Tag Archives: MOPPAN

The ‘second coming’ of Kannywood

Still catching up on posts I am behind on. This feature piece  “The ‘second coming’ of Kannywood” was published over a month ago now in the Weekend Magazine of Weekly Trust on 21 May 2011, but gives a good summary of the challenges faced by the Kano film industry during the tenure of former ANPP Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, and the “director general” of the Kano State Censorship Board he appointed, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim. I also interviewed film practitioners about their hopes as PDP’s Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, who had been governor of Kano State from 1999-2003, returns to take up another four year term, aided in his political campaign by the Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria and Kannywood stars like Sani Danja and D’an Ibro. As usual, to read the hard copy of the article, click on the photos below, or scroll down to read the text I’ve copied here.

The ‘second coming’of Kannywood

Saturday, 21 May 2011 01:42 Carmen McCain

Wednesday evening, April 27, 2011, Zoo Road in Kano, the street lined with Kannywood studios, exploded into celebration. Young men pulled dramatic stunts with motorbikes and shouted their congratulations to Hausa filmmakers. “Welcome back home, brothers. Welcome back from Kaduna,” directors Falalu Dorayi and Ahmad Biffa recall them saying. “We embrace you ‘Yan fim.’ We are together with you. We are happy that he has returned.”The win of PDP

Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, incoming governor of Kano State, and also governor from 1999 to 2003 (Photo Credit: Nigerian Best Forum)

candidate Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as governor of Kano, his second tenure after a four-year term from 1999-2003, had just been announced.  INEC figures listed PDP as winning 46% of the vote with 1,108,345 votes, closely followed by Alhaji Salihu Sagir of ANPP with 43.5% of the vote with 1,048,317 votes.  To anyone familiar with the Hausa film industry, which according to recent National Film and Video Censor’s Board figures makes up over 30% of  the Nigerian film industry, this association of a political win with film was no surprise. Some of the most visible Hausa filmmakers have become increasingly politically active following a crackdown by the Kano State Censor’s Board, during which many practitioners and marketers of Hausa films had been fined, imprisoned, and harassed. While many of those associated with the film industry supported CPC and Buhari for president, the feeling among many filmmakers in Kano was that for governor any of the candidates would be better than ANPP. The two term ANPP governor and presidential candidate Ibrahim Shekarau, who had initially been passionately supported by

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Former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, governor of Kano State fro 2003-2011, and ANPP presidential candidate in 2011. (I took this photo during his trip to Madison, Wisconsin in 2007)  (Photo credit: talatu-carmen)

at least some of Kano’s writers and artists, was now deeply disliked by most film practitioners, in part, for appointing Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim former deputy commandant of the shari’a enforcement group hisbah as director general of the Kano State Censor’s Board. Malam Rabo, as he was known, regularly went onto the radio to denounce film practitioners for ostensible moral defects and had overseen a board which often arrested filmmakers.

After surveying candidates in the gubernatorial race for how they would support film, the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), as the association’s president Sani Muazu reported, publically campaigned for Kwankwaso. Movie star,

Comedian Klint de Drunk, with Kannywood stars Sani Danja and Baban Chinedu at an Abuja press conference for NAISOD, 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

producer, director, and musician Sani Danja, who founded Nigerian Artists in Support of Democracy (NAISOD), and comedians Rabilu Musa dan Ibro and Baban Chinedu were among those who lent their star power to the new  governor’s campaign. This public support for PDP among some of the most visible film practitioners had put Kano based filmmakers in danger the week before. Angry about the announcement of PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan as winner of the presidential election, area boys hunted for Sani Danja, threatened other recognizable actors and vandalized studios and shops owned by Kannywood stakeholders. (For this reason, while some filmmakers have come out publicly in support of candidates, there are others who are reluctant to speak openly about politics. The Dandalin Finafinan Hausa on Facebook has banned discussion of politics on its wall, requesting members to focus on discussions of film.) By the next week, however, as Falalu Dorayi relates, the same area boys who had been hunting Sani Danja were now celebrating him.

Producer and makeup artist Tahir S. Tahir with Director Falalu Dorayi celebrating Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011 (c) Carmen McCain

While Governor-elect Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was seen as the champion of the filmmakers during the 2011 election cycle, it was under Kwankwaso, who first served as governor of Kano from 1999-2003, that the first ban on Hausa films was announced and that the Kano State Censor’s Board was created. Abdulkareem Mohammad, the pioneering president of MOPPAN from 2000 to 2007, narrated how in December 2000, the Kano State Government pronounced a prohibition on the sale, production and exhibition of films in Kano state because of the introduction of sharia. MOPPAN  organized and “assembled industry operators in associations like the Kano State Filmmakers association, Kano state artist’s guilds, the musicians and the cinema theatre owners, cassette sellers association” to petition the government to either allow them to continue making films or provide them with new livelihoods. It was the filmmakers themselves under MOPPAN who suggested a local state censorship board, which would ensure that film practitioners were able to continue their careers, while also allowing oversight to ensure that their films did not violate shari’a law. The censorship board was ultimately meant as a protection for the filmmakers to allow them to continue their work.

Outgoing President of MOPPAN, Sani Muazu points out that MOPPAN’s support of Kwankwaso was because he had promised re-establish the original intent for the censorship board, with a Kannywood stakeholder in the position as head of the Kano State Censorship Board, rather than an outsider who did not know the industry. Most Hausa filmmakers speak of the censorship board as a compromise between the film industry, the community and the government. Director Salisu T. Balarabe believes then Governor Kwankwaso was trying to follow the demands of those who voted for him, “If the government wants to have a good relationship with people it has to do what the people want.” Kannywood/Nollywood star Ali Nuhu said, “I won’t forget how in those three or four months [during the ban], they sat with our leaders at the time of Tijjani Ibrahim, Abdulkareem Muhammad, Hajiya Balaraba and the others.  They reached a consensus, they understood the problems that they wanted us to fix and the plan they wanted us to follow.”

