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On the 2014 Abuja World Economic Forum: What is at Stake for Nigeria’s Entertainment Industry?

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Fr.  Austin C. OkigboAt the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at Davos, Switzerland, President Goodluck Jonathan once again called for a more inclusive economy especially in Africa, echoing thus theme of forthcoming WEF in Africa to be held in Abuja in May 2014, “Forging Inclusive Growth and Creating Jobs.” The president’s address at the forum for the most part reiterated the point that he sought to drive home earlier in November 2013 during his address to the Honorary International Investors Conference in London that the choice of Nigeria as host of the Africa chapter of the forum is“a strong sign of Nigeria’s central economic and political role on the continent.”The words of the finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the other hand continued to hint on the need for structural reforms that would create investment opportunities, as well as prospective policy implementations that could potentially boost continental economic growth and sustainability. Looking back on her press briefings last November on the value of the selection of Nigeria as host for the forum, the minister made significant statements that ought to be of interest to major players in the various sectors of the economy, touching particularly on issues such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); and the potentialities of job creation “for our youthful population.”

The question is: does the entertainment industry have a stake in this WEF? During an appearance on Channels Television Business Morning in November, I expressed some rather muted optimism that all stakeholders in the entertainment industry could seize the opportunity of the WEF and position the sector as potential area of foreign direct investment (FDI).Interestingly, Timi Dakolo who has been reckoned as Nigeria’s King of R&B was on hand at Davos to wow the Nigerian and African delegations. It is also noteworthy that some important stakeholders in the sector, such as the management of the Red Media Africa were also present at the Forum. The presence of the artists and media moguls thus suggests to me that participants in the entertainment industry are finally coming fully awake to the realization of their important role in Nigeria’s and Africa’s economic growth.

The theme of the forum to be held in Abuja itself aligns with Nigeria’s new found philosophy of economic diversification. For this reason it is worth drawing attention to recent government gesture, namely the earmarking of N3bnas intervention fund for capacity building to boost the Nigerian film industry under the “Project Act Nollywood” initiative. The minister of finance as first installment of the N3bn has already disbursed N300mn of this fund as at May 2013. The project, which is to be managed by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Minister of Tourism, is targeted at enhancing skills for Nollywood practitioners in all competencies along the entire value chain of the industry. The interventionist gesture is itself diagnostic of government’s recognition of the industry as a major job creator in the economy.

The government’s initiative however had been preceded by the UN 2008-2009 assessment of the economic viability of the sector. According to the publication in the UN Africa Renewal Magazine, the film industry alone is estimated to contribute over $590mn annually and over 1 million jobs. Major international organizations such as the World Bank and UNESCO have also been tracking the industry’s performance. In fact following the UN assessment in 2008, the World Bank pledged to inject $20mn dollars into the entertainment sector, sequel to which it also decided in 2010 on a collaboration with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the National Film and Video Censor Board, the Nigeria Film Corporation, and Nigerian Copyright Commission in a project themed “Harnessing the Nigerian Entertainment industry for Formal Export,”this with the hope to earn the country some substantial foreign exchange. These are clear indications of major international interests in Nigeria’s entertainment industry as an area of potential economic growth.

The question then is how can Nigeria take advantage of these recognitions and collaborative initiatives in the industry in a manner that could attract FDI? I suggest that the 2014 WEF is an important event that could act as a strategic platform for showcasing the industry as an area of potential viable economic cooperation and investment. Hence I propose a few steps hereby that I believe could be taken by both the government and by the various participants in the entertainment industry in respect of how to fully harness the benefits of the economic forum.

On the policy front, first suffice to say that a more viable policy formulation ought to begin by conducting a full assessment of the volume and economic value of the industry; the current employment reference data is still the UN 2008 estimate.One possible way to achieve this is by putting a mechanism in place for revenue collection. Currently many of the participants in the industry, including the up and downstream participants still operate as part of the informal sector of the economy. For example, whereas the musicians and actors are mostly registered with their various guilds, many are not incorporated as self-employed entrepreneurs. Hence there is no way of measuring how much revenue they bring in from their domestic and international performances.Secondly, it cannot be overstated that Nigeria is still lacking the requisite infrastructure for delivering products and services of the entertainment industry in a manner that would foreclose against pirating, such as establishing digital platforms for streaming of audio and video products, and by introducing digital encoding on the portable formats. I do not expect that such infrastructure will be readily in place by May 2014 in lieu of the WEF. However, practical policy formulations can at least begin to be crafted that could reassure potential investors that the government is thinking seriously about investor confidence in the sector. Ultimately, providing the right infrastructure and putting in place mechanisms for continued monitoring of the economic performance of the sector would incentivize it for corporations and private investors who may be weary of losing capitals.  It will ultimately address the issue of “inadequate supply of infrastructure” and “crime and theft” (in this case piracy and copyright violations) which were cited second and fifth respectively in the WEF 2010 report on Nigeria as “the most problematic factors for doing business” in the country.

This brings me then to the role of participants in the entertainment industry. During an appearance on Channels TV’s business morning on August 2 last year, I sounded a caveat, that the government must be careful to not let the interventionist gesture become a precedence that would encourage other sectors to come with hats in hands in search of stimulus money. In stead with the right infrastructure in place and conducive business environment, some of the production and marketing studios could begin to enlist in the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and make public offerings. In that way capital investments could be insured thus boosting investor confidence. Here also lies the possibility of the types of collaborations that could potentially strengthen the economic viability of the industry. At this point there have already been examples of Nollywood-Hollywood collaborations e.g. in the production of “Dr. Bello” directed by Tony Abulu and staring some prominent Nigerian and American actors. There also has been Nollywood-Bollywood collaborative move. What is lacking for now is collaboration in the areas of studios and recording companies working together to produce films and music with the hope to extend their global reach in order to also maximize their profits. Again with the right infrastructure and policy that ensures investor confidence in place, collaborations with North American, European and Asian studios and media companies could be jump started, an activity that would ultimately translate into FDI.

Finally and in conclusion, recognizing that the entertainment industry is a major job creator in the economy means that the sector must be brought in to be part of the forum, and the organizers ought to explore the sector as a viable area of interest in economic cooperation. It is my hope that the current constitution of the steering committee that was set up by President Jonathan to be co-chaired by the Minister of finance and the president’s chief economic adviser, and which includes Mr. Nduka Obaigbena of This Day Newspapers who has shown significant interest in the entertainment industry, would think constructively on how to translate the “forging inclusive growth” to truly reflect the growing interest in the entertainment industry as major contributor to the national economy. On the other hand, stakeholders in the entertainment industry, namely actors guilds, studios, and producers, must not wait to be invited to participate in the economic forum, but must begin immediately to think strategically on how to take advantage of the opportunities that come with a forum such as the WEF.

 

Fr.  Austin C. Okigbo is Assistant Professor of Musicology and African Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA.

 

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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