DRUG ABUSE: NFVCB AND NBC IN THE DOCK

 Chuks Akamadu urges the National Film and Video Censors Board to be alive to its responsibilities

In 2015, a Nigerian musician named “Olamide” released a substance abuse-promoting song titled “Science Student”. A section of the public, for good measure, considered it offensive on account of the song’s content. The song was so odious that Federal Ministry of Health had to register its displeasure with it by publicly accusing the singer of breaching the Tobacco Act.

But let’s face it, Olamide is not alone in this. There are many other influential Nigerian musicians whose movie-videos clearly promote drug abuse in violation of Part VII Section 36 (1) (b) (ii) of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) Act which gives the Board the power not to register any video that is “Iikely to induce or reinforce the corruption of private or public morality”. Or does the word “video” not include music-videos? If it does not, who then regulates music-video contents that are churned out daily for public consumption?

Quite frankly, we need not go far. There is “Smoke Some Weed” by Burna Boy featuring Onos, “Ginger” by Wizkid and “Energy” by Runtown. Others include “Marry Juana” by Naira Marley & Max Twigz, “Ganja Man” by 9ice and “Kush” Music by Phyno.

Now, given scary figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which indicate that the prevalence of drug abuse in Nigeria is about thrice the world’s average and the obvious nexus between drug abuse and the rising wave of violent crimes in the society, is it not disheartening that whilst other government institutions such as National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are working tirelessly to reverse the drug abuse trend in Nigeria, a key stakeholder like NFVCB (or is it NBC?) is sleeping on its statutory duties that ought to complement the concerted efforts of those other two agencies? 

Take for instance, Section 33 (1) of the NFVCB Act states that “As from the commencement of this Act, no person shall exhibit, cause or allow to be exhibited a film without a censorship certificate issued by the Board for such exhibition”. Same Act prohibits public consumption of videos with content that is “likely to encourage or glorify the use of violenceas well as “likely to incite or encourage public disorder or crime”. The Act – and even the name of the board, as God would have it, acknowledge and separate “film” and “video”; meaning in its literary sense that the Act applies to both films and videos – whether it is music video or not (I think).

For the avoidance of doubt, I am inclined to think that the matter in question is directly under NFVCB’s purview because it is too crucial to be accommodated merely under the National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC) Broadcast Code. But in the event that the contrary is the case, then nation has an emergency on its hands whilst the NBC should carry the can.

In the light of the serial contraventions of these extant laws and the presumably complicit role being played the supposed watchdogs, NFVCB and NBC, that I wish to publicly condemn, in its entirety, the making of drug abuse-promoting music videos by our artistes, because such songs do not only corrupt public morality, they lure vulnerable listeners and viewers into the self-destructive arms of drug abuse. In the end, the victim has their mental and physical health put in harm’s way; and not only that, they constitute immense security risk and liability to a society that is contending with violent crimes. In even stronger terms, I give both NFVCB and NBC thumbs down for allowing these injurious breaches go unpunished. 

I would therefore like to pray the National Assembly to quickly set up an ad-hoc committee comprising members of their committees on judiciary, information, drugs and narcotics and culture and tourism to undertake the task of (a) Investigating the operations of NFVCB and NBC especially as it relates to their functions and enforcement of the provisions of the Acts that established them; and (b) Determining whether both Acts need amendment for better result.

For the purpose of guaranteeing optimal outcome, it is further suggested that the NASS should also interface with other major stakeholders in the industry such as Performing Musicians Employers’ Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Audio Visual Rights Society (AVRS) and Collecting Society of Nigeria (COSON) and get them to collaborate with regulatory bodies (NFVCB and NBC) to ensure the reign of sanity in their industry – as pertains to compliance and enforcement of industry statutes and codes. Who knows, this might just be an opportunity for the parliament to thoroughly examine the relevant portions of our body of laws with a view to identifying the inherent gaps, defects and mischief, and accordingly supply suitable cure and proffer fitting solutions. 

You see, for those who do not appreciate the urgency of the times, the future of Nigeria, especially her youths’ is under threat. Narcotic, psychotic and psychotropic substances are circulating among our youth population as though the human body needs them more than it needs vitamins C and A. Put bluntly, the nation is at war with harmful drugs and substances. And if one pays attention to credible data that deal with the nation’s demography and unemployment rate, it then becomes all too glaring that except we make hay while the sun shines, our tomorrow would be as good as traded!

It is for this reason that NDLEA with the collaboration of other local and international stakeholders painstakingly produced, last year, the National Drug Control Masterplan (2021-2025) for the purpose of nipping the foreseeable tragedy in the bud and eliminating obstacles to our sustainable development.   

Please for the sake our children, young adults and youths who do not know their left and right, this matter should be looked into urgently and speedily dealt with. We cannot continue to have our airwaves being polluted at will without consequences. We have the moral, mental and physical health of our children and wards to jealously protect. What we now see on our screens and hear on our airwaves actually assault our cultural essence and violate our moral codes as a people. We can no longer continue to sit idly by and watch some of our artistes stand our values on their heads and sell poisonous lyrics and videos to an obviously susceptible younger generation.   

 Akamadu, M.IoD is

President, Centre for Ethical Rebirth Among Nigerian Youths

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