The N3 billion intervention fund which President Goodluck Jonathan promised the Nigerian film industry last month will not be shared out as grants or loans, said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
Speaking during a town hall meeting at Eko Hotel & Suites with heads of various Nollywood guilds and association, and other key players in the film industry, Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the fund, contrary to the impression some stakeholders may be nursing, is not planned to be shared, rather the objective is to leave behind something solid on which the industry can leverage on and grow to a new height.
“The N3 billion which the President promised is meant to be a catalyst which will help the industry leverage other sources of funding and expertise and grow to a new level. The money will not solve every problem but it’s a good beginning. We need to use it well for the benefit of this important industry and the benefit of the country,” the minister told P.M.NEWS after the meeting.
According to her, the Federal Government is committed to ensuring that the intervention fund leads to sustainable benefits for the industry.
She added that the new grants will not override the earlier $200 million fund presently being disbursed by both Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM and Bank of Industry, BoI.
On 2 March, President Jonathan at a presidential dinner with filmmakers at State House, Marina, Lagos, announced the largesse as a consolation for the effort of the filmmakers whom he said have developed the industry in the last 20 years without any visible government assistance. The fund is to be managed by the Finance Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Okonjo-Iweala addressed the Lagos gathering along with her colleague, Chief Edem Duke, Minister of Culture and Tourism, who first dropped the hint about government’s readiness to commence the disbursement of the fund during his speech at the recently held Africa Movie Academy Awards ceremony in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, southsouth Nigeria.
Duke told the stakeholders that they need to reach a common position on key issues affecting them because the pervasive hostility and bickering among film practitioners in Nollywood is an obstacle to sustainable growth of the industry.
He noted that Nollywood has become an important vehicle for the propagation of a positive image for Nigeria and that the Presidential intervention fund underscores government’s appreciation of the platform and its great potential to contribute significantly not only to the economy but also to a better understanding of Nigeria by the world.
Observations revealed a consensus among participants at the town hall meeting of the need to develop a strong distribution system and strengthening of expertise to deepen professionalism and expertise in the industry as key areas of focus in the usage of the fund.
The town hall event was the latest in a series of consultations by the two ministers with key players in the industry to get their input and ideas on the best ways to deploy the funds to maximise benefits for the industry.