A Jurisprudential View of the Ban on Movies with Ritual Content and the Need to Extend Same to Other Sectors in the Entertainment Industry. By: Stephen Peter Okangla Introduction On Monday the 21st day of February, 2022 the news of the Federal Government’s ban of Movies with ritual content made the rounds.
As expected many received the news with mixed feelings while others received same with glee in solidarity with the decision of the Federal Government. The directive was issued by the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed to the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), the body set up to regulate the film and video industry in Nigeria. As reported by the Whistler the Minister declared the ban during a media visit to Daily Trust office in Abuja. He stated that such contents had negatively influenced the vulnerable youth, hence the need to mitigate it.
Speaking on the issue, Mohammed opined further that “To mitigate this, I have directed the National Film and Video Censors Board, the body set up to regulate the film and video industry in Nigeria, to consider this issue while performing its role of censoring and classifying films and videos.” “I have also directed NFVCB to engage with stakeholders in the film industry to express the concerns of the government and Nigerians on the need to eschew money ritual content in their movies.
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“For those who may still be in doubt, ritual killings have assumed a worrisome dimension in recent years. Recently, in Ogun State, four young men, one of whom is 18 years old, murdered their 20-year-old female friend for money rituals.
“One of them said they learnt about using human parts for money rituals from social media. Of course, you are also aware of a case involving a female student of the University of Jos who was allegedly killed by her boyfriend for ritual purposes. These killings have been widely reported by the media”
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“The fact that some of these ritualists said they learnt the money-making tricks from some social media platforms has given a further fillip to our campaign to rid social media of unwholesome content.” It is indeed a hard day fact that the nature of news we read on media this days are worrisome and makes the ear to tingle.
Cases of ritual related killings is on the rise, our communities, settlement and villages have become slaughtering field and besiege by our children turn monsters who now stand tall against our collective existence.
There is no doubt that the contents of our movies, music videos and sometimes live show on television further exacerbate this crime. We cannot also exonerate our parents from this crime, this is predicated on the fact that parents nowadays spare the rod hence the child is spoiled.
Same way we cannot also exonerate the Government as they have successively ignored the fundamental objective of governance which is rooted on job creation and welfare of the people. Of course an idle mind is the devil’s workshop! Morality in this generation is fast becoming irrelevant and laws are becoming ineffective in curtailing the birth and growth of novel crimes in our settlement.
This article aims to take a Jurisprudential View of the ban on movie with ritual content and to further explain why the ban should be extend to other entertainment sectors such as music and live TV shows (like Big Brother Naija).
Jurisprudential View of the Ban on Movies with Ritual Contents. It is uncontestable that right to produce movies, music videos and run live TV shows are fundamental as same has been enshrined in the constitution.
Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as the Constitution) provides: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.”
Section 39 of the Constitution lucidly guarantee the right to disseminate information which include but not limited to producing movies with any contents, music videos of any nature, advertisement in any form, running any kind of live TV shows, establishing schools, running Media houses etc. Similarly, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (hereinafter referred to as the Charter) which is ratified, domesticated and enforceable in Nigeria provides:
“1. Every individual shall have the right to receive information”,
“2. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.”
The provision of the Charter which was informed by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights further solidifies the right of movie producers, music producers and organizers of live TV shows to create content and disseminate same within the ambit of the law. Also in the cases of ARCHBISHOP OKOGIE V A.G LAGOS STATE (1981) 1NCLR 218 and in ADEWOLE & ORS V JAKANDE (1981) 1NCLR 262 the courts held that the word “media” is not limited to the press, but includes any medium for imparting and receiving information…” this extend to production of both movie and music videos, organizing live TV shows with any contents (emphasis mine).
Section 39 of the Constitution also guarantee freedom from prior censorship or restraint of publications. In fact one would not be wrong to say that section 39 grants an unfettered rights to those in the entertainment industry to produce and disseminate contents as far as it fetch them economic favour.
However a careful look at the provision of the section mandates practitioners in the Entertainment Industry to engage in such production and dissemination within the bound of the law and in such manner that will not offend the law. On this note, there is no freedom for unlawful, criminal, mischievous, defamatory and publications culpable of corrupting good morals thereby threatening our collective existence. In reality there is no absolute right to freedom of expression and the press which according to the writer extend to movie and music production and organizing live TV shows.
More so, the vital question now is, has the law given a tacit approval to the making and distribution of both movie and music contents and live TV shows that are inimical to good morals and human sanity? Has the Government by the virtue of section 39 loose its power to deal decisively with producers, promoters, distributors and those who patronizes such corruptive contents? Of course Not!
