Functions Of Nigerian Film Corporation/Essay

The history and development of the development of the Nigerian motion picture industry can be divided into two main parts: (i) the Colonial Era till the 1980s and (ii) the 1980s till date.

The Colonial Era till The 1980s
According to previous research and findings, Nigeria’s first contact with cinema was in 1903. It was at the instance of Herbert Macaulay, a foremost nationalist who invited the Balboa and Company who was then doing an exhibition tour of silent films on the West African Coast to Nigeria. The films were shown at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos in August, 1903.
The success of the Balboa venture paved the way for an influx of European film exhibitors to Nigeria (Ekwuasi, 1984: 9). Shortly the colonial government took interest and brought in a lot of films (Itam, 2000:32).According to Ekwuasi (1984) film production, distribution and exhibition was restricted to Lagos where they compete with concerts and drama shows and the contents of such movies were highly censored. Gradually, however it fanned out to towns in the immediate hinterland of Lagos and beyond it. As the country became more industrialised and urbanised, there was a need to establish distribution/ exhibition centres in these new areas and in no time, the branches of the distribution and exhibition companies had spread all over the country( Nweke,1995).

The colonial government did not fully practice in the film business until the commencement of the World War II with the establishment of the Colonial Film Unit (CFU). The unit was charged with making films for the colonies and the objectives of the films were: first, to show/convince the colonies that they and the English had a common enemy in the Germans; to this end, about a quarter of all the films made by the CFU were war-related. Second, to enhance communal development in the colonies. Third, to show the outside world the excellent work being done in the colonies. [Ekwuasi, 1991:2].The CFU was the main producer of films in colony and was funded through the Colonial Development Welfare Act. The CFU made propaganda films. The unit acquired films and showed them to the people. All the films were to help the spread of British imperialism (Rosaleen, 1981:5 in Ekwueme, 2000). There were two main approaches to production at this time; the affirmation of the coloniser’s culture as better and the negation or mockery of the colonised culture. Films like A NEW FIRE BOMB and THE BRITISH ARMY reflected the mighty power of the colonialists while films such as TARZAN OF THE APES showed Africans as inferiors who needed to be led around by the colonialists. Hyginus Ekwuasi condemns this approach; he submitted that the ideological practice of the CFU films was the “glorification of the coloniser” [Ekwuasi 1987:26].

With the attainment of independence, the Colonial Film Unit (CFU) became the Federal Film Unit (FFU). But the Federal Film Unit (FFU) still retained most of the functions of the Colonial Film Unit which were the production of film about the country also private individuals began to produce and exhibit feature films. However the searchlight had shifted from colonialism and the need for independence to the need to restrict neo-colonialism. Black became beautiful, a thing to be explored and enjoyed and the colonialists came to be seen as rapists of the rich culture of Nigeria and indeed Africa. Novelists like Chinua Achebe emerged and used creative writing to show the colonialists as disrupters of a noble and pure indigenous culture.
The primary function of the Federal Film Unit was the production of documentaries. These documentaries were funded by the government and sometimes international organisations like UNICEF. The foreign film distributors and exhibitors succeeded in turning attention from the documentaries to themselves. Their cinema houses were filled to the brim with eager viewers and for a long time they made a lot of profit. Meanwhile Nigerians became involved in the production of films and by 1970, the first indigenous feature film was produced in Nigeria: KONGI’S HARVEST. It was however directed by an American and it featured many foreigners as crew members. With the oil boom, more individuals became involved in the production of indigenous films include Eddie Ugbomah, Ladi Ladebo, Ola Balogun,U.S.A Galadima among other who had been trained during the CFU era. According to Rosemary Itam, the Yoruba Travelling Theatre practitioners, seeing how successful the foreign film distributors and exhibitors were[Itam,2002:34] and motivated by their audiences’ demand to do their stage plays to film [Malomo,1993] decided to produce their own movies. Working with some of the already popular Nigerian filmmakers such as Ola Balogun and others, the Alarinjo theatre troupes made films include AROPIN TENIA, JAIYESIMI, IJA OMINIRA, IJA OMIRAN, OWO L’GBA etc all on 35mm celluloid reel.

