2020 was meant to be the year of cinema blockbusters – from action thrillers to sci-fi. There was a forecast of huge turnovers from several box office hits. But for the intrusion of COVID-19, about five box office hits would have been witnessed by the end of the second quarter of this year.
Before COVID-19, 2019 saw the growth of Nigerian cinemas. The movie ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking free’ accrued a total of N158,435,642 million thereby making it the eleventh overall highest-grossing movie and the highest-grossing Nollywood movie of the year.
With such a feat achieved in 2019, there were increased hopes that 2020 would be more rewarding. Nollywood filmmaker, AY Makun, said in an interview that the third part of his franchise movie ‘Merry Men’ was meant to premiere and show in the cinemas in 2020, but has now been moved to 2021.
Since the government mandated a lockdown, cinema houses in Nigeria have remained shut. Speaking with VIVA Cinemas in Lagos state via a telephone call, Information Nigeria confirms that cinema houses were exempted from the re-opening of leisure and relaxation centers.
“Of course, all cinemas (including VIVA Cinemas) have been shut. What did you expect? That we would open during a pandemic? – when we haven’t been authorized to do so?”
Unwilling to disclose his identity to this reporter, he continues: “We have been shut. But this was never our major source of income. I am currently on a different work assignment. We are fine. Thank you for your time.”
According to statistics released by Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria, during the week in which the first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was confirmed, there was a reduction in attendance at the cinemas – from 73,209 to 68,922 admissions. Consequently, the general revenue generated dropped to N71 million from N81.5 million.
Shortly before the mandatory closing of all cinema houses, the few films that were shown at the cinemas made low profits as opposed to the usual estimated amounts. ‘The Legend of Inikpi’ managed to make N7.4 million in the first weekend after its premiere at Silverbird Cinemas in January. Things got lower as the profits reduced to N973,850 by February. Also, it has been revealed that there were just 801 viewers across the country in the same month.
‘Sugar Rush’, which was premiered in December 2019, also got affected by the Coronavirus. In the opening weekend, it achieved an enviable feat by grossing N40 million. However, in January, a reduction was witnessed as the movie managed to make N18 million throughout the month. By March, the profits had drastically dropped to N2.3 million.
Although the set term that 50% royalty goes to the film distributor in the first week is still in place, with a low turnout and turnover during the first few weeks of the Coronavirus confirmed cases in Nigeria, cinema exhibitors had a hard time making their usual profits. This inevitably affected the movie producers.
Information Nigeria sought to know the diversification of revenue by Nigerian cinema exhibitors. For this reason, Metro Cinema was contacted.
A lady’s voice answers at the other end. “This is Metro Cinema.”
“We have totally complied with the lockdown directive. I am not even in Lagos. Have you been to our cinemas? It’s completely locked. We are surviving in the best way that we can. My other business is outside Lagos. I have more time to focus on it now that all cinemas are shut.”
But if cinema exhibitors may be relaxed in the knowledge of multiple streams of income, relevant stakeholders such as actors and filmmakers have been agitating for the reopening of cinema halls. Popular actress, Osas Ighodaro, took to Instagram to protest against the exemption of cinema houses from re-opening. Some of her colleagues also joined in the campaign.
A few of them include Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Toyin Abraham, and Falz. With the hashtag #SaveCinemas, they expressed their grievances about the plight of cinema houses during the lockdown, especially considering that other activities were fast going back to normal.
In Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde’s words:
“I believe cinemas are easier to monitor and regulate. If other indoor places are open, why not the Cinemas? Temp checks, masks, distancing etc. We need to work together to ensure safer ways to keep the Arts going. Many livelihoods depend on this. It can and MUST be done as safely as possible. #savecinemas”.
Notable filmmaker Steve Gukas wrote a post on Instagram thus:
“The ability of the film industry to grow and sustain itself is directly linked to how much money films earn in various windows. The cinema is a very important revenue source. Keeping them shut has dire consequence for the industry. Given how many of our youth make a living from this industry, it is time to give this a second look.”
Speaking with KazMPIRE MOVIES, Information Nigeria learns that the cinemas will soon be re-opened but not at the same seating capacity before COVID-19. KazMPIRE MOVIES is ready for re-opening, but they also understand that their income will be drastically reduced.
“Our industry is like the aviation industry”, he begins. “We deal with large crowds and gatherings. We will not make money if our halls are scanty”.
“Our goal was to have full halls by the time of re-opening.
“But that will not be possible anymore. We have no choice but to comply with the government’s directive.
“We hope we can return to our full seating capacity soon enough. All the workers are at home. We have not made any income so far. And that has not been favorable for us at all.”