Nollywood/Kannywood star Ali Nuhu on set of Armala with Executive Producer Aisha Halilu. April 2011 (c) Carmen McCain

Although the censors board had banned several films, such as Aminu Bala’s 2004 cinema verite style film Bakar Ashana, which explored the moral complexities of the world of prostitution, and enforced rules on censorship

Aminu Bala’s film Bakar Ashana that was banned by the Kano State Censor’s Board in 2004.

before marketing, filmmakers for the most part did not seem to have major problems with censorship until August 2007, when a sex scandal broke out in Kannywood. A privately made phone video of sexual activity between the actress known as Maryam “Hiyana” and a non-film industry lover Usman Bobo was leaked and became one of the most popular downloads in Kano. Alarmed by what some were calling the “first Hausa blue film,” although the clip was a private affair and had nothing to do with other Hausa filmmakers, critics called for serious measures to be taken. A new executive secretary Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (his position soon

Maryam Hiyana, who was seen as a victim in the scandel, became an unlikely folk hero with stickers of her likeness on public transport all over Northern Nigeria. (c) Carmen McCain, 2008

inflated to the title of director general) was appointed by Governor Shekarau to head the Kano State Censor’s Board. He required each film practitioner to register individually with the board, an action he defended as being provided for in the original censorship law. Not long after Rabo was appointed, actor and musician Adam Zango was arrested and sentenced to three months in prison for releasing his music video album Bahaushiya without passing it through the Kano State Censor’s Board. He was the first in a series of Hausa filmmakers to spend time in prison. Former Kano state gubernatorial candidate and Kannywood director Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama was arrested in May 2008 on his return to Kano from Abuja’s Zuma Film Festival where his film Tsintsiya, an inter-ethnic/religious romance made to promote peace, had won best social issue film. He was accused of releasing the film in Kano without censorship board approval.  Although Iyan-Tama served three months in prison, all charges were recently dropped against the filmmaker and his record cleared. Popular comedians dan Ibro and Lawal Kaura [both of whom are now late, see my memories of both Rabilu Musa and Lawal Kaura] also spent two months in prison after a hasty trial without a lawyer. Lawal Kaura claims that although they had insisted on their innocence, court workers advised them to plead guilty of having a production company not registered with the

FIM Magazine feature on Ibro’s time in prison, November 2008.

censorship board so that the judge “would have mercy” on them. These were only the most popular names. Others who made their livelihoods from the film industry, from editors to singers to marketers, spent the night in jail, paid large fines, and/or had their equipment seized by enforcers attached to the censorship board.

Although Governor Shekarau in a presidential debate organized by DSTV station NN24 had claimed that “the hisbah has nothing to do with censorship,” Director of Photography Felix Ebony of King Zuby International recounted how hisbah had come to a location he was working on and impounded four speakers and one camera, telling them they had not sought permission to shoot. Other filmmakers complained that there was confusion about under what jurisdiction arrests were being made. Although in a February 2009 interview with me, Rabo

Felix Ebony, director of photography with King Zuby International. (c) Carmen Mccain

also claimed that the censorship law was a “purely constitutional and literary law […] on the ground before the shari’a agitations,” the public perception seemed to be that the board was operating under shari’a law, perhaps because of Rabo’s frequent radio appearances where he spoke of the censorship board’s importance in protecting the religious and cultural mores of the society. Director Ahmad Bifa argued, “They were invoking shari’a, arresting under shari’a. If they caught us, we all knew, that they had never taken us to a shari’a court. They would take us to a mobile court […] But since it was being advertised that we were being caught for an offense against religion, we should be taken to a religious Islamic court, and let us be judged there not at a mobile court.”

The ‘Mobile’ Magistrate Court at the Kano Airport where Censorship Board Cases were tried. This photo was taken in July 2009 during the trial of popular singer Aminu Ala. (c) Carmen McCain

The mobile court Biffa referred to seemed to be attached to the censorship board and was presided over by Justice Mukhtar Ahmed at the Kano airport. After the Iyan-Tama case came under review, the Kano State attourney general found the judge’s ruling to be ““improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requiring a retrial before a more “competent magistrate.” Justice Ahmed was transferred to Wudil in August 2009; however, censorship cases continued to be taken to him. In January 2011, popular traditional musician Sani dan Indo was arrested and taken to Mukhtar Ahmad’s court, where he was given the option of a six month prison sentence or paying a fine of twenty-thousand naira.  The decisions made by the board and the mobile court often seemed of ambiguous motivation. In 2009, Justice Mukhtar Ahmed banned “listening, sale, and circulation” of eleven Hausa songs, citing obscenity, but obscenity was rarely as easily identified as the cutting political critiques in them.

11 Songs banned by Justice Mukhtar Ahmed. (c) Alex Johnson

The effect of these actions was to relocate the centre of the Hausa film industry away from the flourishing Kano market, to Kaduna. Many filmmakers began to claim their rights as national Nigerian filmmakers, taking their films only to the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, bypassing the Kano State Censorship Board altogether. Such films were often marked “not for sale in Kano” and if found in Kano state were known as “cocaine,” a dangerous product that could, as Iyan-Tama discovered, mean imprisonment for a filmmaker, even if filmmaker had advertised, as Iyan-Tama had, that the film was not for sale in Kano State. Another side effect of these actions was the loss of jobs among Kano youth. Ahmad Bifa pointed out that “the Hausa film industry helped reorient youth from being drug-users and area boys to finding jobs in the film profession. Sometimes if we needed production assistants we would take them and give them money. I can count many that the Hausa film industry helped become relevant people to society. But Abubakar Rabo made us go to Kaduna to do our shooting. So the young people of Kano lost the benefit of film in Kano, […] That’s why there are a lot of kids on Zoo Road who went back to being thugs because of lack of job opportunity.”

Ahmad Bifa, on set of the Aisha Halilu movie Armala, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Although the impact of censorship on film was the most well known, the flourishing Hausa literary scene was also affected, with the director general initially requiring all writers to register individually with the censor’s board. With the intervention of the national president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, writers found some relief when Abubakar Rabo agreed to deal with the writer’s associations rather than with individual writers; however, there still seemed to be a requirement, at times ambiguous, that all Hausa novels sold in the state must be passed through the board. Rabo continued to make often seemingly arbitrary pronouncements about what he considered acceptable literature. In December 2009, for example, at a conference on indigenous literature in Damagaram, Niger, Rabo proclaimed that the board would not look at any more romantic novels for a year.

Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board 2007-2011, proclaimed that he would not accept romantic novels for a year. International Conference on Authors and Researchers in Indigenous Languages, Damagaram, Niger, December 2009. (c) Carmen McCain

Those who protest the actions of the board do not have a problem with censorship so much as how censorship has been carried out. The original MOPPAN president Abdulkareem Mohammad argued that the intention of creating the censorship board had been one that would allow filmmakers to continue doing their work, “We really were doing things in good faith to ensure that things do work and eventually it is for the betterment of the majority.” He acknowledged wryly that there were flaws in the law that allowed for it to be abused, “I think that on insight, I would have done it differently.” Current president Sani Muazu continued in this vein saying that although the board had been meant to protect artists it had “become a weapon against artists.”  Director Salisu T. Balarabe says, “There was nothing wrong with making the censorship board but those put in charge of directing the board, sometimes put a personal interest into it.” Novelist and scriptwriter Nazir Adam Salih acknowledged “We have our faults. This is true. But the censor’s board was much harsher than it

Novelist and script writer Nazir Adam Salih passionately responds to Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, at the conference in Damagaram, Niger. December 2009. (c) Carmen McCain

needed to be. They put someone in power who didn’t know anything about the film industry, Malam Abubakar Rabo, who slandered and disrespected us.” It was this disrespect and the accompanying arrests that most seemed to upset film practitioners. Danjuma Salisu, who is involved in acting, lighting, and assisting production argued that Rabo’s actions were insulting to those whose careers in film “feed our children and parents and families.” Makeup artist Husseini Tupac argued passionately, “Film is a profession. It is a career.  In the same way a normal person will go to the office everyday, we will go the office, we do our work and get paid. When the honourable Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was governor nobody ever came out on the radio and said that actresses were prostitutes, that we were making blue films, that we were rogues. No one came and arrested us.” Producer and director Salisu Umar Santa shared a similar sentiment, saying that he and other

Director Salisu Umar Santa with Dawwayya Productions, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

professionals he worked with, like Rukkaya Dawayya and Sadiyya Gyale, had registered and done everything the board required for working in Kano State and yet Abubakar Rabo continued to say that filmmakers were not decent members of society. Producer and Director of Photography Umar Gotip said that he felt like a refugee having to leave Kano. “You are practicing your profession, to the extent that some people even have a degree in it, but they say you are just rogues and rascals. We had no human rights.” Director Falalu Dorayi, claiming that the Kano State Censorship board regularly demanded bribes, asked “How can the one who collects a bribe say he will reform culture.” Cameraman, editor, and director Ahmad Gulu put it this way: “You should fix the leaky roof before you try to repair the floor.”

Despite his ostensible position as enforcer of public morality, Rabo himself came under suspicion of wrongdoing on several occasions. In August 2009, he was taken before a shari’a court by the Kano State Filmmakers Association and accused of slander for statements he had made about the film community on the radio. In May 2010, he was also sued in by Kaduna Filmmakers Association for accusations he had made on radio and television in Kaduna.  In a strange twist, he accused twelve filmmakers, several of whom were involved the lawsuit, of sending him death threats by text message. Police from Kano came to Kaduna, arresting the one person on the list they could locate—Aliyu Gora II, the editor

Editor of Fim Magazine, Aliyu Gora II, and Filmmaker Iyan-Tama, both former inmates of Goron Dutse Prison, after a hearing in Iyan-Tama’s lawsuit against the Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, 22 July 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

of Fim Magazine, who was held for a week without trial at Goron Dutse Prison in Kano.  In an even more bizarre twist, in September 2010, Trust and other papers reported that Rabo, after being observed late at night by police in suspicious circumstances with a young girl in his car, fled from police. In the car chase he was also reportedly involved in a hit and run incident with a motorcyclist. After he was eventually arrested and released by the police, Governor Shekarau promised to open an inquiry into the

Filmmakers on location in Northern Nigeria on Sunday, 29 August 2009, read the breaking news Sunday Trust article: “Rabo arrested for alleged sex related offence” (c) Carmen McCain

case [as requested by MOPPAN], but Rabo continued as director general of the censor’s board and filmmakers heard nothing more of the inquiry.

The treatment of filmmakers had the perhaps unintentional effect of politicizing the artists and those close to them. Sani Danja told me he had never been interested in politics until he saw the need to challenge what was going on in Kano State. A musician told me his mother never voted in elections but that she had gone out to stand in line for Kwankwaso as a protest at how her children were being treated. Filmmakers used fulsome praises to describe their delight at Kwankwaso’s

Kannywood star Sani Danja prepares for his the first press conference of his organization: Nigerian Artists in Support of Democracy (c) Carmen McCain

return. Director Falalu Dorayi said “It is as if your mother or father went on a journey and has returned with a gift for you.” Producer and director of photography Umar Gotip said Kwankwaso’s coming was “like that of an angel, bringing blessing for all those who love film.” Even those who are not fans of PDP told me they wished Kwankwaso well, were optimistic about change, and expected him to fulfill his promises in several areas: First, most of them expected that he would relieve Rabo of his post and replace him an actual filmmaker, who as Falalu Dorayi put it “knows what film is.” Secondly, several of them anticipated actual investments into the film industry “like Fashola has done for Lagos filmmakers,” as director and producer Salisu Umar Santa put it, possibly in the form of a film village. And most Kano-based filmmakers I spoke to mentioned their hopes that others who had gone into exile would come back home to Kano. Producer Zainab Ahmed Gusau, who is currently based in Abuja wrote that, “My thought is to go back to Kano, knowing there will be justice for all.We thank God for bringing Kwankwaso back to lead us.”

Hausa film producer Zainab Ahmad Gusai at the Savannah International Movie Awards, Abuja, 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

Other filmmakers saw it as a time for reflection on how they can improve the field. Director Salisu T. Balarabe mused “If you keep obsessing over what happened, the time will come and pass and you won’t have accomplished

Hausa film Director Salisu T. Balarabe on Zoo Road in the days following Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

anything. We should put aside what happened before and look for a way to move forward.”  Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, the politician and filmmaker who was imprisoned for three months, focused on the positive, calling on filmmakers to continue making films that would have meaning and would build up the community.

Many also looked beyond the own interests of film to the entire community.

Ahmad Gulu, Kannywood cameraman, editor, and director, on Zoo Road in the days following Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Ahmad Gulu, cameraman, editor, and director said “The change has not come to film practitioners alone. It has come to the whole state of Kano. Back then people would accept politicians who would put something in their pockets but now things have been exposed.” Star actor, director, and producer Ali Nuhu similarly pointed out that progress was not receiving money from politicians, saying that one of the most important changes Kwankwaso could bring would be a focus on electricity, drinking water, and children’s education. Writer Nazir Adam Salih said that if Kwankwaso could simply fulfill the promises politicians and leaders had been making for the past thirty years to provide electricity and water, he will have done his job. And finally two directors of photography Umar Gotip and Felix Ebony pointed to the need for peace and unity in the state. “He should try to bring people together,” said Umar Gotip. “This kind of fighting that has arisen between Muslims and Christians is not right. We should live together as one.”

