Friday, July 29, 2016

Is the Nigeria Film Institute dying?

This letter was posted on the WhatsApp Forum of the Directors Guild of Nigeria by Dickson Iroegbu. The voices of these students must be heard.

"I got this very disturbing mail from the students of NFI - with pictures attached.
Greetings Sir!
It is rather an unfortunate situation that the first line of communication and exchange that would exist between the students of the National Film Institute, Jos and your noble self as a strategic industry icon would be on the ground of unfavorable developments. While we concur to the shamefulness of the prevailing circumstances, we believe that somehow fate and chance have gifted us with an opportunity to interact, network and ally in the interest of our passion and for the common good of the Nigerian Film Industry.
You have been one industry icon that we have followed with keen interest with your film, “Widow’s Cot,” being a reference film for us at different times. However, we are glad that beyond recent events and saddening scenarios we are finally getting in touch with you in a relationship that we hope that will be mutually beneficial and very significant to this industry that you have shown so much passion for.
As it may have come to your knowledge, the Film Institute in Jos is currently undergoing difficult times. This has motivated the several protests that have rocked both the institute and the Film Corporation. Ever since the appointment of Engr. Danjuma W. Dadu, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, the supposed apex film agency in Nigeria, it has been clear retrogression for the institute, the corporation, and the industry at large. The Marine Engineer by training, without a prior experience in film or anything related to it, has continued to live up to the tag of a “square peg in a round hole”. Therefore, on Wednesday 20th of July, 2016, the student had had enough and would keep quiet no more.
When voices rose at the appointment of Engr Dadu, with notable industry practitioners like Ibinabo Fiberesima, Chike Bryan and a host of others, rejecting the appointment and calling for a change, we thought, as students, that the government of the day may have thought about what is best for us and the industry. After all, the government was showing the zeal to promote the Nigerian Film Industry and would not deliberately throw spanner in the works. Alas! We were wrong, despicably, utterly wrong! Dadu is the worst thing to happen to the National Film Institute, the Nigerian Film Corporation, and the Nigerian Film Industry at large!
The National Film Institute Jos, a film training institution that had hitherto been a prime film school, and had produced very talented film craftsmen doing great works; from the likes of Yinka Edward (Oct 1st, Shuga, Figurine), Achor Yusuf (Desperate Housewives Africa), Leo Nformi (Head Director, Ebonylife TV), Afred Chia (D.P/Director, Ebonylife TV), Kenneth Gyang (Confusion Na Wah) Ali Mustapha (Aljazeera), Adaobi Obiegbosi (African Students International Film Festival), Aaron Ugede (Mnet) Mike-Steve Adeleye, Mak’ Ukusare, Chinedum Iregbu, Lot Pindem, Ifeanyi Iloduba, Ejim Fortune Kezi, Julius Morno, Jide Bello, Akasa Stephen Angba, and many others too numerous to mention with several awards under their belts – the school is dying under the incompetent management of Engr. Dadu.
To be factual, elements that are not fit for the classroom are currently holding sway as proud resource persons. All the qualification they need is to be Dadu’s tribe, or his stooge. Qualified lecturers, most of them tested and trusted, and adequately trained abroad, have been either transferred to the now moribund film corporation where staff only sit-out and gist, or frustrated into resignation. The curriculum is the worse since the history of the school. The classrooms, facilities, and library of the institute is the type you don’t wish for even an enemy while Dadu scrapped all hostels sending students into the often volatile city of Jos. High point of this careless decision was the untimely death of two students last year when a Chlorine Gas exploded at a Water Treatment Plant close to where they rented an apartment. These are dreams and hopes unnecessarily cut short, and have been how unfavorable Dadu’s decisions are.
No internet facility, no water, no light, broken toilet facilities, dilapidated classrooms and over-levying of students have taken their toll on once-very-bright talents. Poorly motivated staff, many of whom have not been paid for over two years make matters worse. Then, the result of students has not been seen for close to two years now with the graduates of 2015 currently stranded. Their results have not been seen while their NYSC mobilization is currently under jeopardy. The University of Jos, where the institute is affiliated is currently threatening disaffiliation over owing of some University Professors who come to teach the students of the institute key GST courses. Truly, the lives of students here are in shambles. Threats to life and graduation have kept students perpetually in bondage and sadly, there have been 6 deaths between NFI and NFC in the last 12 months, the worse since the history of both institutions.
Note that in all these, no student is allowed to owe while students were coerced into jettisoning the Federal Government’s TSA arrangement for a cash payment at the school’s bursary. Yet, no staff is paid and students have no access to equipment, facilities, and social welfare.
These students could be your sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. Evil thrive when good men sit and do nothing. The conscious alienation of the students of the institute is a deliberate ploy to cut them off from the larger industry to ensure they do not get a large support base. This is a detrimental tactics because no institution can exist in isolation. We need each other alike to foster a bigger and better industry and we think now is the time to raise a voice together.
Therefore, we solicit your support at this peculiar time in any way possible, anything to remind Engr. Dadu that the students of the institute are human beings and not animals. We also urge you to help us cry out to the government to save us or we perish.
The main SUG force of the students was suspended indefinitely by the MD to drown out our voices and ensure that we do not have a common front. This can only happen if you choose to remain silent. Please, don’t!
We are all united by one passion, one profession, and one industry. Posterity is watching!
Michael Chimex Onwunali
For: and on behalf of the entire students of the National Film Institute, Jos."

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