A rather cheerful manager of MAGNIFICENT CINEMAS told Information Nigeria that they opened their lounge for visitors to come in, watch football matches and have some drinks, considering that lounges have been allowed to operate.
“That is our own way of diversifying our income.”
“We should reopen soon”, he continues. “You are still asking if it’s a huge blow? You are very funny. Of course, it’s a huge blow. The lounge is separate from the cinema halls. We’ve had meetings and have finally agreed that our lounge will continue to operate till our cinema halls can be reopened. The government will authorize our reopening soon.”
Tobi, a computer engineer, male, has missed going to the cinemas. However, football matches have made up for his cinema-going habit.
When asked about other video-streaming platforms, he responded: “Netflix? Frankly, not that I don’t enjoy the platform, it is a good one. But what do you do when you want a different environment and scenery? For dates, for relaxation.
“It’s just like saying why go to viewing centers to watch a football match when you can watch it at home? No one is saying you can’t watch it at home, but there’s a different feeling when you’re in the midst of other people enjoying the same thing. It’s a different feeling.”
For Peter, digital marketer, he likes the cinemas because he enjoys the movies better on the big screen. “I can use my phone. But you can’t compare watching on your phone to watching at the cinemas. That’s why I still think I prefer the cinemas. I hope they reopen soon.”
#EndSARS: Nigerians Recount Horrible Experience With Thugs In Police Uniform
“I entered a commercial tricycle heading home. On our way, we met SARS officials. They told us to come down. We were three inside.
“They started asking me questions about where I worked and what I do to which I replied all. After much questioning, they collected my ATM and told me I have to bail myself. I asked on what grounds and as we were talking, the other of his men shot one of the guys in the tricycle.
“I was terrified and told him that I don’t have cash on me. He brought out a POS, inserted my card in it and told me to type N200,000. I had to type it because I was scared of being shot”, she tearfully recounts.”
If you think the above narration is from a Nollywood scene, you are wrong. A young lady, Sophia, who works as a food vendor in Delta state, was not only forced to witness a young man being unlawfully shot but also part away with her hard-earned money – a total of N200,000 in her bank account.
The ongoing protests against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) which is gradually growing into a nationwide revolt is not independent of the burning desire of the majority of Nigerian youths to see a reformed Nigerian police force.
The most populous black nation in the world with more than half its population as youths is witnessing its strongest alliance against police brutality in over a decade.
SARS, created in 1992 to handle crimes related to robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and crimes involving firearms have been involved in anti-citizen activities, with officers deviating from their original assignment by profiling young Nigerians, maiming, harassing, and shooting them even in the absence of concrete information to warrant their arrest.
Nigerian share their experiences
The anger and agitations for the total disbandment of the hated police unit cannot be said to be unreasonable.
During one of the several peaceful protests, a protester who took to the streets of Port Harcourt in a stereotyped appearance was later revealed to be DJ Kaka, who schooled in Ghana but lost his twin brother and car to SARS officers in Nigeria. His experience with the rogue police unit made him travel from Ghana to Port Harcourt to join the street protests.
“My name is End SARS boy, I don’t love them, I schooled in Ghana, but when I came back on January 25th, SARS had the guts to kill my brother and took his car. I don’t love SARS; I don’t love them.
“We need the MOPOL. We need the police. And we don’t need criminals like them. iPhone is not a crime. I’m from Ikwerre, all my body there is tattoo and I’m a DJ but no job. So, I’m just here to end SARS.
That’s why I came all the way from Ghana to end Port Harcourt SARS. I’m crazy but I’m gentle”, DJ Kaka reveals in a viral video.
Nina Nora’s experience with the rogue police unit was while travelling to her village in early 2020. The bus she boarded was framed for transporting Indian hemp.
“When I was going to the village early this year, FSARS stopped us at Okwu Uratta and told all of us to come down for ‘stop and search’. They didn’t see anything so they allowed us to go. Another group stopped us at Bishop’s Court and told us to come down for ‘stop and search’ again.
“One of them went straight to the gloves compartment and brought out wraps of weed. They started to threaten us with the NDLEA if we don’t comply. We eventually settled them with N30,000. They had initially asked for N5,000,000. Definitely, their ‘stop and search’ was to plant incriminating evidence in our bus”, she shares.
A quantity surveyor identified as Alexander Aghedo narrated his experience with the infamous police unit thus:
“When I was to lead a team of surveyors to Rivers State during the height of kidnapping menace along the East-West road, I visited the SARS post in Emoha LGA of the state to make arrangement for security escort.
