As strong criticisms continue to trail the newly introduced 5% levy on audio and visual contents of physical and digital platforms, Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) has added its voice against such anti-creativity and what stakeholders termed as ‘devilish idea’.
The furore started when the managing director of IrokoTV, Jason Njoku, shared a letter purportedly sent to him by the executive secretary of Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Bamidele Balogun.
The media entrepreneur, who was visibly enraged by the move, threw side slurs at the originator of such directive and the government.
I wonder if @NetflixNaija @FilmhouseCinema and @YouTube got one of these. Or just us card carrying patriots. Flag of Nigeria
Folded hands. Let me go for a run and then sleep. I will deal with this one tomorrow.
I wonder if @NetflixNaija @FilmhouseCinema and @YouTube got one of these. Or just us card carrying patriots. 🇳🇬🙏🏾. Let me go for a run 🏃🏾♂️and then sleep. I will deal with this one tomorrow 😴. pic.twitter.com/gz0m4D6Bl4
— JasonNjoku (@JasonNjoku) September 3, 2020
A popular rapper, songwriter and actor, Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, simply wrote that the government must be joking.
In its own reaction, the AVR had harsher words to describe the ‘illegal’ levy.
In a statement released by its lawyer, Justin Ige, and made available to Freelanews, the group lectured the state government that there was already a subsisting ruling by the Federal High Court stating the powers of the government as a regulator.
“Not only is there a subsisting decision of the Federal High Court, delivered by his lordship, Honourable Justice Obiozor, in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1502/2016; Harris & Annis Limited v. A.G. Lagos State & 3 Ors; limiting the powers of the LSVCB under the Cinematograph Law of Lagos State (“the Law”) to regulate the industry, the Law does not give the LSVCB any powers to levy the production and/or distribution of audio visual content,” Ige wrote.
The statement went on to reveal that any levy that is not for the performance of LSVB’s functions, which include censorship and categorisation, hearing and determination of appeals etc, is illegal.
See full details below.
In its response, the state government has distant itself from the letter demanding for 5% levy.
According to statement signed by the commissioner of Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, there is no levy of such in the state.
“There is no levy on Audio and Visual contents of all Physical and Digital Platforms in Lagos State. The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Mr. Bamidele Balogun, is said to have announced a 5% levy,” Omotoso announced.
In the same breath, the Governor Sanwo-Olu’s commissioner dissociated the Lagos State government from such letter and allegedly suspended the ‘unauthorised’ executive who made the announcement.
“The Government hereby dissociates itself from the said announcement in the media. The Executive Secretary, who was not authorised to make such an announcement, has been suspended, pending an administrative enquiry.”
The state scribe, however, didn’t forget to remind Lagosians the good attributes of the administration and the ‘fifth pillar of the Sanwo-Olu government’s agenda’.
“The fifth pillar of the THEMES Agenda, the development policy of this Administration, is Entertainment and Tourism. Practitioners are partners in our effort to ensure that Lagos State remains Africa’s leader in entertainment.
“The Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu Administration is not insensitive to the fact that the Industry has been badly hit by the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic and empathizes with this and other sectors of the economy.
“All stakeholders in the Entertainment Industry are advised to disregard the said publication,” he concluded.
Pundits and industry watchers wondered by such unethical gaffe could be allowed to happen in the first instance and prayed that going forward, such ‘insubordination’ will not be the bane of the Lagos State government under the leadership of Babajide Sanwo-Olu.