Apart from the fact that the viewing public were hooked to foreign films, they had problems in the procurement of equipment, manpower, piracy and ultimately in marketing. This killed the zeal of these new-comers to filmmaking. In 1979, the Nigerian Film Corporation was established to provide structural backbone for the development of the industry in terms of manpower training, marketing assistance and infrastructure. A decree validating its existence was released by the government and a facility was allotted to it in Jos, Plateau State but it did not help the industry much. Years later a National Film Policy was also put in motion. Neither did this save the ailing industry from it problems and by the mid 1980s it was nearly impossible for films to be made on celluloid. Film stocks were expensive to import, and celluloid was expensive to process. Rushes had to be taken abroad for development and other processing coupled with it was the harsh economic scenario in the country, thus many filmmakers opted for the use of video tapes as it was more economical; easily accessible and inexpensive to editing unlike the celluloid.

The 1980s till Date
According to Akin Adesokan, the Video film “grew out of benign bootlegging of music videos in a cassette culture…cannibalising the idioms of the soap opera, Yoruba travelling theatre, and remnants from the golden era of the Nigerian cinema”.[Adesokan,, 2005] By the end of the 1980s, Video films had become the strongest technological medium of popular culture and entertainment in Yoruba urban centres. First to realise its immense social and economic potentials were the popular musicians, then some television stations followed realising how popular the drama series they sponsored had become, they transferred them to video. Owing to the fact that video cameras were very cheap and easy to carry and control would-be filmmakers found a ready medium to work with. With this state actors can be called together and rallied to act out a story in imitation in the manner of the vanishing theatre tradition and thus everybody was back in business [Jonathan Haynes, 1990:50].
The appearance of video films in Nigeria, plus its popularity, point to its importance as a new medium for the production, dissemination and consumption of film as a form of popular culture, with its ideology and aesthetics [Ekwueme,2002] The idea of video films was inspired by Yoruba Travelling Theatre. The idea was later introduced by Babatunde Adelusi (Adamson) publisher of a now rested photo-play Magazine who said that the production of video films will not only save cost of production but will be a good alternative to Indian and Chinese films. This idea was later actualised by Ade Ajiboye (Big Abass) who produced SOSO MEJI, the first Nigerian Video film in 1988. It was shown publicly at Tinuade Cinema in Oworonshoki, Lagos for a token fee and it was successful. Subsequently, Alade Aromire produced EKUN in 1989 which he screened at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. The success of the movies was an eye opener for other producers. Hence many Yoruba movie actors and enthusiasts mostly based in Meiran, a Lagos suburb sought assistance from film promoters like Kenneth Nnebue of Nek Video Link, Lagos and Sulaimon Aweda who were both important film distributors and exhibitors. Kenneth Nnebue, capitalising on the gains of the industry, decided to invest in a lot of low budget video films. Such video films include AJE NI IYA MI, IJA ELEYE, OSA ELEYE etc.