“This was to enable me and my team carry out survey work and also collect soil samples for analysis. I paid the requested amount to their head and four SARS officers were released to provide the much-needed security for our survey work to go seamlessly. I was in for a surprise when while working at the site on the day, one of the SARS officers told me that he and his colleagues have concluded that I’m going to pay them an addition N100,000 right there and then.
“They said that what I paid in the office was for Oga. I told them I had already given their boss N200,000 and asked where he expected me to get an additional N100,000. The officer then cocked his AK47 rifle and shouted that if I couldn’t transfer them money, they would kill me and say it was cultists that attacked. Afraid for my life, I had to transfer my last N40,000 to them.”
A young woman who was raped by SARS officers in 2018 is championing the protests on the streets. Identified as Chiatuiro Precious Chidera, she says she does not want a repeat occurrence for her unborn male and female offspring.
“I was raped two years ago. They also extorted money from me. What was my crime: I fresh. I fresh na crime? I cannot give birth to a daughter in this country make them no go rape my daughter tomorrow. Make them no go shoot my son tomorrow. Na people pikin them they dead for Lagos state. End SARS. End police brutality”, she said while holding a placard.
Protests across the nation
The ongoing protests started on Thursday, October 8, 2020 after a planned protest by notable musician Naira Marley that was put on hold following a Twitter appeal from the Minister of Youth. Naira Marley then agreed to have a Live chat via Instagram with the IGP, Mohammed Adamu on Monday, October 5 2020. He, however, issued a one-week ultimatum to the government, after which a protest would begin to bring an end to the activities of the unit.
Displeased with Naira Marley’s lack of resolve, another artist Runtown who had also called for physical protests maintained that the protest would take place in Lagos on October 8 in spite of the government’s warnings and appeals. Runtown was soon backed by rapper Falz, comic skit maker Mr Macaroni, female singer Tiwa Savage, OAP Toke Makinwa, and reality TV star Tacha.
On October 8, the aforementioned celebrities took to the streets of Lagos alongside other young Nigerians who had received the Twitter call to meet at the agreed venue. They all marched to the Lagos State Governor’s House. Majority of the youths slept at the gate of the government house till Friday, October 9.
Other celebrities joined subsequently. The number of youths at the protest grounds increased, with Twitter as the main social media platform for communication. The #EndSARS hashtag alongside its offshoots such as #EndSWAT, #EndPoliceBrutality, and #SARSMUSTEND has attracted global attention with some global celebrities such as Trey Songz, Kanye West, and Lil Baby tweeting the hashtag and creating more awareness on the microblogging platform. Currently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has acknowledged the movement with an emoji.
The protests then spread to other states of the country such as Rivers, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and the FCT, Abuja, following the disbandment of SARS by the IGP on Sunday, October 11. It was also on Sunday that the five demands were made to President Muhammadu Buhari. Currently, the protesters have not relented. This is because of the unimplemented pronouncements of disbandment and prosecution of abusive officers in the past.
The protests have also been disrupted on several occasions by alleged government security agents and hoodlums. The death of Jimoh Isiaq spurred more hatred for the SARS unit and more protests against police brutality. A prominent activist in Abuja, Aisha Yesufu, was also reportedly manhandled by the Nigerian police.
There have also been donations made by private companies, small and medium-sized enterprises and notable celebrities. The protesters have so far spoken with one voice: there is no leader among them and they will not stop until all demands are met.
SARS To SWAT, Any difference between Akara and moi moi?
After the IGP’s announcement of the disbandment of SARS on October 11, a new unit was created to replace the now-defunct SARS. This unit is called SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics Team). SWAT is to fill the gaps created owing to the dissolution of SARS.
In an official statement released by the Nigeria Police Force, no personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new Tactical Team. It also states that operatives of the new Tactical Team must be free of any pending disciplinary matter especially those touching on misuse of firearms and abuse of human rights.
Nigerian youths have, however, rejected the formation of a new police unit to replace the scrapped Special Anti-Robbery Squad, positing that it will not end the brutalization of citizens. Some also argued that the new name given to the unit will give the police unfettered rights to further harass and intimidate Nigerians as they refer to the new unit as an advanced version of SARS.
It remains to be seen what the protests will metamorphose into, and how the Buhari-led dictatorial government would handle the trivial issue.
Fuel Price, Electricity Tariff Hike: ‘Everything Keeps Increasing But Minimum Wage Doesn’t’
“That is how they normally talk. They will say they are doing it in our interest, but it’s all lies. How much am I earning? Don’t I have a family to take care of? This is callous of them.
“While governments of other countries are trying to make life better for their people, here, they want to choke us with increase in this and that.
