LAGOS, NIGERIA (PageOne) – After creating an uproar and going against a court order to demand taxes from video streaming platforms such as Netflix and IROKOtv, the Lagos State government suspended the executive secretary of the Lagos State Films and Video Censors Board, Mr Bamidele Balogun.
His suspension was communicated on Twitter by the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Jibril Gawat.
The suspension is another dimension on the matter as the statement of the state government totally denied the authorisation or existence of the tax on the streaming platforms.
The action of the LFVCB is also a direct contravention of a federal court judgment.
It would be recalled that Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court had in a judgment in June 2020 stated that the LSFVCB could not be collecting taxes at the same time as the National Film and Video Censors Board as it amounted to double taxation.
The judge had said, “I have examined Sections 17, 21 and 25(2) of the National Film and Video Censors Board Act and Sections 23 and 24 of the Cinematograph Law Cap. C8, Laws of Lagos State, and find a case of co-existence of a federal law and a state law on the subject-matter of registration and licensing of premises for film and video exhibition. To that extent, therefore, the federal law prevails, and the law of state must go into abeyance, while the federal law subsists.”
Despite the judgment, however, the secretary wrote on behalf of the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to several digital platforms including Netflix and Iroko TV demanding five per cent. A letter by the Executive Secretary of the LSFVCB, Bamidele Balogun, which was addressed to the Managing Director of Iroko TV, Jason Njoku, stated that the firm must pay five per cent on all visual and audio content.
The letter which was dated August 31, 2020, and titled, ‘Implementation of 5% Levy On All Audio and Visual Content On All Physical and Digital Platform’.
It read in part, “We hereby request for immediate payment of the five per cent levy on all audio and visual content produced, sold, distributed, marketed, exhibited, streamed, downloaded and shared across all physical and digital platform situate, lying and being within Lagos State. “A copy of the public notice issued earlier in this regard is herein attached.
By this letter, you have been served notice as a necessary procedure and you are obliged to comply within seven days from the date of receipt of this notification.”
However, when he wascontacted on the telephone, Balogun said he could not speak on the matter. The governor’s Spokesman, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, also did not respond to repeated calls on Friday. But a member of the Creative Industry Group, Rahman Raji, said the move was appropriate as the funds raised from the new tax would be used to develop the sector.
The Executive Secretary of the NFVCB, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, described the new levy of the state government as wrong and inimical to the growth of the sector. “There is an existing court judgment on that matter. The move is wrong and I will be meeting with representatives of the state soon to look into the issue,” he said. The Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria also lambasted the Lagos State Government for going ahead with the levy despite a court judgment. In a statement by its lawyer, Justin Ige, the AVRS said it was the only authority that could demand such from its members. The statement read in part, “The law does not permit LSFVCB to issue levies for the performance of any function by anyone else including the production, sale, and distribution of audiovisual content as is now unlawfully attempted.
“As the Federal Government approved collective management organisation for audiovisual works, only the AVRS may issue and collect levies and royalties for the distribution, exhibition, and public performance of audiovisual works for the benefit of rights owners.”
The President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Mr. Pretty Okafor, described the new levy by the state government as illegal and wicked, adding that it would be challenged again in court.
However, neither Netflix nor IROKOtv has commented on the matter.