Producer Bello A. Baffancy shows off his Kwankwaso support, Zoo Road, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

‘Yan Fim on Zoo Road following Kwankwaso’s win, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Press Release from the Motion Pictures Practitioner Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) calling for investigations into the “allegation of sex scandal against Abubakar Rabo”

(This press release is currently being circulated by MOPPAN. I have copied and pasted it below exactly as it was sent to me. Please see the preceding post for background of the alleged sex scandal in which the director general of the Kano State Censors Board is accused of parking in a secluded location at 10pm with a young girl he claimed was his niece (girl’s underwear were allegedly later found in the back seat of the car); fleeing the police, when approached; hitting a motorcyclist in his flight from the siren-blaring police; apparently being beaten by commercial motorcyclist when caught and then let go when the police recognized who he was; and boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia the next day.)

MOTION PICTURE PRACTITIONERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA

(MOPPAN)

PRESS RELEASE

31st August, 2010

CALLING ON GOV. SHEKARAU TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATION OF SEX SCANDAL AGAINST ABUBAKAR RABO

We are aghast, as well as dismayed, by the frantic attempts of the Director-General, Kano State Censorship Board, Mallam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, and some collaborators in the Kano State Government and elsewhere to trivialise the serious sex scandal that broke around him last week. We have no iota of doubt that these attempts are meant to discourage any further open discussion on the matter, portray it as an unimportant distraction in the issues of governance in the state, and then sweep it under the carpet.

But Rabo’s self-imposed position as a vanguard of morality not only in the Hausa movie industry but also in the Kano society in general makes it imperative to launch a full inquiry into what really transpired on that night of Sunday, 22nd August, 2010. Rabo and the government he represents should not imagine that covering up this matter would be in their best interest because 1) a huge chunk of the good people of Kano State and indeed the whole North have now tended to believe the stories around the incident as they presently circulate, and 2) doing so would cast a big shadow of doubt about the Shekarau government’s purported entrenchment of Shariah law in the state. Investigating the scandal, however, would bring out the truth of what actually happened. It could clear Rabo of all charges/suspicions or expose him as a hypocrite, someone who engages in secret philandering with girls old enough to be his daughters and therefore ill-fit to hold the sensitive position of DG, KNSCB.

The story going round in the public domain, as published by the Sunday Trust of 29th August and Leadership of August 30th, 2010, is that Rabo was discovered by patrolling policemen in the Sharada quarters of Kano City, in his parked car behind a building, off the road in the dark. It was around 10 p.m. When the police approached, he switched on his car and drove off in a devil-may-care speed. The patrol car pursued him. In his blind haste, he knocked down a pedestrian, seriously injuring him. The pedestrian was later discovered to be a staff member of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau. He is still on admission at the Nassarawa Hospital. Rabo was eventually apprehended by commercial motorcyclists, who had chased him hotly when he refused to stop after knocking down the pedestrian. A teenage girl, who was thoroughly frightened, was found in the car; her underwear was said to have been found in the back seat of the car.

Rabo was eventually taken by the patrolling policemen to the Sharada Divisional Police Station where he was questioned. However, he was allowed to leave with his badly damaged car and the girl that same night by the Divisional Police Officer in strange circumstances.

Both Rabo and the police authorities in Kano have confirmed this incident in their press interviews. What is being contested is what Rabo and the girl were doing at that forlorn place and in that unholy hour. The big story being spread is that Rabo was having a carnal knowledge of the girl as many unscrupulous men tend to do under similar circumstances. Rabo has, however, denied any wrongdoing, saying that the girl was the daughter of his late elder brother and that she had accompanied him to escort some relatives who had broken their fast at his house.

The government of His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Shekarau must investigate the incident in order to reassure the people of Kano about its sincerity on the implementation of its Shariah programme, about which there are millions of sceptics. And while doing so, Rabo should be ordered to go on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Motion Picture Practitioners’ Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) hereby proposes that a powerful, independent Committee of Inquiry be set up by the Kano State Government to investigate the various claims in this saga. Some of the questions the Committee should investigate include, but not limited to, the following:

1)      Who exactly was the girl in Rabo’s car on that fateful night? Was it really his niece as he claimed in his press interviews or a different person altogether? How old was she? The girl should be interviewed by the Committee;

2)      Did Rabo really host his relatives to a Ramadan-breaking meal (Iftar)? Who were they? They should be made to appear before the Committee;

3)      Why didn’t Rabo go with male member(s) of his family when escorting the said in-laws instead of going with the said teenager if at all she exists and was the one that went with him;

4)      If indeed the girl in question was his niece, is it true that he and she were having a secret affair as is being rumoured?

5)      What exactly was Rabo doing with the girl at around 10p.m. in a secluded place off the main road?

6)      Why did Rabo drive away even though the police siren was said to have been blaring, urging him to stop? And why did he run away even after knocking down the unfortunate pedestrian?

7)      Who were the policemen that arrested him and took him to the police station in Hotoro?

8)      Exactly what did Rabo say in his first written statement to the police?

9)      Why did the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Hotoro, release Rabo and the girl, together with the damaged car, when investigations were just commencing and Rabo’s hit-and-run victim had just been taken to the hospital in a critical condition? Was that a normal police procedure?

10)  Why did Rabo virtually flee to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to perform the lesser Hajj (Umrah) a day or two after almost killing a citizen and while having a sex scandal on his hands? Why didn’t he wait to clear himself of all charges and ensure that the victim of his hit-and-run accident was in a better condition of health?

11)  Did Rabo contribute any money to the family of his hit-and-run victim for his medication, which must have been costing a lot?

12)  Why did some Kano State government officials try to cover up the incident by misinforming the general public that there was no girl in Rabo’s car during the incident? Obviously, they had no idea that Rabo had already confirmed that there was indeed a girl in the car. They were also said to have been urging journalists in the state and elsewhere not to break the story and or allow further discussion on it;

13)  Rabo had claimed that he was aware of certain meetings held for two weeks by some film industry stakeholders or PDP stalwarts with the aim of eliminating him. This serious allegation should be investigated not only by the investigative committee but also by the security agencies; Rabo must tell them where and when those meetings took place, as well as the names of those in attendance;

14)  Rabo had told the press that officials of the opposition PDP in Kano were responsible for his present ordeal. He must tell the Committee how this was possible and the names of those involved.