The development did not go down well with the new school of “video filmmakers” who termed his investments as peanuts. They left and organise themselves. Jide Kosoko, Adebayo Salami, Gbenga Adewusi and Alade Aromire led them, [Ekwueme, 2002:34] this regrouping resulted in the appearance of different production companies including Bayowa Films International, Aromire Films, Jide Kosoko Production and many others. Films began to be produced in large volumes and with film marketers and distributors setting up offices and distribution outlets in Idumota, Lagos, the industry took off.
Video film in Igbo language was silent until the latter part of 1992, when Kenneth Nnebue produced the first Igbo Video film in the country, LIVING IN BONDAGE which became a major hit among the Igbo audience and was also well accepted by non-Igbo speaking audience. Other Igbo video films followed, Igbo films were produced in either Igbo or English languages. Video films like TABOO I and II by Dan Oluigbo of Sage Production. JEZEBEL by Francis Agu, Amaka Igwe-Isaac’s RATTLESNAKE I and II, VIOLATED I and II and many others were produced. By the 1992, a new crop of professional filmmakers have emerged from the Eastern and other parts of the country. Virtually unknown on stage before their début into the Nigerian film industry most of them have produced or acted in serials for television notably Zeb Ejiro, Kenneth Okonkwo and Amaka Igwe-Isaac. With the massive entry of Igbo and English video films, the producers of Yoruba video films who had hitherto monopolised the business faced a though competition and as a result a vibrant industry was created.
Moreover, there has also been the production of Nigerian video films in minor languages such as Efik, Ijaw and Itshekiri. Nigerians abroad are also producing films for Nigerians in the Diaspora such include KING OF MY COUNTRY, LONDON BOY. Video films are also produced in Hausa language, the centre of which is in Kano, Nigeria.

Today, video film production is a multi-billion naira industry which provides a source of livelihood for many people both at home and abroad. The industry has also produced many “stars” as well as its own international events. Initially, when the video film came into existence some actors were not well remunerated but currently the appearance of actors like Pete Edochie, Fathia Balogun, Liz Benson, Omotola Jalade- Ekeinde, Racheal Oniga, Bukky Wright, Bukky Ajayi, Nkem Owoh, Ramsey Noah, Desmond Elliott, Genevieve Nnaji, Kayode Fash-Lanso, Patience and others; in a video film guarantees good box office success. The African movies Academy Awards has been holding in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state since 2004. As Kenneth Ekwueme pointed out in his essay- The Negative Influence of Nigerian Video films on the Youth the “possibilities are endless”.

Here is the winning entry in the 2012 Ugreen Foundation Essay Contest won by my friend, Nyeneokpon Emmanuel Ekanem. The piece is published here with his kind permission. The 2013 Ugreen Foundation Essay Contest is currently opened, with August the 2nd as the deadline.

The global economic meltdown has brought down the economy of most countries, recently that of Greece. In Africa, most countries have continued to experience inflation, leading to massive unemployment and increase in hunger. In Nigeria, thousands of young graduates from higher institutions of learning annually to face minimal employment opportunities. As a young leader, how do you think that entrepreneurship can serve as a handy tool for poverty alleviation in your society.


