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Time for Reckoning

28 Jul 2013

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By Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
Binding Duty... Isn’t this an obvious title for a drama series that seeks to sensitise the public on the need to perform a civic duty? Sensitise would really be putting it too nicely. For the intended viewers of the drama series are being subtly warned that there is no getting around the law without serious consequences – hence the unambiguous qualifier, “binding”.

Perhaps, the word “sensitise” should be directed to the would-be offenders. The message of the series is clear: it is no longer business as usual. Segmented into six storylines and spread over 13 episodes, Binding Duty should be an effective medium for the Federal Inland Revenue Service – better known as the FIRS – campaign.

To the coterie of journalists – huddled last Friday afternoon in the cosy conference room with the drama series crew and a handful of FIRS staff members in an Ikeja GRA side street– this is a call to spread the word: The FIRS is watching you! Of course, no such ominous words were bandied around in the episodes but the storylines were unmistakably threatening enough.

Binding Duty scores highly in the subtlety of its storyline. Ditto the delivery of its message. Take the segment titled Short Cut, for instance. Its riveting storyline, which is spread over two episodes, confronts the viewer with an all-too-familiar scenario. The urge to circumvent the anticipated bureaucratic bottleneck makes the average Nigerian seek the services of touts. The chief executive officer of Midas Ventures (played by Taiwo Obileye) gets caught in the FIRS net because his accountant patronises one “Alhaji”, who claims “work directly with the director”.

But it starts with the FIRS’s allegorical cleansing of the Augean stable. The sacking and arrest of its staff member throws the spotlight on the purported “Alhaji”, who leads the investigating team to the printing press that specialises in making counterfeit tax clearance certificates.

It is an embassy that blows the whistle on the Midas Ventures CEO. The fake clearance certificate – obtained after the unsuspecting CEO had parted with a large chunk of money – had been submitted for visa application in the unnamed embassy.     

Short Cut could also be a veiled allusion to the CEO’s wife’s shortcut to justice. To her, the two male National Youth Service Corps members who allegedly “assaulted” her saucy daughter deserve nothing better than being detained at the district’s police station. The community’s landlord association, which holds the detained young men in high esteem, steps in. 

Another story, Born to Win, also in two episodes, is about a young graduate, Charles (Joachim Keke) who leeches on his relatively affluent sister. His arrest for traffic violation by law enforcement agents prompts the sister to seek his release in the company of her law-abiding husband. Charles remains unrepentant even after a night in detention after the failure of his sister and her husband to secure his release.

His release, for him, becomes an opportunity to plot a scheme that eventually lands him into a deeper mess. He leaves his sister’s home, stealing her two thousand dollars. Then, he engages the services of a tout to procure a fake tax clearance certificate in the name of his sister’s engineering firm. This is with the intention of bidding for a contract in a federal government agency.
He eventually gets arrested by the police with a female escort in a taxi while obviously on his way to squander part of his stolen money.

Meanwhile, an FIRS team (which includes the renowned actor Norbert Young) has been trying to unravel the puzzle as to why a company that has been tax compliant would suddenly apply for a contract with a fake tax clearance certificate. The trail eventually leads to the CEO, who through her husband understands why the FIRS team had paid her a visit.

There are other segments in the series, which could not be screened at the last Friday preview. The segments are Borrowed Time (spread over two episodes), To Have and to Hold (two episodes), Ostrich Syndrome (two episodes) and Double Jeopardy (three episodes). 

The series, produced by Ohi Alegbe and directed by Ihria Enakimio, also flaunts highly proficient actors and actresses like Tyna Mba (who stars as Doorshima Jang, the FIRS director), Bimbo Manuel, Gloria Young, Eric Obinna, Langley Evru and Tony Afokhai, amongst others.  Among the production crew are Ifueko Omogui-Okauru and Kabir M. Mashi (executive producers), Emmanuel Obeta, Wahab Gbadmosi and Nneka Ifekwuna (coordinating producers), Abraham Adetutu (director of photography) and Austin Awulonu (artistic director).

Thumbs up to the production crew for the well-scripted episodes. A pat on the back of the director for the unobtrusive approach to the campaign... Talking about obtrusion, the frequent FIRS commercials in the series almost blend with the storylines.  

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