Finally, we wish to note that Rabo has since become a liability to the government of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. He has attracted more negative perception to the government than any goodwill. A more dynamic and people-oriented regime would have relieved him of his post, more so as he has failed woefully in discharging his responsibilities. The good people of Kano State and the nation at large and wonder just why Governor Shekarau has been keeping him in that office even though he has contributed nothing in the direction of sanitising the industry. He has only succeeded in causing more unemployment of the youths that he prevents from earning their legitimate livelihood, encouraged the production of movies that are not censored yet are in full circulation all over Kano, and helped heat up the society.

This Rabo sex scandal is a litmus test for His Excellency Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau’s candidature for the presidency of Nigeria. Shekarau, who has announced his bid to run for president under his party the ANPP, should begin to show that he would be a responsive and responsible national leader when elected by not helping some elements in his present government to cover up this scandal. Doing so would question his motivation and commitment to the enthronement of a decent society in Nigeria.

MALLAM SANI MU’AZU

National President

MOPPAN

MALLAM AHMAD SALIHU ALKANAWY

Administrative Secretary

FIM Magazine Editor Arrested on accusation of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of Kano State Censorship Board

Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of the Kano State Censor's Board at a Hausa writers conference in Damagaram, Niger, December 2009

In yet another bizarre twist in the Kano State Censors Board vs. Kannywood saga, the editor of Fim Magazine, Malam Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II, has been arrested following a complaint by the head of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, that he suspected the editor and other Kannywood stakeholders of having sent him death threats by text message. According to Ali Alkali and Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz in their article “Editor Remanded Over Alleged Threat to Life” and Ibrahim Sheme in “Shekarau’s Hausa Movie Script” in Leadership newspaper, the police apparently came to Kaduna from Kano on Thursday, 1 July 2010, and bundled Gora into a taxi to Kano. When a judge claimed she was unable to come to court, Gora remained in prison over the weekend awaiting Monday, 5 July 2010, when he will hopefully be able to appeal for bail. [[[UPDATE MONDAY, 5 JULY 2010: One of my friends just called and told me Gora went to court today, and Magistrate Halima Nasiru said that he could be released on bail with the following condition: The person who posts bail for him, the assurity, must be a level 17 Civil servant from KANO, or alternatively a KANO businessman with a business registered with the KANO government. Remember that Gora is from Kaduna, where he lives and works, and that it will be much more difficult for him to find someone to post bail for him in Kano. In the meantime, he is approaching his 6th day in prison over a mere accusation.]]]   Moreover, according to Alkali and Abdulaziz other Kannywood figures listed for arrest are:

Yakubu Lere, Abdullahi Sani Kano, Tahir I. Tahir, Tijjani Asase, Yusuf Baban Chinedu, Ashiru Sani Bazanga, Adam A. Zango and Rabi’u Rikadawan (a.k.a. Dila) and Abubakar Sani.

They have obtained a restraining order against arrest from Kaduna High Court.

Rabo had claimed in his petition to the police that he received text messages from two GSM lines in which his life was threatened, fingering the nine industry stakeholders as suspects.

Some of the suspects had earlier sued Rabo in a Kaduna magistrate court over defamation of character and the case is still pending in the court.

This is a story I have meant to post far before this but had not found the time to compile all of the articles together. I will try to do so here, providing a list of links to a timeline of the suits and countersuits between filmmakers and the head of the censors board. In summary, the events just narrated come on the heels of an arrest warrant against Rabo for contempt of court, when he failed twice to appear in the Kaduna court, for which he had received summons. Rabo had been sued by filmmakers for defamation of character following claims he had made on air at Kano independent television station DITV that Kaduna filmmakers were making pornographic films. He also made claims during the DITV interview that Hausa film director and producer Iyan-Tama had not registered his company Iyan-Tama Multimedia. Following the order for his arrest from the Kaduna court, Rabo had obtained a restraining order from a Kano high court, to stop Kaduna police from arresting him.

Readers may remember earlier posts in June, July, and August of last year in which I described how the filmmaker’s association MOPPAN sued Rabo in a shari’a court in Fagge, Kano, for defamation of character on Radio Kano. The September 2009  issue of Fim Magazine described how Rabo failed to show up in court on multiple occasions. (Note that I have provided a link to photos of the pages of the article  in Fim describing the case: page 12, page 13, and page 14). According to Fim Magazine and sources I spoke to in MOPPAN, the state made some structural changes to the Kano State Censors Board, adding directors to provide more oversight of Rabo. Furthermore, Justice Mukhtari Ahmad, who had sent artistes Adam Zango, Iyan-Tama, Rabilu Musa (Ibro), Kaura, Aminu Ala and Bashir D’andago to prison, in quick trials with many irregularities, was moved to Wudil.  However, MOPPAN was told not to continue the case against Rabo in the shari’a court.

Rabo continued to travel out of state speaking about the need for censorship and perceived abuses of filmmaker’s against the “culture of the Hausa-Fulani.” In May, there was an uproar on the Finafinan Hausa and Dandalin Siyasa yahoo groups, when Rejato, a journalist with Radio Alternative in Niamey, Niger, claimed that Rabo had sent his supporters in Kannywood, Useini Sule Koki, Mohamed Roja, and others to Niamey to ask artistes in Niamey to register with the Kano State Censorship Board. According to Rejato, Rabo offered tohelp Nigerien artists with 10 million naira if they agreed to this arrangement. The Nigeriens responded pointing out that Niger and Nigeria were two different nations and laws in Kano did not apply to them.

In the meantime a riot nearly broke out in Kaduna on 24 May 2010 when Rabo went on DITV radio accusing filmmakers in Kaduna of making pornography.

According Abdulrahmane Tonga in Leadership on 17 May, 2010,

It was only by whiskers  and the quick arrival of  Operation Yaki policemen that saved the Director-General of Kano State  Censorship  Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdukareem, from lynching by angry film makers  in Kaduna.

The incident, which occurred at the premises of Desmims Independent Television (DITV) and Alheri FM Radio on Friday,  created tension and apprehension when Rabo  participated in a live programme  where he was alleged to have made uncomplimentary remarks against Hausa film makers and called on the government and people of Kaduna State to descend on them and stop what he called “their salacious and amoral film making ventures.”