“Everything keeps increasing but the minimum wage doesn’t increase,” Mr Hammed, a 47-year-old carpenter told Information Nigeria while reacting to the increase in fuel price and electricity tariff.
As Nigerians went about their daily activities despite the restraints caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, hoping to surmount the challenges brought about by the unexpected tragedies witnessed in the year 2020, the subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PNPPC), announced an increase in the ex-depot price of fuel from N138.62 to N151.56 per litre.
A few hours later, the price was adjusted to N147.67. The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold to marketers at the depots.
This announcement comes shortly after the increase in electricity tariff that welcomed Nigerians into the month of September. Although this has been described to be in the best interest of the populace, the thought of having to pay more, despite slashed salaries and unreliable power supply has become quite difficult to bear for many Nigerians.
The assurance of Oyebode Fadipe, general manager of corporate communications at Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, that “the Service Reflective Tariff (SRT) plan is a NERC mandated tariff structure whereby an upward increment in tariffs will result in substantially longer hours of power supply, good quality voltage profile, swifter response to faults clearing and provision of pre-paid meters” is not sufficient to assuage the thought of tariff-induced burden growing in the mind of Mr Hammed who told Information Nigeria that the government is on a wanton mission to further impoverish his ilk.
Nigerians, known for doggedness and tenacity during tough periods, could not but worry over the state of economic affairs of the country. However, the increase in fuel price was bound to happen, considering that the government had announced in March that there would be subsidy removal on petrol in order to hand over the reins of importation to private companies such that market forces would begin to determine the retail price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The PNPPC’s adjustment of the ex-depot price twice within a few hours, inevitably caused varied retail prices at different filling stations across the country. Some filling stations in Lagos state sold at N161 per litre while others sold at N159 per litre. However, the uniform price of N151 soon took effect.
Gas retailer, Christopher Okafor, is not convinced by the official statement from the ruling party. He tells Information Nigeria that he is displeased with the government’s move but is optimistic that better days would return.
He said: “If I tell you that I’m happy with the increase in the price of petrol, I will be the biggest liar on earth. It displeases me to my heart. Why now during COVID, when there is increase in the prices of other commodities? It is very unfair to us, but as usual, we will pull through.”
A 45-year-old beauty salon owner who pleaded anonymity, told Information Nigeria that she is fed up with the electricity billing. She has just one hairdryer in her small shop but her electricity bills run into N40,000 per month.
“This is exhausting”, she begins.
“But what am I to do?” She laughs for a while, probably trying not to let the burden get the better part of her.
“This is my only source of livelihood. I have to support my husband. I can’t stay idle. Now there is a tariff increase, it’s crazy. What can the masses do? What am I selling? That they want to finish me with such bills.”
Bimbo Oyemade, 37, female, is concerned about those who have lost their jobs during this period and how they would be able to afford to purchase fuel at the new price.
“I lost my aunty during this COVID. As if that was not enough, I was also among those laid off from work as a result of the pandemic. Is it now that I’m supposed to be paying so much for fuel and electricity that I am not even enjoying?
“So, other people in my shoes would also have to face this kind of hardship. I can only imagine how parents who have school fees to pay would be coping during this period. I am still trying to survive from having to purchase food items at a costlier price. I am fed up. And what’s worse is that we can’t do anything about it. We are meant to believe it’s in our own interest. Pathetic!”
41-year-old Pastor Kenneth tells Information Nigeria that he concurs with the tweet posted by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu. In response to the PDP’s statement that the fuel price and electricity tariff increase would be unbearable for Nigerians, Shehu had tweeted thus: “Don’t allow the PDP to deceive you. Amidst acute shortages, they sold petrol at N600 per litre on Easter Sunday in 2013 (See Punch published on that day).”
“We will soon realize that this is for the best. The PDP that are now acting as saints did not do any better. In fact, they wrecked what the APC are now trying to amend. How do we expect the government to keep paying subsidy at the expense of other state-owned corporations? Think about it. That is why we will have to understand the move is a smart one, for the ultimate good of everyone”, he says.
Nigerians Speak On Life After Coronavirus Lockdown
The easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown brought about a sense of relief and excitement for most of the citizens of Nigeria.
People had hoped that life would go back to being normal but it seems that there is no guarantee that it would ever be possible.
In an exclusive chat with Information Nigeria, some residents of Lagos state opened up about the effect of the lockdown on their lives and businesses as well as how they adapting to life post lockdown.
The Genesis of the lockdown
There has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases over the past few months. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, there are now 50,488 confirmed cases and 985 deaths, at the time of this publication.
