#MeToo movement, the social media continuation of the ‘sexual misconduct backlash’ that toppled prominent Hollywood producers like the two-time Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein seems to be rolling on the Nigerian movie industry, leaving in its trail, chaos, grief and sympathy.
Since last week, the movie industry has turned into a hotbed of mingled questions and chaos, following series of accusations and counter-accusations bothering on sexual harassment, assault, molestation and rape.
A number of actresses have called out some notable male practitioners, accusing them of sexual assault, molestation and rape in the wake of the online protest against gender based violence. The development has since sparked mixed-reactions among the stakeholders in the creative industry.
One of the most familiar names on the list of practitioners accused of sexual assault and molestation is Lancelot Imasuen, a celebrated film director and producer, who’s due to mark his 25 years in the industry any moment from now.
An actress, came out last week, to accuse the popular film director of sexually harassing her, while they were shooting the film, “Bent Arrow” about 13 years ago in Abuja.
The actress made the accusation via the WhatsApp group, Filmic, where the actress called out Lancelot.
According to her, the revered film director squeezed her boobs and physically pinned her to the bed when he visited her to his hotel room. Though the actress confirmed that the film director did not rape her, the allegation has since gone viral on social media.
However, in his defense on the Filmic WhatsApp group, Lancelot described the allegation as “a huge surprise,” adding “It’s with a very heavy heart I make these few clarifications pending further actions.”
Explaining, the film director said the movie, “ Bent Arrows” which was shot in 2007, featured the actress as the lead character who was selected by himself after a very transparent auditioning process that produced such big names as Hon. Desmond Elliot, Stella Damascus, Ngozi Ezeonu, Uche Jombo, Omoni Oboli, Joke Silva and her husband Olu Jacobs.
He continued: “I got married few months to the commencement of the production of the movie. My wife was with me during the auditioning and throughout the shooting of the movie in Abuja, and even had her birthday celebrated as part of the cast wrap up party.
“Awah Isang, my Executive Producer was fully involved throughout the entire project. So, I have been wondering when this said pinning down of neck and squeezing of breast happened. I have in my career personally groomed many seasoned female artistes and sincerely cannot recall ever harassing or molesting anyone in exchange for movie roles.”
“They are all over Nollywood and I am very sure some one can bear witness to my character. I stand to firmly and vehemently deny this allegation. My family and close associates and of course .. all been briefed…I never as far as I can remember harassed, pinned down or forced her into anything, for the past 13 years since the said project we have maintained very cordial relationship. That about three months ago she sent me the trailer of her new film to help re-post, I called her and we spoke about the said movie. I can’t remember posting it though due to my busy schedules, really don’t know where this is coming from …my family and I are greatly pained by this allegation,” Lancelot lamented.
The film director’s wife, Amiua also has dismissed the sexual assault allegation, declaring, that she’s standing firmly by her husband. In a statement she released last week, the mother of four children, said in as much as she stands against rape, violence or any form of molestation, be it male or female, she will not stand and watch any woman drag the name of her husband to the mud.
‘Bent Arrows was my husband’s first film after we got married 13 years ago and I was with him during the audition and filming,”Amiua declared.
Like Lancelot, other popular film directors accused of sexual assaults and rape include, Dope 7 Media CEO, Victor Okpala and Amb. Kingsley Orji Anosike. Also, reality TV star and media personality, Uti Nwachukwu was also accused of rape.
On the 5th of June, an Instagram user identified as actress Kemi Lala Akindoju claimed via her Instagram page,@lalaakindoju that Victor Okpala raped a nameless and faceless actress.
The claim was made in a video format, printing, narrating how the said incident happened.
Akindoju also was said to have shared a screenshot of a conversation, suggesting that Okpala raped the alleged victim on the popular WhatsApp group, Filmic. The allegation has since gone viral on the internet with many trolling the film director.
Meanwhile, reacting to the allegation for the first time, Okpala through his lawyers, Aghogho Akpojotor &Associates, has petitioned the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos, demanding for Lala Akindoju to physically produce the faceless actress to substantiate her claims as well as Police to launch a full independent investigation into the allegation levelled against him. He has also threatened to sue Lala Akindoju for N100 million as damages.
However, when contacted on the telephone to hear her own side of the story, Lala Akindoju referred us to her lawyer, Mr Nobert Ajaegbu, who said the actress stands against rape and gender-based violence.