In the programme, Rabo was alleged to have even mocked the Kaduna State government when he said he  bought a pornographic film at Unguwar  Sarki, which the authorities allowed to continue unabated to the detriment of the people and their morals in the state.

In an interview, a member of the Kaduna State Film Makers Association, Alhaji Yakubu Lere, said Rabo’s pronouncement during  the  live programme was inciting, provocative and very uncomplimentary to the film makers in Kaduna State, who are doing a lot to earn a living, saying that  it was what  infuriated them.

“The arrival of Operation Yaki really assisted greatly, because some members of Kaduna Film Makers Association had attempted to go inside the studio and beat up Rabo due to his unguarded utterences against our members,” Lere said.

When the situation had calmed down, Rabo, who looked visibly traumatized, asked Lere and Alhaji Haruna Danjuma (Mutuwa Dole), another veteran dramatist, to escort him out of the station.

“Rabo was escorted out of DITV premises inside  a pick-up van belonging to Operation Yaki and taken straight to his room at Access Hotel, Barnawa, where he checked out without further delay. In fact, he did not waste time in packing his little belongings into his car, and left with the escort of Operation Yaki full of civil defence corps up to the border with Kano State”.

When Leadership contacted him on his GSM phone, Rabo said whatever he said on the TV programme was not against the law, and if anyone has doubt, the recorded programme is still in DITV, that the person  can check it out.

“It’s only an act of overzealousness of some film makers who were angry with what I said. And I have no regret whatsoever for making such remarks,” he said.

Asked whether he really bought a pornographic film in Kaduna, Rabo declined to answer, but said, “In Kano State, we have sanitized the film making industry, and it is very complementary if other states in the country, especially in the North, could take heed from what we have done, in the interest of all people.”

Al-Amin Ciroma reported the story in more detail in Leadership on 18 May 2010, including the responses of the filmmaker’s to Rabo’s accusations:

The DG, Leadership gathered, insinuated among other issues that some nude home videos, popularly known as ‘Blue-films,’ were in circulation in Kaduna metropolis, particularly in Anguwan Sarki ward by the Hausa filmmakers.

Some filmmakers expressed their dismay over what the DG said.

“We don’t know what Rabo want from us? We are Nigerians and have freedom of association and previleges. We were defaced and mutilated in Kano and subjected to all series of humiliation and as law-abiding citizens, we transfered our business back to Kaduna, with mutual understanding between us and the government of the state. Kaduna is a liberal state where sentiment is of no course. We are peacefully doing our business here and yet he is all out to fight us. For Rabo to say that we are producing nude vidoes, I think, he need to visit his psychiatric doctor,”a source within the association told LEADERSHIP.

Commenting on what they called indignity by the filmmakers, the management of the station condemned what the Kannywood practitioners did. Our correspondent authoritatively gathered that the filmmakers convaged in huge numbers into the premises of DITV, located at Sambo Close, GRA, Kaduna, at early hours of Friday, raining abuses on Malam Rabo Abdulkareem, they also threatened to burn down the station.

Salisu Umar, a.k.a Salinga, the presenter, who hosted the DG on his popular programme, “Mu Shakata” revealed that after hosting him on the programme the previous day, he felt that there was need for him to reappear again the next day to clarify some issues. According to him, Abubakar Sani, a popular playback singer, offered to appear with the DG on the programme to counter some allegations, which the presenter approved. He then made same arrangement with Rabo; a request, which the DG agreed. By that arrangement, Umar added, Rabo is to feature alongside the Kannywood singer on the programme. Suprisingly, continued Salinga, the DG called him that he had changed his mind to appear live and suggested that the programme be recorded and aired late. “Not only that, Rabo said, he prefered to record the programme in his hotel room. Without questioning him, I passed the information to Abubakar Sani and he also agreed with the arrangement. Sani, to my surprise, called me again that he has alighted Sani Musa Danja, who is the president of the newly inaugurated Nigerian Artistes In Support of Democracy (NAISOD) to come on the programme with Rabo. [See my earlier post on NAISOD-CM] I called Danja and he stated his readiness to feature alongside the DG, but on condition that the programme be hosted in the studios of DITV and not Rabo’s hotel room. Danja gave me his reasons for not wanting to go to Rabo hotel room, which I reasoned with him. As a mediator, I cajoled the DG to come to our studios, which he agreed after some hesitations. Sani Danja and some of his subjects, Isma’il Na’Abba (Afakallah), Abubakar Sani, Ubale Wanke-Wanke and others came to our office as scheduled to meet Rabo,” said Salinga.

The programme went on well with the guests, according to the presenter, “Unknown to us, some of the filmmakers kept calling their colleagues and before we knew it, our premises were surrounded by them. It took the intervention of security agents to disperse the angry artistes and whisk Malam Rabo and his entourage out of Kaduna.”

Following Rabo’s quick return to Kano, the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association took Rabo to court.  Abdulrahman Tonga reported in Leadership on 1 June, 2010, that:

Members of the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association yesterday dragged the Director-General of Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, to a magistrate court in Kaduna over alleged criminal defamation of character and inciting the public to violence.

In a complaint charge filed before Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere of Magistrate Court 1, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna, six filmmakers argued that a television interview granted by Rabo to the DITV station in Kaduna a fortnight ago had ridiculed their image and lowered their reputation in the eyes of the public.

Rabo was quoted to have told the TV station in a live broadcast that Hausa moviemakers were now engaged in the production of pornographic films and that the people of Kaduna State should rise against them.

He reportedly claimed to have bought a copy of such pornographic movies in Unguwar Sarki area of Kaduna metropolis.

Describing the censorship board chief’s assertion as false, the plaintiffs said such statement was capable of inciting violence in the state.

“His statement that people should rise against us has made our members to live in constant apprehension for fear of being attacked by the public,” they said.

Rabo’s allegation was contrary to sections 392 and 114 of the penal code, they added.

The complainants consist of executive committee members of the Kaduna filmmakers association. They are: Ashiru Sani Bazanga, Rabi’u Mohammed Rikadawa, Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II, Sulaiman Sha’ani, Aminu Musa Carlos, and Jamilu Adamu.

LEADERSHIP learnt that the court summons, which was endorsed by a magistrate in Kaduna, was received by Rabo yesterday in his office situated within the Kano State-owned City Television in Hotoro, Kano.

