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And Project ACT’s Website Disappears. by Toscoded (m): 4:11pm on September 22
After my last article probing how erstwhile Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun dispensed the N3 billion Federal Government grant under the Project Act Nollywood scheme.

And how there was no clear evidence that some beneficiaries of the grant fulfilled their part of the bargain, the shambolic and most undetailed website of the grant has finally disappeared, leaving no further clue of what is left of the fund.

The sudden disappearance of the Project ACT Nollywood site is suspect, and there is need for the new Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to ask pertinent questions on the management of a public fund in this cult manner, regrettably too, under a regime touted to have zero tolerance for corruption. This is added to the fact that the grant is a World Bank-assisted intervention fund for the Nigerian motion picture industry, and must not be treated with credibility and civilization.

I am not so bothered about N150 million that may have been frittered on a batch of 23 filmmakers for training at the University of Colorado, United States, as most of them must have used the opportunity of the training as a holiday.

Same with several other groups that got money for different film courses in Nigeria, India, London etcetera, in the national cake junketing called Capacity Building Fund (CBF).

While I felt more comfortable with the Film Production Fund (FPF), a N700 million instrument of that scheme that eventually climbed to N800 million, the question of transparency and accountability still bedevils the scheme. Wherein a total of N642, 500,000 was said to have been committed to 92 applicants, representing 93 percent of total budget, one can hardly see films with the Project ACT end credits.

It is four years now since 2014, and there is no visible presence of these funded films in cinema, DVD, VOD, or Pay TV. If the managers are business-minded, we should have a clear picture by now, of at least the 12 films that were said to be in post-production as at the time of disbursement. Since this appears difficult, what do we say of the 13 films already in production or the 68 in pre-production at that time?

These were my concern when, last year, I made an enquiry into the operations of the fund, seeing that the Project ACT-Nollywood portal was last updated in 2015, even when disbursements had been carried out twice on the third instrument called the Innovative Distribution Fund (IDF).

Now, the IDF which is the driver of other segments of the fund is being handled clandestinely, despite the fact that this segment is most auditable and able to determine Return on Investment (ROI).

Unfortunately for the managers of this fund, there is no such inglorious cover up for the IDF as they may have done to the two other segments of the fund. Yes, they may lay claims to disbursing to some online distributors that we never may know, they may also choose to fund other process they consider precursors to distribution, but physical distribution has sold them out because the most visible platform, which is the cinema, is lacking in its entirety.

If there are any additional cinemas in Nigeria in recent times, they are those bankrolled by Bank of Industry under its NollyFund Scheme. The greatest disservice that the managers of Project ACT fund has done to the creative economy of this country is to squander monies meant for distribution, knowing this is the present hope for investors in the face of piracy activities.

The industry may do with some ‘expired’ filmmakers who scavenged for training abroad but will never make any film of it – same for some beneficiaries of the FPF who are yet to forward update on performance of production as stipulated, because they might have spent the money on other interests. But as far as the IDF is concerned, the effort of the few serious filmmakers will be jeopardized if it is not properly implemented. Hence, we shall continue to hold the Ministry of Finance accountable.

I ask again: What really is the problem here? Has the Ministry ‘dashed’ the money to those who have no business with distribution of films? Was Adeosun arm-twisted by star power, and had given money to non-deserving stakeholders of the film industry? How much research was carried out on the national, regional or community spread of the distributors who got the grant? In the absence of the much-canvassed Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON), was the leadership of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) that should be able to determine the true membership of the guilds and associations involved? What about the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) which granted licenses to the distributors?

Today, the only practical bail-out for Nollywood as an investment is in exhibition/distribution. We want to know how many community cinemas, at the least, will emerge from the IDF, and within how many years. This is what the potential investors need. This is what the next filmmaker planning to loan money from Bank of Industry would want to know.

We need to know what is left of the fund, as well as a blue print that will increase the sectors attractiveness from an investment standpoint and encourage future capital flows towards the sector, as the scheme has professed.

For crying out loud, this is Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the ‘Change’ mantra must reflect in every dealings of the Federal Government.

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