Tag Archives: Sani Mu’azu

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

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Governor Ibrahim Shekarau on Hisbah, censorship, and Kannywood in the Presidential Debates

For those who did not see the Nigerian Presidential Debates, between General Muhammadu Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu, and Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, you can watch the debates online, here:

I have transcribed the questions Governor Shekarau was asked regarding the hisbah, censorship, and Kannywood during the debates. Emphasis in red mine:

Timecode: 42:56

Moderator: Now Malam Shekarau, Nigeria is a plural society and yet in the state that you govern, Kano State, the hisbah, which is the morality police, is known to brutally enforce sharia and in the process sometimes trampling on people’s rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. How do you reconcile this intolerance with your desire to be the leader of a country as diverse as Nigeria.

Shekarau: Thank you very much. In the first place, I do not agree that the hisbah was brutalizing and overriding the constitutional right of our citizens. We did not just wake up and create the hisbah without going through the legislation.  We used the same constitutional provision that allowed any state to create any policy, any program, any law that will maintain law and order within the state. The hisbah is no more than what today you call community policing. We have the hisbah in virtually every community. Their duty is to ensure there is peace, there is law abiding, and this is exactly what they do. It is those who violate the rules of the land, and we did challenge anyone, whoever thinks that the hisbah has done anything to him contrary to the rules and regulations that rule the land to take his case to the law courts and challenge the creation of the hisbah. So we didn’t just by the wave of a hand create the hisbah, it went through the legislation. There was law promulgated. In fact, the first item on the law of the hisbah is that the hisbah is to assist the Nigerian police in the maintenance of law and order.  (Clapping)

Moderator: Now, you say that but in practical terms the impact of the hisbah in Kano has included killing a film industry that was providing employment, what is known in Nigeria as Kannywood. So there has been an exodus of filmmakers out of Kano, who get harassed when they are on shoots, who have been asked to submit their scripts for inspection, and a total disregard of the people’s rights to express themselves through art in that particular way.

Shekarau: No, I think that is totally wrong. The hisbah has nothing to do with the censorship. We have a full fledged censorship board, created by law through the legislation. And the censorship board has created rules and regulations that govern the conduct of any film industry. We have a right to decide what is right for the community. The government has the moral responsibility to protect the right, the interest, the instant transformation (?) of the society. (Clapping). So all we did, all we did, we said, if you want to register and run a film industry, you should comply with A,B, C, D, F, and we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the  constitution of  the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.

Moderator: You seem to be very strong in terms of protecting the rights of the majority. What about the rights of the minority inside the state that you govern.

Shekarau: We are protecting. In fact it may interest you to know that Kano state today is the most peaceful state in Nigeria. If you ask any of the so-called minority or non-indigene, they are quite happy, they are quite peaceful. In fact, today, you will be surprised to find that those you call non-indigenes or even the non-Muslim prefer to go for settlement of disagreement within the community either to the hisbah court or to the censorship board. We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well. All we say is abide by the rules and regulations. And there is no community that will live without guiding principles, without rules and regulations and will think that there will be discipline and order in that community.

Although I thought the most impressive performance in the debate came from the moderator, Kadaria Ahmed, who had no qualms with interrupting these “big men” with hardtalk style questions (and would gladly vote her for president if I had a vote), from the feedback I saw on Facebook and Twitter, the majority opinion seemed to be that Governor Shekarau “won” the debate. He did speak eloquently and seemed well-prepared.

However, in terms of his response to the questions above, one might want to keep in mind a few things, and I will focus here only on what I know about the government’s interaction with the film industry, and leave aside the question about the hisbah, whom I’ve heard praised for their intervention in police corruption as well as railed against for alleged “abuses”.

Shekarau claimed :

“we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the  constitution of  the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.”

And

“We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well.

From my observations of the interaction between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry based in Kano (and, most recently, in Kaduna) for the past three years, these statements, especially the claim that there has been no legal challenge to censorship implementation, are a bit disingenuous. Below find copied a list of blog posts I have written since 2009 on legal challenges that have been made either to the Kano State government, the Kano State Censorship Board, the Kano State police, and or the head of the censor’s board in his personal capacity.

Here are just a few examples.

On 12 February 2009, I posted an interview with Sani Muazu, President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria, about the various lawsuits against the Kano Censor’s Board that MOPPAN was involved in. He told me:

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.

On 16 February 2009, I posted another interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, the then Vice-President of MOPPAN and brother of the filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama. Iyan Tama was at that time in Kano’s Goron Dutse Prison after being sentenced in a mobile court for supposedly illegally selling his Zuma-film festival award winning film in Kano. (Iyan Tama has since been cleared of all charges). In addition to my questions about his brother’s case, which you can read by clicking on the link, Dr. Sarari also spoke about the court cases MOPPAN was involved in:

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.

On 27 March 2009, I sat in on a case in which the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the Kano State Censorship Board to MOPPAN’s lawsuit.