The hearing comes up tomorrow in Kaduna.

However, the next day, Rabo did not show up in the Kaduna court claiming that he was “indisposed,” a move echoing his similar absence in Kano courts in August 2009. Samuel Aruwan reported in Leadership on 3 June 2010:

The case of defamation and inciting of public disturbance to violence, brought before Kaduna Magistrate Court by members of the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association against the Director-General of Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, was yesterday mentioned in the court. The magistrate, Nasiru Idris Lere, ordered that the counsel to the director-general, Mr. Gabriel Didam, must produce the respondent before the court in person.

When the case was mentioned, counsel to the director-general, Gabriel Didam, told the court that his client could not appear in court in person as a result of being indisposed, a plea the filmmakers’ counsel, Mr.A.S. Suleiman in his argument consented to the respondent’s prayer. The judge adjourned the case to June 10, 2010 with clear instruction that Rabo must appear in person before the court.

On 9 June (perhaps the earlier date of adjournment quoted was wrong?), Abdurahmane Tonga reported in Leadership (a copy of the article is posted on Ibrahim Sheme’s blog) that:

The Kaduna State police command has been ordered by a judge to arrest the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, for his failure to appear before it on two occasions.

The judge, Alhaji Nasiru Idris Lere of Magistrate Court 1 in Kaduna, gave the order for Rabo’s immediate arrest by the police.

[…]

When the case opened in court last week, the Kano chief censor failed to appear, citing ill-health. His counsel sought a postponement, a plea to which the filmmakers’ counsel, A.S. Suleiman, did not object.

During yesterday’s hearing, counsel to Rabo, Mr. Gabriel Didam, told the court that his client could not appear in court in person as a result of insecurity in the state, adding that his client was also sick. He, however, apologized to the court on behalf of his client.

Counsel to the plaintiffs, Malam Sadau Garba, appealed to the court to issue a bench warrant against Rabo, pointing out that this was the second sitting in which he was not in the court. According to the lawyer, information reaching him was that the accused was determined never to come to the court.

“Justice has to be done,” he said. “The accused person had complained that he was sick, but no written document had been produced. And information reaching us is that the accused is bragging that he will never be present throughout the case and that nothing will happen. We therefore apply that this honorable court issue a arrest warrant to make him appear and take any alternative measures to bring him to the court”.

When ruling on the request, the judge said, “The accused person did not follow the proper way to channel his complaint to the court, a behaviour which may leave the other party to feel they are not treated equally.

“I will not believe him that there is insecurity in Kaduna. It’s an excuse by the accused person. And he has to tell us the names of those that thinks are after him so that court will stop them from coming to its premises.

“Since the inception of the case he has been complaining frequently, but the accused never did in the formal way. Under the section 153 of the CPC, the accused has to be in court. I am left with no option than to order his arrest under section 70 / 1A / B by the Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State.”

Hearing in the suit was adjourned till June 16, 2010.

Court order for the arrest of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (given me by MOPPAN)

On 15 June 2010, Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz reported in Leadership that Rabo had obtained a staying order from the Kano high court:

A Kano State High Court presided over by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Shehu Atiku, has issued an order barring police from arresting or detaining the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, following an order to that effect by a Kaduna magistrate court.

The applicant had filed an ex-parte motion asking the court to stop the police from carrying out an order issued to them by Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere of Chief Magistrate Court, Ibrahim Taiwo Road , Kaduna, to arrest and produce him before the court.

The motion, number K/M328/2010, dated June 11, 2010, joined the Kano and Kaduna police commissioners as first and second respondents. Others include Magistrate Lere, the Inspector-General of Police and the Assistant Inspectors-General of Police in charge of Zone 1 (Kano) and Zone 7 ( Abuja ).

A copy of the court order obtained by LEADERSHIP in Kano shows that the court hinged its decision to issue the order after considering the motion ex-parte and the accompanying affidavit sworn to by the applicant.

Part of the document reads: “The Respondent particularly the 1st and 5th Respondents (i.e. the Commissioner of police Kano State, and the AIG, Zone 1, Kano) are hereby directed to stay all actions (in particular, from arresting and detaining the Applicant) pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.”

A Kano-based lawyer, Barrister Nuraini Jimoh, and one Mr Morgan stand as counsel to the chief censor in the case. It has been adjourned to June 25, 2010 for hearing of the substantive motion on notice.

Arrest Warrent for Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, 10 June 2010

On 16 June 2010, Al-Amin Ciroma reported further drama when Rabo’s attorneys claimed their ignorance of the restriction on arrest of their client :

The case, which is presided over by Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere, has yesterday end with a dramatic session as the counsel of the accuse, Barrister Gideon Didam, honourable withdrew with his team of lawyers from the case on grounds of protecting their professional integrity. “We are completely ignorant of the court order restricting the arrest of our client. We are in this vain, going to allow the judicial court to take its position, may be that is why the accused is absent today.” Said the defence counsel.
Similarly, the counsel to the complainants, Barrister Sadau Garba, represented by Barrister Mohammad Sunusi, argued that the said order from the Kano high court seems not authentic as the document was a photocopy instead of original. Sighting technical inferiorities, Barrister Sunusi disputed the order under section 158/D&E of CPC. He urged the court to continue the proceeding.
The Chief Magistrate, in his ruling said the court will ignore the matter to avoid judicial rascality. Adding that the registrar of the court will forward the said order to the Kaduna State Anthony general for verification and further directives. Meanwhile, June 28, 2010 was fixed for further hearing on the case.

The latest reports return to where I started this post. I have not yet found information regarding the 28 June court date. The news is taken over by Rabo’s accusations of receiving death threats from the very people who sued him to court, the arrest warrents from Kano courts, the continued imprisonment without bail or trial of Fim magazine editor Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II.

On 2 July 2010, an opinion piece was published in the Kano state government newspaper Triumph by an Asabe Murtala mysteriously titled “Is Rabo a Melting Pot.” In the piece, Asabe Murtala vociferously defends Rabo in a tone and language that sounds very much Rabo’s own, as can be read on the “Censorship Board in the News” section of the Kano State Censor’s Board website. Asabe Murtala waxes lyrical over the DG of KSCB:

To many people, Rabo’s name alone sounds musical to ears. While the same name sends shivers and is persistently jittery that shocks the very foundation of the ill-conceived and perturbed thinking of some handful few in the Hausa film making industry. You can call it Kannywood, Shaidanwood or any other wood you want to attach it to.

