Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on April 22, 2013 made a request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 to the National Film and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB) seeking detailed information on the agency’s decision to ban a documentary, titled “Fueling Poverty”.
The NFVCB, a Federal Government agency which vets, classifies, and approves films and videos meant for distribution and exhibition in Nigeria, banned the exhibition, distribution and airing of the 30-minute documentary saying its contents “are highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security.”
“Fueling Poverty” documents the pervasive poverty in Nigeria, which it blames on widespread corruption and greed. It was produced by a young filmmaker, Mr. Ishaya Bako, in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and released in late 2012. Mr. Bako submitted a copy to the NFVCB, after completing the documentary, for classification and approval.
In a letter dated April 8, 2013 signed by Mr. Effiong Inwang, NFVCB Head of Legal Services, it prohibited the exhibition or distribution of the documentary and warned Mr. Bako not to violate the order against its distribution or exhibition, adding that “all relevant national security agencies are on the alert.” The agency informed Mr. Bako that a copy of the letter to him has been sent to the Director General of the State Security Services (SSS) and the Inspector General of Police, for their information.
In the FOI request, signed by MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, and addressed to the Director-General of the NFVCB, the organization is asking the Board to provide it within seven days, as required by the FOI Act, the following:
Detailed information of the decision-making process regarding vetting, consideration for classification or approval of the documentary, “Fueling Poverty”, produced in 2012 by Mr. Bako in partnership with OSIWA;
Copies of the minutes of all the meetings of officials, officers or relevant organ or organs of the Board where the documentary, “Fueling Poverty”, was discussed, including the meeting or meetings where the decision was taken to prohibit the documentary from distribution and exhibition in Nigeria; and
A copy of the decision of the Board as formally conveyed to the producers of the documentary.
Mr. Bako said the film was “not just talking about scam but the culture and greed in Nigeria,” adding it was a timely and interesting journey, because the film covers “real issues, on everyday life.”
The documentary which was inspired by the fuel subsidy scam of 2012, addresses the serious issue of corruption in governance.