section 16 of Censorship Board Laws regulation 2001 and punishable under the same section. You are also sentenced to three months imprisonment and also pay a fine of N300, 000 for violating section 81 of Censorship Board Regulations 2001 and punishable under section 112 of the same law. The sentences to run concurrently.’The magistrate added that ‘Whoever is not satisfied can appeal to High Court within 30 days of this judgement.’”) Muhammad A. Muhammad. “Kano Censorship Board and contemporary challenges.” Daily Trust. 5 December 2008. < http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=432&Itemid http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=432&Itemid=14

http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=432&Itemid=14

http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=432&Itemid=14>; Sani Maikatanga . “Shekara 1 da Mallam Rabo a Industiri: Ci Gaba ko Koma Baya?” Fim. January 2009. 33-42. Nasiru Muhammad. “KNSG bans sale of film on Jos crisis.” Daily Triumph. 12 January 2009.< http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/knsg1212009.html>; Mansur Sani Malam. “Kano Bans Film on Jos Crisis.” Leadership. 12 January 2009. < http://leadershipnigeria.com/news/149/ARTICLE/5330/2009-01-12.html&gt;.

Nasir Gwangwazo. “The War Against Film-making.” Leadership. March 2008, http://www.leadershipnigeria.com/product_info.php?products_id=25209

Please note that while the Leadership article cited below says that 10 studios were raided and 9 people were arraigned. Baba Karami in a personal communication on 9 January 2009 stated that 21 people were taken before the mobile court. Mansur Sani Malam. “Nigeria: Emir Bayero Donates N2 Million to Qur’anic School.” Leadership. 22 October 2008. <http://allafrica.com/stories/200810220784.html&gt;

“Wad’anda Rabo ‘zai kama’” Fim. November 2008. p. 13.

“Abin da yasa aka kama Rabi’u H.R.B.” Fim. January 2009. p. 53