Many industry watchers have continued to applaud the Lagos State Government for coming up with the audacious US$100 million Lagos Film City project. So much has been said about its potential to create jobs, support creativity and advertise our culture to the world.
But, Bola Bolawole, a former editor of “The Punch”, in a piece titled, ‘Why Sanwo-Olu Should Revisit Film City project’, chose to express misgivings on the venture.
In the piece, Bolawole expressed fears on the viability of the project, advising Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to stop it. The writer’s deep sense of ignorance about the project was impeccably reflected in his referring to it as “another major scam in the offing”.
He was, however, honest enough to admit that his major source of information on the project was gotten from a chance meeting with a veteran frontline film maker Ola Balogun, who interrupted his discussions with a friend at the Ikeja Mall during a business lunch.
It is, however, essential to make some clarifications that could further throw more light on some of the issues raised by the writer in the article. The intention is to ensure that the public is not misinformed.
First, the writer’s fear over a supposed scam does not by any means arise. His allusion to the possibility of a scam certainly indicates his lack of understanding of the idea behind the Lagos Film City project. It, thus, needs to be stressed that the initiative is fundamentally based on the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) concept. The government will not finance the project from its balance sheet.
It is an arrangement between the State and private investors. Hence, no public fund will be spent. The government’s partners of the project, Del-York, will solely be responsible for sourcing of funds and other issues relating to finances. Not a dime of public fund will be expended on it.
Second, Bolawole’s admission that a similar experience failed elsewhere is not a basis that such could be the fate of the Lagos Film City project. Since coming on board in May 2019, Mr. Sanwo-Olu has demonstrated sufficient competency that has made Lagosians trust his judgment. This, no doubt, was responsible for his landslide victory at the last general election.
He has successfully completed many landmark projects across various sectors. A few examples will suffice. The Lagos Blue Line project had been on for over a decade. Seeing that it is a people- oriented project capable of addressing the state’s traffic challenge, the governor promised to complete it before the end of his first tenure in office.
He kept his word. Today, the Blue Line is a testament to the possibilities of “A Greater Lagos”. In fact, the Red Line will be commissioned before the end of the year.
Sanwo-Olu also promised to ensure the completion of the multi-million dollar Lekki Deep Sea Port. On this too, he kept to his word. He also pledged to complete the Lagos Rice Mill in Imota, Ikorodu, which has since been completed and commissioned.
The governor equally swore, upon his inauguration in 2019, to complete all ongoing housing schemes. By the time he was rounding off his first tenure in office, his administration had completed over 20 housing schemes.
The list, of course, is endless.
The whole essence of recounting the governor’s string of successes is to show that Sanwo-Olu is not one to embark on wasteful expenditures. He is a focused leader and the State is, no doubt, blessed to have him in the saddle.
He is a conscientious planner who meticulously goes through the minutest details of programmes and projects before spending public funds on them. This, no doubt, explains why the State is yet to experience any case of a failed project under his leadership. Sanwo-Olu has eyes for details. Nothing, no matter how seeming insignificant, escapes his scrutiny.
Now, let’s go back to the Film City. The initiative isn’t something that just happened on the impulse. No! It is part of the administration’s holistic and carefully thought-out plan to transform the State’s tourism and entertainment industry.
Since his first term in office, Sanwo-Olu has demonstrated a strong resolve to reposition the State’s tourism and entertainment industry. This is based on his conviction that, if properly structured, the sector has huge potential for wealth and job creation.
This, of course, is a stark reality. In America, for instance, the entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, creating jobs for thousands of young creative minds. Lagos is the entertainment capital of the country; developing the sector not only holds a brighter prospect for Lagos, but the country at large.
An integral part of the government’s plan to further develop the sector is the Lagos State Creative Industry Initiative (LACI), a partnership between the government and renowned film making academies. Through collaboration with organisations, such as EbonyLife Creative Academy, Del-York Academy and Ogidi Studio, AMAA, among others, new leaders and stars have emerged in the creative industry.
Till date, the partnership has produced over 6000 graduands with the likes of Genoveva Umeh, Moshood Fattah, Desmond Bryce, Obinna James, Promise Egwu, Peter Joshua and Hannah Sampson, among others, becoming newest super stars in the sector.
After the pandemic, the government supported the sector with a N1 billion naira interest free grant, which was accessed by several film producers. The essence is to ensure that the sector remains vibrant and productive.
Prior to the post-COVID-19 grant, the government had disbursed N200 Million as loans to 37 indigenous filmmakers. This is in addition to the completion of the J.K Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture, Onikan, Lagos as well as the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos. The latter, a state-of-the-art amphitheater, like other Theaters built by the government, have been concessioned to Lufodo Production Limited, the firm of veteran actress Joke Silva, for effective management.
Cheerfully, the modest efforts of the government are beginning to pay off. A recent PwC report shows that Nigeria’s film industry contributed 2.3% ($660 million (239 billion naira)) to the GDP in 2021.
Lagos is not only the commercial nerve of Africa, it is the birthplace of Nollywood and the location of a majority of the cinemas in Nigeria. Lagos has also been described as the cultural, financial, and entertainment capital of Africa, and is a significant influence on commerce, entertainment, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, and fashion.
In New York, the movie industry creates 185,000 jobs annually, $18.1b in wages and $81.6B in total economic output. Thus, the Lagos Film City project is part of the all-inclusive firm efforts of the government to further enhance the growth of the industry.
The proposed Film City will be a total hub for movie production; it’s not just about studios. It is a testament to the government’s commitment to nurturing the arts and supporting the dreams of aspiring filmmakers, actors, and technicians. It will create numerous job opportunities, stimulate economic growth and attract investments. It will be a hub for film production, post-production, visual effects, and all the ancillary services that support the film-making process.
It is envisioned to be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, sound stages, editing suites, production offices, and everything necessary to bring the magic of the silver screen to life. It is designed to be a one-stop-hub for movie production.
There are a few things that one thinks should be topmost on the list of Bolawole’s worries. Based on the above evidence, he should worry less about the proposed Film City. Rather, he should worry and write more about social vices such as open defecation, drug abuse, rape, insurgency, kidnapping, street trading, street parking, child-hawking, child abuse and Gender-Based-Violence (GBV) among others.
Ogunbiyi is a Director (Public Affairs), Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja. —