The notice issued by the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB), stating that all audio and visual contents produced and sold within Lagos State shall attract the payment of 5% levy on each item comes at a time when the country records an all-time high in the rate of unemployment, not to mention the current dip in the economy occasioned by the global pandemic.
The LSFVCB Board Executive Secretary, Mr. Bamidele Balogun, gave the notice while unveiling a platform by the Performing Musicians Employers Association (PMAN) and Lafrique Promedia, to track and generate revenue for the entertainers. He said, ‘The board will advise practitioners involved in production, sale, distribution of audio and visual products to register their products through the board’s authorised agent within 30 days.’
‘Practitioners and stakeholders are also informed that henceforth, all audio and visual contents produced and sold within Lagos State shall attract the payment of five per cent levy on each item. This exercise will, however, assist the Lagos State Government in policy formulation, with regard to planning and funding for the sector. All practitioners and stakeholders in the entertainment sector within the state are advised to comply with this directive and cooperate with the authorised agent of the board,’ he added.
How will this improve creativity and help the teeming youths who make up a large number of the creatives in Lagos?
According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, it was revealed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate as of the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1%, showing that about 21.7 million Nigerians are unemployed. However, Nigeria’s unemployment and underemployment rate stands at 28.6%. This means that the total number of Nigerians who are unemployed or underemployed is 55.7%. The report also revealed that the Nigerian youths are the worst hit with over 13.9 million currently unemployed.
In reaction to the current situation and challenges, former Director General of the National Film Video Censors Board Mr. Emeka Mba, stated in an interview that the tax imposed on content creators was not well thought out, highlighting that it was simply a ‘revenue-driven idea.’ He also mentioned that the new development may give rise to a review meeting between the government and stakeholders. Mr. Mba however expects the Government to think of ways to assist the sector flourish and grow. He concluded that implementation of policies is key to industry sustainability.
Meanwhile some creatives took to social media to express their displeasure at the unprecedented notice. Celebrities like Kate Henshaw and Adeyemi Okanlawon declared that they could as well move to states that are progressive and ‘non-predatory.’ These are the declarations made public, what about those left unspoken? Could Lagos be faced with a looming brain drain in the creative sector as a result of this levy and several taxes? Already some investors in the manufacturing sector would pick neighboring states over Lagos due to the ease of running a business in those states.
However, it is to be noted that the Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, recently inaugurated a Committee for the implementation of COVID-19 palliatives to Nigeria’s creative industry and design a Policy Framework for Tax Relief for the various sectors in the Creative Industry. He also stated categorically that Nigeria’s creative industry is the second major creator of employment in the country after agriculture. ‘The film industry accounts for about N140 billion, the music industry revenue is over N300 billion while the comedy industry accounts for about N17 billion,’ he said.
As creativity becomes a pivotal feature of urban development, impactful investment in the sector is a sure way of boosting the economy of the state and country at large. In an attempt to balancing the creative sector with economic competitiveness, social inclusion and sustainability post-COVID, there is a need for financial commitment from private investors as well as the Government. Putting that in place will create more employment, boost productivity and creativity.
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Undoubtedly, the Lagos state policy may yield positive result in terms of curbing piracy, enhancing distribution and providing a structured platform. Notwithstanding, the inclusion of 5% levy at a time like this time is quite unnecessary as the Federal Government is currently making moves to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industry. Amid the increase in inflation rate, creating an enabling and thriving environment should be paramount because the creatives also need to breathe.