The Unfair Use of the $500m Loan That Must Not Be Allowed To Happen
Salisu Ahmed Koki
Already, the burden of debt is getting heavier on the Nigerian nation and its citizens. And to crown the burden with any inappropriate usage of loan(s) must not be allowed to happen. The judicious use of any loan is an inalienable rights of citizens to demand from the leadership. Therefore, I hereby humbly submit that the Federal Government’s intention to utilize $245m of the $500m for an “ultra-modern media city” at Ogijo Ikorodu in Ogun state is grossly unfair, unjust and inappropriate. Why?
In the first instance, Nigeria has long decided that Jos, the Plateau state capital, is its media city. It was argued that the friendly weather and the scenic beauty of the ‘tin city’ were some of the major considerations for the choice. Hence, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) established three major projects there: Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) College (where training in television production is conducted); Nigerian Film Corporation (the premier film development agency for the country) and the National Film Institute (where young filmmakers are being trained). Secondly, there is a dormant project of the Abuja International Film Village located at the ‘Centre of Unity’ that is ironically at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). An expanse land has been allocated with idle staff being on pay roll for over a decade; and it has generated huge unfulfilled dreams and undoubtful yearning expectations. Thirdly, three Nigerian cities of Lagos, Kano and Onitsha have established themselves as media hubs of the nation. There are striving media businesses around the three cities with over 90% control of what constitute Nigeria’s media production share. They form the tripod cities of producing Nollywood content or the Nigerian Movie Industry products. How can the Federal Government of Nigeria decide to locate the Media City out of these natural locations? In whose interest is citing the project at Ogun State? Are practitioners entitled to make their views known? And whose interest should be supreme; between that of leadership and the practitioners?
The Director General of NTA, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, gave details of what the media city project entails in an interview published by Daily Trust on March 8, 2020: “The media city will be established on a vast expanse of land at Ogijo Ikorodu, Ogun State. It would involve the construction and installation of indoor and outdoor shooting area, animation production faculty, digital media training cent re, a world-class cinema, a 4-star hotel, an amusement park and an amphitheater as well as acquisition of digital movie production equipment for rental and power systems, amongst others. The Media City Training Academy, like that of Egypt (the only one in Africa) and Dubai, will train Nigerian broadcasters and film makers on how to produce high quality media content programmes and make the country a hub for digital movie production in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Please, with every sense of rationality, imagine how crucial the establishment of such an ultra-modern media city will be to either Jos or Abuja; Lagos, Kano or Onitsha? Yet, our leaders want to take away the media city project to an entirely fresh and undeserving site? Where is the sense in doing so? I am, indeed, asking for those responsible to reconsider their decision and do the right thing for the sake of fairness and judicious use of the $500m loan. Kindly locate the media city project to where it can build on an existing facility or structure as earlier mentioned. The government must be seen to make the project key-in to the facility or structure that would add value to the nation and practitioners. Bear in mind that governance is a continuous exercise where harmony and flow of activities must be maintained in order to optimize value and meaning. If this is disrupted, there is bound to be misuse of resources or the action may even result in wastages. I am, therefore, passionately appealing for judicious use of the $500m loan for the benefits of media practitioners rather than political interest. My demand stems from being a media stakeholder with a forty-year record behind me.
Although politicians have generally taken media practitioners for granted, this time around, we must assert our rights because the establishment of the Media City is of prime concern to all of us. We must be remembering that when Nigeria was crafting Vision 20:2020 in 2009, the film industry remains the only sector, out of the 29 thematic areas of the programme, which at the time, propelled the nation to the top third position in the world. Nigeria was named the third largest producer of film titles in the world out of the 99 countries studied by a United Nation’s survey. And we are currently occupying the second position. Thus, Nigerian films and music are immensely contributing to the gross domestic product of the nation while positioning the nation as per the aspirations of Vision 20:2020. At the same time, the media sub-sector is providing huge employment opportunities; and helping politicians to attain elective seats. It defies logic that the media is perpetually saddled with unjust and unfair policies? For example, under democracy, the leadership of the premier film development agency of the Federal Government, the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), has been handed over to politicians rather than the professionals who have labored to put the nation’s name for global reckoning and respect. To say the very least, media stakeholders certainly deserve to be heard when projects are meant for them – that’s why the issue of establishing the Media City Project must be given the due attention and consideration it deserves.
Abdulkareem Mohammed writes from Kano.