[By VICTOR NZE]
Following nearly six months of the closure of their businesses as governments moved to check the spreading Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, operators of cinema houses in Lagos have appealed to the Lagos Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to consider lifting the lid on their operations.
With the resumption of commercial domestic and international flights at the airports, as well as the reopening of academic institutions across the state, the cinema operators, Wednesday sought an audience with the Lagos Governor, over the continued restrictions on their businesses.
Under the aegis of the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN), the group joined by other key stakeholders in the Nigerian film industry, during a virtual meeting with the governor, expressed concerns about their sector, appealing to Sanwo-Olu to reopen the cinemas and open up the sector for business, even as they promised to adhere strictly to the laid down Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Speaking on behalf of the association, Mr. Moses Babatope said the cinema owners are ready to reopen.
“We are ready to open our cinemas any time today or tomorrow. Cinemas outside Lagos are already open and they are complying with all the necessary protocols. We understand that your office is being careful about health and safety of Lagosians but we also assure you that these are top considerations for us too.”
The association also requested that the Governor set up a film office which function would include liaising with foreign investors while also serving as a major hub for the film industry in Lagos.
A filmmaker and one of the participants at the meeting, Omoni Oboli, appealed to the governor for tax waivers, stressing that no one in the film industry has earned any revenue in the past six months.
“Mr. Governor, we want you to help us with some tax break. As you may be aware sir, none of us has earned any revenue in the past six months. We want you to use your good office to help our industry.”
Responding, Governor assured the film industry operators that he would ensure government continues to protect their interest, assuring that he is a new convert having seen the level of creativity and economic importance of the sector.
“We would work collaboratively with your industry. I am aware of the enormous challenges you face especially in this period of Covid-19 pandemic. But as you know, we have to do what is right to protect the lives and property of millions of Lagosians,” said the governor.
Sanwo-Olu promised to look into all the requests made and return to them in due course.
Filmmaker and television host, Mosunmola Abudu, popularly called Mo Abudu moderated the meeting.
The governor added that government is mindful of the economic impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown on the entertainment industry particularly the cinema sector, promising to work with the association to achieve a win-win situation.