With regard to the programme aired on DSTV that is inspiring so many lawsuits, she says:

In the programme Mallam Rabo was so stressed for the need that there was a need for the people of Kaduna State, both muslims and non-muslims, to stand up against any film making that is in collusion with our societal norms, value and culture. And he was so disturbed that while we are in the 21st century, some film makers are still behaving as if we are in the uncivilized world.

[….]

There were five callers during the second live programme. They are Abdullahi, Ladidi, Hudu, Mamman and Maman Fadhlu. They all praised the presentation as apt, focused and enlightened. Most of the callers confessed that they didn’t like Rabo’s style of operation before. But with the discussion that was taking place, they came to understand what Rabo stands for. This is a deadly blow on the faces of the film makers. Instead of them to calculate and strategize well, they challenged Rabo to be a co-host with one other person from their part. Which he happily responded in the affirmative. It never occurred to them that an encounter with Rabo could not be a Pancake-race. The encounter turned out to be a Pandora’s box! Because they were panic-striken, Mallam Rabo had to be escorted out of theDITV premises with the help of security operatives, that were armed-to-teeth.

What followed then was, as I heard from some reliable sources, Rabo received many text messages threatening his life. As a law abiding citizen, he officially wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Kano Command, titled ‘Threat to My Llife.’The letter was sent on the May18, 2010. In the letter Mallam Rabo cited some text messages as samples, together with the phone numbers. To tell you that Rabo is security conscious, by sending the texts with the phone numbers. He knew the vital role those numbers could play during investigation. Though, the numbers could be purchased for that hatchet job alone.

Threatening his life was not enough to them, for the fact that they realized that he was waxing stronger in Kaduna State and other neighboring states. They resorted to court action and media campaign against this gentleman.

Least I forgot, during the third programme, DITV Radio Alheri hosted Mallam Rabo, Sani Danja and Isma’ila Na-Abba. Rabo as usual dressed them down. So the film people floated over an ocean immediately after the Titanic ship rocked. It was terribly embarrassing!

Mallam Rabo was summoned by the Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere, of the Kaduna Magistrate Court. Mallam Abubakar Rabo could not go to the court on health ground. And could not also attend the second sitting because he got no assurance from the court of his security. He was receiving text messages threatening his life, so it was mentioned to the court through his lawyers.

The article continues on for some time in this vein. Readers may remember that this very same Asabe Murtala or Asabe Muktar (the same article was published in Triumph and Daily Trust under these two different names) was accused by Ibrahim Sheme on the Finafinan Hausa listserve of being none other than a pseudonym  for Rabo himself. While this may be a baseless accusation, it does seem curious that, though she claims to be a Kannywood stakeholder no one seems to have ever met her (I once received an email from her forwarding one of her article, but when I wrote back asking if we could meet, I never heard back from her) and that she (with variations on her name) only seems to surface as a writing persona, publishing articles in defence of Rabo and the Kano State Censorship Board.

Meanwhile Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi reported in the Hausa weekly, Aminiya, on 2 July, and Ruqayya Yusuf Aliyu reported in Sunday Trust on 4 July, that filmmaker Alhaji Hamisu Lamid’o Iyan-Tama has filed another seperate lawsuit against the DG of the Kano Censor’s Board Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim for 10 million naira claiming defamation during Rabo’s 24 May 2010 interview at DITV.  Ruqayya Yusuf Aliyu writes:

According to the statement of claims signed by the counsel to the plaintiff, Barrister Mohammed Sani Katu, the plaintiff is also demanding a public apology and retraction of the alleged defamatory statement made.

The statement of claims also stated that during the said interview, the defendant specifically mentioned that the plaintiff did not register his company, Iyantama Multimedia, which has been in operation for over 15 years with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

The plaintiff further alleges that the defamatory statement has caused him embarrassment before his associates and the public saying he has received a number of calls whereby the callers expressed their disappointment over the said non registration of his company.

The statement of claims also said since the programme was aired, the revenue he generates from the company has significantly reduced among other things.

Readers may recall, that Iyan-Tama spent three months in prison last year after a trial in the court of Magistrate Judge Mukhtari Ahmed, which the Kano attorney general eventually called (as reported by Ibrahim Sheme)  ““improper,” “incomplete,” “a mistake,” […] insisting that a “more competent magistrate” should be given the case to try again.” As noted earlier, Mukhtari Ahmed was relocated in August from the Kano airport court, where he had tried and sentenced so many film stakeholders, to Wudil.

Here is a list of links to newspaper articles describing the progression of events:

My three blog posts in June, July, and August 2009 describing the events leading to the shari’a court case of slander against Rabo, as well as two newspaper articles on the case and a piece from Fim Magazine. I’ve also provided a link to an interview I did with Rabo in February 2009:

Timeline of the most recent lawsuits and counterlawsuits from May to July 2010:

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.

 

Director of Photography Workshop Begins at the Alliance Francaise, Kano, Ali Jita marries, and news about clash of ‘yan acaba with governor’s entourage

Abbas Sadiq and Sanin Maikatanga at bikin Ali Jita da Nafisa Laila

Hausa director and actor Abbas Sadiq and editor of Fim Magazine Sani Maikatanga examine a poster of the bride and groom at the wedding party of Ali Jita and Nafisa Laila (c) CM

Today I attended the opening ceremony of the MOPPAN Director of Photography 5-day workshop that is being held at the Alliance Francaise in conjunction with the French embassy. I came in late because I didn’t know where the Alliance Francaise was and “na yawo gari” on the back of an acaba. I walked in (having to walk in front of the high table in front of everyone… ai) for the end of a speech by the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, followed by a speech by VP of MOPPAN, Dr. Ahmad Sarari, in which he requested the permission of the Censorship Board for the workshop participants to shoot in Kano for the duration of the workshop. The DG agreed. Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, a professor of education and a cultural anthropologist in the Department of Mass Communication, also gave a speech.  After all the speech making, refreshments were served, most of the academics and journalists left, and the directors of photography got down to the business of workshopping.

In other news, Hausa musician Ali Jita and his bride Nafisa Laila were married this weekend and hosted a party, a dinner, and an “Indian night,” attended by a gaggle of Kannywood stars and Hausa musicians.

And on the youth/politics front, here is an article on the front page of today’s Leadership by my friend Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz that is worth a read:

20 Injured as Youth Clash with Shekarau’s Entourage