Ajaegbu insisted that the actress has not accused anybody of rape, adding that he’s currently in touch with Okpala’s lawyers. The same way, Amb. Kingsley Orji Anosike, through his lawyers, Eni Legal & Consultants has written to Mr. Ideh Chukwuma Innocent of One Soul Films, demanding for remedy following character defamation.
In a letter dated the 8th of June, 2020, and titled, “Character Defamation: Demand for Remedy”, Amb. Anosike’s lawyers noted that Mr. Innocent, falsely accused their client of sexually harassing a young actor whose name was not mentioned and also collected money from the same young actor. The allegation was said to have been shared on the FILM4LIFE WhatsApp group. “Consequently, our client’s reputation has been seriously injured by your false public accusation and publication against our client of being a rapist and sexual assaulter in in Nollywood, hence this demand letter,”Anosike’s lawyers stated.
The winner of the 5th edition of Big Brother Africa, Uti Nwachukwu, is not spared as he was accused of rape by a Twitter user. The TV reality star and media personality has since petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to launch an investigation into the allegation.
Uti, who promised to surrender himself to the police to assist the investigation, also urged the IGP to prosecute the owner of the Twitter account for cybercrime if the allegation could not be substantiated.
While claiming that Uti raped her in 2017, the Twitter user went on to allege that he’s bisexual and treats males better even though he’s into females more. She also noted that Uti threaded carefully, and he never contacted her with his actual number as she shared screenshots of their chats.
Meanwhile, following the resolve of rape victims to speak out on the ordeals they faced in the hands o f some male celebrities in the past, various associations and guilds in the movie industry have braced up to tackle the ‘mess.’
The Directors Guild of Nigeria,DGN, last week constituted a five-member Sexual Offences Committee to investigate the allegations levelled against some of its members and recommend appropriate penalties. Just as the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, also has opened communication links on the issue.
The National President of AGN, Emeka Rollas last week issued directives to Ronnie Dikko, his Senior Special Assistant,SSA, on Sexual Harassment and Related Abuses, to open communication links on the issue.
“The recent revelation of alleged rape and sexual molestation on some individuals in the film industry is calling for serious attention and I must put an end to such an abuse.
“It doesn’t speak well of us and of me as the president of AGN, I must restore sanity into the Nollywood industry as part of my commitments toward protecting my members and the image of this noble body,” Rollas said.
In a memo signed by the National Secretary of DGN, Uche Agbo, the guild has equally opened a dedicated 24/7 confidential email address to entertain reports, petitions and complaints in addition to raising an Intra-Guild campaign to educate our members on the implications of such barbaric acts and participate in Inter Guild activities to stop rape and sexual harassment in Nollywood.
Members of the committee include, Pat Oghre(Chairman), Remix Ibinola(Secretary) , Tope Oshin, Francis Onwochei and Tony Akposheri. The committee is, however, expected to receive complaints and petitions , investigate and recommend appropriate actions against the offenders.
On its own, Association of Nigeria Movie Directors,ANMD, while condemning sexual harassment of any kind, rape and money for roles, however, resolved to join other guilds and stakeholders in the industry to seek ways to minimize or out-rightly eradicate the mess.
“We encourage those affected to speak up without any form of fear or intimidation from the accused.”
“ANMD is solely behind the reorientation and reorganization of our industry. We condemn sexual harassment of any kind, rape and money for roles and believe that together. We can curb or completely eradicate this from our industry. We call on those that have been so harassed to speak up irrespective of who the offender is,” the group said.
The members of its Ethics and Conflict Resolution Committee are expected to work closely with our reinforced Taskforce team to ensure a successful campaign.
However, some stakeholders have taken to their different social media handles and groups to react to the ugly development. Veteran actor, Richard Mofe Damijo,RMD, reacting to the allegations on the Filmic WhatsApp group wrote, “I deliberately took a leave of absence from commenting on this platform for sometime now. The events of the last day have left me also angry and frustrated. My heart goes to every woman that have had to endure rape or abuse at any level. For me, ‘No’ has no grey areas when it comes to a woman’s body. No is No. Stop is stop. There is no excuse for the despicable behaviour of some of us in this industry and our relationship with the women.”
“I stand with every woman that has a sad tale to tell. I am an unrepentant advocate for women’s right. I hope the women would have more courage to call out more perpetrators now that some have dared to,” RMD echoed.
For Comrade Alex Eyengho, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, sexual harassment or rape, is a despicable act that must be met with severe consequences.