The last I checked, this lawsuit is still in the courts, two years later.

There have been other lawsuits, such as the one posted by Iyan Tama in a personal capacity over alleged defamation of character by Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, the Head of the Kano Censor’s Board on DITV, Kaduna. The case was settled out of court.

On July 21, 2010, I reported that a lawsuit was filed at a Kaduna State high court:

between the applicants 1. Ashiru Sani Bazanga, 2. Mohammed Rabiu Rikadawa, 3. Aliyu Abdullahi Gora, 4. Sulaiman Sha’ani, 5. Musa Aminu, 6. Jamilu Adamu, 7. Abubakar Sani, 8. Tahir I. Tahir, 9. Tijjani Asase, 10. Yusuf Haruna, 11. Yakubu Lere, and 12. Adam Zango and the respondents 1. Commissioner of Police, Kano State; 2. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kano State, 3. Chief Magistrate Court 25 Kano, Kano State; 4. Abubakar Rabo. The applicants are seeking damages of Ten Million Naira as compensation for the “violation of the applicants fundamental human rights.”

The Kaduna lawsuit was filed after Kano State Police were sent to arrest the above named filmmakers on an accusation that they had supposedly sent the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, a death threat by text message. Aliyu Gora II, the editor of FIM Magazine, was the only one the police were able to find, and he spent nearly a week without trial in Kano’s Goron Dutse prison, after being transported by police from Kaduna to Kano. The suit was the latest in a series of lawsuits following Rabo’s alleged defamation of the Hausa film industry on DITV Kaduna.

Other Posts, in chronological order, that may be of interest in learning about the relationship between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry:

On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, posted13 January 2009

Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s Appeal posted 22 January 2009

2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s Family posted 23 January 2009

Iyan-Tama’s Case Not Listed posted 26 January 2009

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences posted 29 January 2009

Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Assocation of Nigeria posted 30 January 2009

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again posted 10 February 2009

Interview with Sani Mu’azu, President of Motion Pictures Practitioner’s Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) posted 12 February 2009

Interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board posted 13 February 2009

A Surprising Move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday posted 15 February 2009

Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama posted  16 February 2009

More Arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front Page posted 17 February 2009

Update on the Iyan-Tama Case: Bail Hearing set for 5 March posted 19 February 2009

Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywoodposted 14 March 2009

Iyan-Tama granted bail, The Judge calls for a new Trial posted 17 March 2009

Raids on a film set last weekend and other developments in “Kano State Censor’s Board vs. Kannywood” posted 24 March 2009

Federal High Court strikes down Kano State Censorship Board’s objections; MOPPAN’s Lawsuit will go on posted 27 March 2009

Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs posted 8 June 2009

Recent news on the activities of the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board posted 24 June 2009

Arrest of singer Aminu Ala and the most recent scuffle of MOPPAN with the Kano State Censorship Board posted 6 July 2009

Breaking News: Singer Ala denied bail posted 7 July 2009

My notes on the court case of Aminu Ala today at the Mobile court attached to the Kano State Censorship Board posted 7 July 2009

Aminu Ala given bail on condition that he does not speak with media posted 10 July 2009

DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court posted 5 August 2009

The latest on the Iyan-Tama case from Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board posted 2 October 2009

Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano posted 28 February 2010

Update: 3-day international music festival cancelled by Kano State Censor’s Board posted 1 March 2010

French Ambassador rejects the conditions of KS Censorship board for lifting ban on music festival, Punch reports posted 3 March 2010

Arresting the Music. Arresting Hope. Arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission” posted 11 March 2010

Interview with Hiphop artist Ziriums in this week’s Aminiya posted 18 April 2010

FIM Magazine Editor Arrested on accusation of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of Kano State Censorshop Board posted 4 July 2010

Kaduna State Filmmakers Association take Kano State Police, Court, and DG of Kano Censor’s Board to Court over breach of “fundamental Human Rights”posted 21 July 2010

Iyan Tama takes Rabo to Court for Defamation, and Other Lawsuits posted 18 August 2010

DG of Kano Censors Board Caught in Alleged Sex Scandal with Minor, Sunday Trust Reports, posted 29 August 2010

Press Release from the Motion Pictures Practitioner Association of Nigerian (MOPPAN) Calling for Investigations into the “allegations of  Sex Scandal against Abubakar Rabo,” posted on 31 August 2010

The Latest on the Iyan Tama Case from Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, posted 2 October 2010

Iyan Tama Reaches Settlement with Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, posted on 17 October 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kano State Censorship Board Opens a Website

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences

On/From Filmmakers:

My interview with arrested editor Sulaiman Abubakar in NEXT

My Interview with Vice President of MOPPAN Dr. Ahmad Sarari

My interview with Sani Mu’azu, President of MOPPAN

On the current censorship crisis in Kano

Outside links:

Hard Times in Kannywood from NEXT

Award-winning film Lands Director in Jail from IPS

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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