The Government has the moral responsibility to protect public morality and to instill sanity, it also have the legal responsibility to jealously protect the National Security. It is line with this that the Constitution in section 45 place a cap on the exercise of the Provisions of sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 in the sole interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality and public health.
The Supreme Court affirmed this position in the case of ALHAJI MUJAHID DOKUBO ASARI V FEDERAL REPUBLIC Of NIGERIA wherein it held that “where National Security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened human rights or the individual right of those responsible take second place. Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until the National Security can be protected or well taken care of.” It remain undisputable that cases of ritual killing, yahoo-yahoo and yahoo plus which are largely informed by movie content and music videos are threat to the National security which should warrant suspension of the right in order to apprehend the ugly trend. The steady rise and growth of cases of ritual killing and yahoo plus related Killing are issues to lose sleep on especially where teenagers are largely the perpetrators. What a Country! Where Education is seen as a scam (a thing of time wasting) and ritual is bought and sold by the younger generation as a shortcut to wealth and affluence. Needless to say that the result of this is the ocean of blood that now flow on our street, as our daughters, sons and loved ones are slaughtered on daily basis and used for barbaric sacrificial offerings. Perpetrators had at different times and occasion confessed to this crime upon arrest attributed it to ritual movies and music videos wherein wealth are lavishly displayed by musicians.
There is no threat to public safety, order, sanity and National security that would be grave as using human being for money ritual, as the selling and buying of same would spread faster than a wildfire in a society where getting a square meal is like passing through the eye of a needle. Hence to permanently arrest this heinous crimes that is fast spreading through nooks and crannies of our society, Ban on movies with ritual contents, and music videos with lavish display of wealth should be comprehensive and permanent. The Need to Extend the Ban to Other Sectors in the Entertainment Industry. The degree of moral decadence in our society today is highly alarming and regrettable. There is no gainsaying that morality and sanity are steadily going into extinction. Howbeit it is also appropriate and timeously for those wielding the legal rod to set laws into motion.
Truth be told the contents in some music videos wherein wealth are lavishly displayed, nudity is praised and live TV shows specifically Big Brother Naija where nudity is glorified and immorality is applauded are catalyst for the fast nosediving of good morals and sanity in our society. Such videos and live TV shows where immorality is sold should be taken off from our channels and ban forthwith irrespective of the resultant economic effect if any be it good or bad.
As Africans morality and decorum in behavior is our identity, the current speed which we are losing it is highly reprehensive, saddening and condemnable. Our parents, Government and relevant stakeholders cannot afford to play blind and continue to feign ignorance to the degree in which good morals, sanity and human decorum is fast drifting.
I must commend the Government for taking the bull by the horn by placing ban on movies with ritual contents, however other bulls with similar garment such as music videos, Big Brother Naija must be taken by the horn as well in order to rid our society of the epidemic that runs through the nooks and crannies of our society.
Morality is an essential Part of the bondage which keeps our society together and any threat to it is tantamount to threat to the National security and our collective existence. It is notorious that laws can be used to enforce morality and Government also have a key role to play in maintaining sanity in the society no matter what it takes.
In the case of SHAW V DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTION, Lord Simond posited that “there remain in the courts of law residual power…to conserve not only the safety and order but also the moral welfare of the state” in that the King’s Bench is the custos morum of the people and has the superintendence of offenses contra bonos mores.
There is inherent power in our courts to enforce morality, so is our government vested with the responsibility of ensuring good morals, sanity and decorum in our society. I make bold to challenge relevant stakeholders, Civil Society Organizations, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to speak up against moral decadence and take up public interest litigation when necessary and see to the restoration of good morals, sanity and decorum in our society.
It is surely a thing to worry about if morality must be preserve in this part of the world. We as Country have sleep over moral decadence for too long, our religious leaders who are the supposed counselors and moral builders have grown cold and lost their voices in the face of this challenging phenomenon. Our parents have also failed in their basic obligation of child upbringing, some even egg on their children to take means of the people from the underworld to get wealth, and some have thrown away the temerity and moral obligation to question the source of their children’s unexplainable wealth because they are beneficiaries of same.
The government also have a fair share of the blame, this is because they neither care nor take serious the welfare of the citizens. Few days ago a musician known by the stage name M.I Abaga while speaking with DAILY POST attributed the astronomic rise in cases of yahoo-yahoo, ritual killings and other heinous crimes to high rate of unemployment in the country.
This is the probable play-out of things in a country where greed reign and rule. Howbeit, the role of movies with ritual contents, music videos where wealth are lavishly displayed and live TV shows like Big Brother Naija in the mess we find our society today is no small. The ban government has place on Movies with ritual contents must be replicated on corruptive music videos and Big Brother Naija if we must purge our society of the threats it poses and have a society where decorum and morality would be inevitably present.