The first case of the novel coronavirus was recorded on February 25. The index case was an Italian man, who had arrived into Lagos from Milan on a Turkish Airlines flight and he was said to have traveled to Ogun state where he spent two days before he was eventually isolated.
The lockdown was imposed on 30th of March in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the cessation of movements in these three major cities for an initial period of 14 days so as to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
Businesses, schools and churches were shut down.
Markets were only allowed to operate for a few hours.
Days into the lockdown, some Lagos residents had begun complaining about lack of food and lack of electricity.
The government came up with solutions to cushion the effect of the lockdown which was subsequently extended for two weeks.
Albeit, it was partially put on hold, some businesses commenced operations from May 4. During this period, many people had already been laid-off from their jobs due to the fact that companies were shut down and were not allowed to operate. There was also an alarming rise in armed robberies and gang warfare cases in communities.
On April 27, Buhari declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am across the country. In June, the federal government extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by 4 weeks and lifted the ban on interstate travels. However, it could only be done outside curfew hours with effect from July 1, 2020.
The second phase of eased lockdown was extended by an additional one week on July 27. On August 6, the federal government announced the extension of the second phase of the eased lockdown for the third time. Hence, an extra four weeks was added.
The burning question; How are people adapting to life post lockdown?
“Although I accepted that this is going to be the new norm, I still find it difficult to adjust to virtual environments. Learning virtually is not as easy as you might think.“
A 300 level student of Bowen University, who pleaded anonymity, revealed he sent back home during the lockdown and he is still trying to adapt to the virtual learning environment.
The lockdown caused a shift in people’s lives and daily activities.
Another resident, Mariam, a civil servant said she hasn’t fully adjusted to life post lockdown.
“I’m still to trying to grasp the concept but I’m trying and I’m not so sure I’m adapting now but ask me in a few more weeks and I might have an answer.”
Many have also gone ahead of accepting that the coronavirus is not going anywhere and it still remains in our midst. People have been forced to make some changes to their social habits.
Taking precautionary measures such as wearing face masks and using hand sanitizers shouldn’t be compromised.
A medical practitioner, Sandra Sanchez has advised people to take precautionary measures.
“I’m in the medical field and I can’t stress enough the importance to wear mask and follow CDC regulations. This is not going away any time soon,” she said.
Companies and organizations have security personnel stationed at the entrance to administer temperature checks and hand sanitizers before people can gain entry into the premises.
“We are to only allow people with face mask to enter.” a tall dark security agent named Musa told Information Nigeria.
Zainab Balogun, a female Corp member, says;
“Nothing has changed about my life, the slight difference that I can no longer go out to eat at eateries because they now do takeaways. I’m also getting used to having nose masks and remembering to use hand sanitizers frequently. Also, I no longer go for CDS“
Mr Matthew, a secretary, disclosed the new ‘norm’ in his place of work.
”In the canteen, we are to sit apart from each other and anyone without face-mask won’t be allowed into the office premises. We are also to wash our hands when we get to work”
Unfortunately, some people believe the virus doesn’t exist as markets are usually flooded and roads remain busy.
Abidakun Opeyemi Augustina, a female resident of Lagos state, revealed she has discontinued the use of her face mask.
”I never took all those serious. I wear mask to avoid police drama and other embarrassments. I moved on since”
Speaking on how he survives post lockdown, Mr Alao said he relies on the money gotten from the N-Power Forum.
“It’s been God, I am N-power dependent, I didn’t know the government will disappoint us even after using us to win 2019 presidential election,” he said.
A dark-skinned lady, who identified herself as Deborah Ayodele, lamented about an increase in the cost of transportation.
The civil servant said;
“I am a government worker and I was asked to resume after the lockdown.
I earn 32k every month and by the time some deductions are made I am left with about 17k.
The cost of transportation and feeding before the lockdown was approximately 1k per day.
I always board the BRT buses from Ketu to Fadeyi at the sum of 100naira but the fare was increased to 300naira.
Now, I spend about 1500 everyday even the bike trips of 50naira now cost 100naira.
You can imagine me using that 17k for the whole month. Work has also been dull lately because only a few people come to work.
I was supposed to go for my convocation and also get my BSc certificate so as to get promoted at work but that was put on hold because of the outbreak and lockdown”
Eva, a human Resources specialist, says;
“Life after lockdown has been tedious as well as interesting, Tedious in the sense that I have to battle with waking up early and the traffic involved, hence interesting because I have to see faces after so long even though I have been working from home.”
At the end of the day, people are still trying to recover from the lockdown but it won’t be an easy task especially with the social distancing measures.
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