Succinctly described as the absence of those ethical, social and material resources needed to develop moral, intellectual and social capabilities of individuals, communities and institutions (Oteje, 2012), poverty is undoubtedly the single greatest social burden in the world today. It is a timeless matter and has defied all economic and social systems (Ibid). It has persisted despite avalanche of local, national and international efforts geared towards combating it.
In Nigeria, poverty is very endemic. In fact, over 70% of Nigeria’s population is classified as poor (<$2 /day) and 35% living in absolute poverty (< $1/day) (NEI, 2012).
Many at times, the approach adopted by international organizations, especially the World Bank, is financial assistance in form of aid to poverty-stricken countries for the fight against poverty which is foremost among the Millennium Development Goals. In fact, over the last five decades, approximately $2.3 trillions have been spent on foreign aid (Oteje, 2012). However, rather than ushering greater self sufficiency, this financial assistance has had detrimental effects on recipient countries: increased dependency on foreign assistance, subservience to externally dictated priorities, misappropriation of funds and decreased pressure for government reform (Ibid.). It moreover seems poverty is rewarded, and of course, anything rewarded does not wither away but blossoms. Indeed, just as economist the world believe and in consistency with a Chinese proverb (Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a life time), entrepreneurship is the surest way to alleviate poverty. Entrepreneurship sets up a cycle which checks poverty in a domino fashion. It is all about starting and managing businesses and it is the approach adopted by several developed countries across the globe and would indeed be invaluable in tackling poverty in Nigeria. Indeed, entrepreneurship is a necessary ingredient for stimulating economic growth and expanding employment opportunities in Nigeria as successful small businesses are the primary engines for job creation, income growth and poverty reduction in other developing nations.
There are very many ways in which poverty manifests itself. The World Bank has identified the following faces of poverty: hunger, lack of shelter, inability to access health-care, lack of access to quality education, unemployment, lack of proper sanitation, powerlessness (insecurity), lack of representation and freedom etc (Oteje, 2012). In all these, entrepreneurship has a very pivotal role to play in reversing the situation alongside its incentives.
Reduction of Unemployment
Entrepreneurship promotes self-employment and thus, provides a sure opportunity for individuals to engage themselves gainfully in enterprises. It equally empowers people to be job creators rather than seekers and so expands employment opportunities in a domino fashion. More jobs translate into better livelihoods and enhanced-income and invariably guarantee that individuals and their dependants are lifted out of poverty. Interestingly too, it transcends salvaging the individual, it guarantees the fortunes of subsequent generations. For instance, a parent who is employed has enough income to provide for the children (who would have otherwise constituted the poor population), pay their school fees etc. With the children educated, their value and relevance in the labour market are tremendously improved, meaning their future livelihoods are guaranteed.
Equally, entrepreneurship in the rural areas discourages rural-urban migration identified as prominent among reasons for high urban unemployment and poverty.
Reduction of Insecurity and Investment Attraction
By creating and distributing wealth, entrepreneurship facilitates reduction in crime wave and insecurity. First, it engages youths who would otherwise be exploited by mischief-makers to perpetuate insecurity. Moreover, it eliminates the anger and frustration which accompany joblessness which breeds strife and increase vulnerability to violent-prone activities. By enhancing security, entrepreneurship creates a conducive environment for the expansion of local businesses and attraction of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Greater investment in the real sector translates into industrial expansion, more jobs and better infrastructures ( provided to enhance business operations)
Mobilization of Capital for Investment
By increasing real income among the populace, entrepreneurship promotes saving and investment culture especially in the rural areas. Such investments, for instance, in microfinance institutions in rural areas where conventional deposit money banks have not penetrated could boost the expansion of these pro-poor finance institutions and increase their capacity to finance more propitious businesses in their host communities. Besides, highly capitalized microfinance institutions could run credit guarantee schemes specifically targeted at poor people desirous of reversing their conditions through entrepreneurship. This is imperative as poor people generally do not have the requisite credit history, collateral or sureties to enable them secure loans from conventional financial institutions.
Infrastructure Improvement
Entrepreneurship provides a platform whereby efforts can be accelerated to provide critical infrastructural facilities which will not only promote economic prosperity, but, attain to the infrastructural deficiencies which were earlier identified as overt forms of poverty. This is because Entrepreneurship development in any society attracts public and private sector investments in the economy of such society. Some of such investments will go into infrastructural upgrade (perhaps as part of corporate social responsibility). This would ensure that all Nigerians enjoy unfettered access to clean water, electricity, good roads, quality health care and basic sanitations amongst others.
