A pioneer Nollywood distributor, Gabriel Okoye, popularly known as Igwe Gabosky, has narrated how Nollywood pirates wrecked his company and left him bankrupt.
The bandana-loving Nollywood movie producer-turned-distributor made the revelation on Monday in Abuja when the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, led a team of stakeholders to the Inspector-General of Police, to seek collaboration with the law enforcement agency in fighting piracy.
The occasion was the first interface meeting of the police and major stakeholders in the Nigerian creative industry to fight piracy.
Speaking at the epoch-making event, Gabosky said he is one of the beneficiaries of the Bank of Industry intervention fund aimed at developing the creative industry
Revealing the circumstances that led to his present predicament, he said he was empowered by BOI with over NI billion to create the biggest media distribution company for intellectual property in Africa. The Nollywood film investor had set up a nationwide distribution platform better known as G-Media in 2013.
At the launch of the company, he said the first phase of the project was expected to commence in January 2014. The project would involve 25 stores spread across the nation, 30 regional distributors as well as 4000 community distribution stores. But it has remained a futile dream no thanks to ruthless Nollywood pirates.
Gabosky who last shot a Nollywood movie in 2010 which is still yet to be released narrates, “The first job I had to distribute was “Half of a Yellow Sun. But, before I could finish printing, pirates had released the fake copies of the film on the streets and sold them for little money. The second job was “30 Days in Atlanta’’ by AY; pirates also took over and distributed pirated copies of the films on the streets and AY was crying.
“The third was October 1, by Kunle Afolayan; I was in South Africa negotiating for ITS distribution when I was called and told that the film was already on the streets. The activities of the pirates crumbled the distribution companies and the N500 million I had already collected from BoI; I could not pay back till date. The Bank is now trying to take over all my property which I used as collateral.”
Gabosky added that many people in the industry had died because of frustration inflicted on them by pirates. According to him, the pirates pretend to be above the law in Alaba, a major electronics market in Lagos that is considered home of piracy.
“We know these people that are pirating these works; piracy is like terrorism. If you go to Alaba International market in Lagos, there are people that believe that the market is a sovereign state inside Nigeria where copyright laws cannot be enforced. I am glad today that the Nigeria Police has risen up and decided to answer us,’’ he said.
Gabosky’s foray into Nollywood dates back to 1992 when some people led by Okechukwu Oguejiafor asked him to sponsor the Nollywood classic, Nneka the Pretty Serpent. The movie cost him N4.5 million and thankfully, it was a hit. He also sponsored the production of the sequel, which was also successful. Although it was shot with N3.9 million it was not as profitable as the first one.
He also shot The Battle of Musanga, the first epic in Nollywood and the biggest till date. It cost him N12.5 million to shoot. He also sponsored other movies such as Tycoon, Beyond the Vow, Piccadilly and Wedlock of Blood.
A luxury car freak, the marketer is today a shadow of himself owing to the activities of Nollywood pirates.
Meanwhile, at the event, Mr. Mohammed said the Federal Government is walking its talk and taking concrete steps to stamp out piracy of intellectual property.
“This meeting is evidence that government’s commitment to fighting piracy and placing the creative industry in its rightful position is not just about talk.
“We are carrying along all the stakeholders in the industry and my job here is to inaugurate this meeting. We believe that with the calibre of stakeholders here and two Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIG) representing the Nigeria Police Force, you will be able to agree on the way to put an end to piracy,’’ he said.
The minister also stressed that piracy, if left unchecked would become a monster that would destroy the entire creative industry.
He recalled that one of the major challenges raised at the Creative Industry Summit held recently in Lagos was the menace of piracy.
The minister added that the aftermath of the interaction with the police was the interface meeting on ending piracy.
He tasked the meeting to ensure that whatever form of enforcement to be adopted, must be regular and sustained.
Speaking in the same vein, Adedayo Coker, the Executive Director of the National Film and Video Censors Board, said that the meeting was an indication that the industry’s players were ready for the fight against piracy.
Tony Okoroji, the Chairman of Copyright Society of Nigeria said, “It is a historic day for the creative industry and a warning for pirates to go and look for something else to do. This team will collaborate with the Police to ensure that wherever pirate may be in the country, they will fish them out and make life uncomfortable for them.”