Alleviation of Extreme Hunger
Apart from financial bankruptcy, the most pronounced manifestations of poverty are: lack of food, clothing and shelter. This manifestation can be tackled with entrepreneurship development focused on Agriculture to not only increase availability but enhance affordability of these core needs. Food crops provide food which could end food scarcity; timber provides shelter and furniture, cotton and wool provide clothing. However, entrepreneurship provides the means for converting these raw materials to forms which can be applied to solving the aforementioned identified problems.
Economic Diversification
Entrepreneurship provides the sure way of diversifying our economy away from its present monoculture status built around crude oil and gas which is not employment intensive. Besides, without developing strong enterprises to harness the potential of the oil and gas industry, Nigerians would not be able to participate effectively in the entire value chain of petroleum which has immense potentials for job creation. By diversifying the economy, other pro-job components of the real sector like Agriculture, Mining, Manufacturing, ICT etc which are currently near comatose, would be developed and optimally exploited particularly in the interest of communities bereft of oil resources.
A look at our film industry “Nollywood” would reveal the power of entrepreneurship in poverty reduction. Before 1992 the film industry as an enterprise was nothing to reckon with (Daodu, 2011). However, the enterprising spirit of Kenneth Nnebue of NEK Video Links and later producers and actors has elevated Nollywood to being not only the third largest film industry on the planet, but a mega industry with little or no government support (Ibid.). Nollywood now employs in excess of 250,000 people while contributing significantly to our GDP. (Clayton,2010). Thus, while directly creating wealth through employment generation, it equally boosts government financial capacity to multiply pro-job public enterprises. Through its films, it serves as a medium for inspiring young innovative Nigerians into entrepreneurship, while advertising investment opportunities in Nigeria and advancing tourism via the promotion of tourism destinations and local craft.
Promotion of Gender Equality
One of the incentives for the pervasion of poverty is gender inequality in access to economic factors especially land and capital. Here, women are denied access to these essentialities. Consequently, women populations wallowing in abject poverty and deprivation far exceed the men counterpart. Little wonder why poverty in Nigeria, especially in the Northern states is said to have a woman face. Entrepreneurship directly serves to oppose this trend and is capable of closing these gender gaps. This is because it is not gender-sensitive. All it requires are an innovative mind and capital. Entrepreneurship is the most effective way of tackling poverty among women often discriminated against in the formal sector of the economy.
Interestingly too, with women’s full potential maximally explored, their lives are transformed and economic emancipation is brought to the individual, community and the state. This is a truism as experience has shown that in areas where women gained access to education, employment and ownership opportunities, dramatic effects are recorded at many levels: at the family level, more equitable distribution of food resources and health care among girls and boys; higher rates of literacy among children; lower rates of fertility leading to more manageable populations (population explosion dwarfs employment generation and poverty alleviation efforts) and invariably better economic conditions and maternal health (Oteje, 2012).
Creation of Inspiration for Self-actualization
Entrepreneurship creates models of success that can inspire hope and productivity and the poor who seem frustrated and jaded. Building on the experiences and successes of successful entrepreneurs, poor people could be persuaded to develop innovative an entrepreneurial spirit and attitude that will change their lives.
Categorically, entrepreneurship has tremendous capacity to alleviate poverty in Nigeria. It all lies on relevant stakeholders to provide structural, infrastructural and political support necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive as a pragmatic means of engendering the much-needed economic transformation.
Clayton, J. (2010), Nollywood Success Puts Nigeria’s Film Industry in Regional Spotlight, “The Times”, Retrieved: April 3, 2010.
Daodu, M. (2011), Re-emergence of the Cinema; Impact on Local Industry and National Economy, “2011/2012 Nigeria Film Corporation Essay Competition”, June, 2011.
Fighting Poverty Through enterprise, “Nigerian Entrepreneurship Initiative Website”
Nolan, R. (2010), BIG Vision Tackling Poverty, “Think BIG Magazine”
Onyido, I. (2011), The Role of Entrepreneurship in Economic Development “1stAbia State Technology Entrepreneurship Fair/Zonal investor’s Forum” March 7, 2011.
Oteje, K. (2012), Entrepreneurship, Job Creation, Income Empowerment and Poverty Reduction in Nigeria,
Nolan, R. (2010), BIG Vision Tackling Poverty, “Think BIG Magazine”
Onyido, I. (2011), The Role of Entrepreneurship in Economic Development “1stAbia State Technology Entrepreneurship Fair/Zonal investor’s Forum” March 7, 2011.
Wikipedia – Entrepreneurship www.wikipedia/entrepreneurship


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