Logo of the National Film Institute used to demonstrate the story.

9-man committee sets up to resolve impasse

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – The Students’ Union Government of the National Film Institute, Jos, Plateau State has rejected what its terms as the hasty decision of the Management of the school to shut down the school indefinitely rather than address the endemic challenges the students are calling the attention of the Management to address in almost a decade.

The students also described the nine-man committee set up by the Management to address the ongoing impasse between them and the students as an avenue to intimidate and witch-hunt some of the students, and further escalate the problems.

Recall that the students had embarked on a “Stay at Home” protest to call the attention of the Management to the deteriorating conditions in the school but the Management responded by shutting down the school indefinitely while setting up the committee with the mandate to submit its report by the last week of November, 2023.

The Management in two separate press releases signed by the Brian Etuk, the Director of Public Affairs, National Film Cooperation stated, “Immediate closure of the National Film Institute, Jos.

“The Chairman, Governing Council of the National Film Institute, NFI, Jos, and the Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Film Cooperation, NFC, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe has approved the immediate and indefinite closure of the Institute with effect from Friday, October 6, 2023, to forestall any threat to breaching the peace on the Plateau by students of the National Institute.

“There is a subsisting ban on public demonstrations and processions by the Government of Plateau State with current insecurity challenges associated with soft targets across the country, this closure became necessary.

“Consequently, all students except Master’s Degree students are to stay away from the premises of the NFI at the old and permanent campuses in Jos with effect from Friday, October 6, 2023, and throughout the closure.

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“They are to refrain from engaging in any activity contrary to the Institute’s policy, guidelines, and other extant laws of Plateau State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The relevant security agencies have been notified to enforce this closure.”

On the Committee, the second press release added that the constitution of the nine-member students’ conflict resolution committee has Mr. Edmund Peters, the NFC Director of Production and Industry Support Service as Chairman and has four terms of reference which are:

“Find out the immediate and remote causes of the threats to academic harmony and breach of public peace by students of the Institute; Proffer solutions from within and outside to mitigate future occurrences.

“Recommend enforceable solutions to students’ unrest, staff and lecturers harmonious working relationship and any other further sanctions for those found culpable in line with extant Public Service Guidelines and the committee is to submit its reports on or before but not later than November 30, 2023.”

Reacting to the development, the Institute’s SUG President, Aduma Agoji explained that the students are no threats to peace but that the Management is shying away from the responsibility of providing a conducive learning environment for the students.

His words, “The SUG of the National Film Institute, Jos, rejects in the strongest terms this hasty and unwarranted decision by the Management of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), to shut down our revered institution.

“The allegations raised against us are not only baseless but also entirely contrary to the character and principles that define us. We are law-abiding, responsible, hardworking, resilient, compassionate, intelligent, patriotic, and creative individuals deeply committed to our passion for the Motion Picture Industry.

“Upon receiving the Press Release and learning about the abrupt closure of our school, we are compelled to ask: Is it wrong for students to demand an academic environment that is truly conducive to learning? Is it wrong to remind the Management of their fundamental obligations to students’ well-being in an institution as unique as the National Film Institute? Is it wrong to advocate for changes that are not privileges, but are our rights as students?

“For almost a decade, our genuine pleas for essential facilities have fallen on deaf ears. Despite numerous meetings and reminders, the Management has consistently ignored our concerns that are crucial to optimizing our learning environment.”

He listed their demands to include, “The repair of run-down school toilets, the provision of water facilities and constant supply of same, establishment of a functional ICT centre, issuance of school ID cards, ensuring electricity in classes, setting up of a standard cinema for student film screenings, addressing security concerns, addressing the delayed matriculation and convocation of Diploma students.

“The proposal to consider reviewing the Act establishing the National Film Institute (currently, a department under Nigerian Film Corporation) to give autonomy to the Institute to function independently.

“Others are our call for the timely release of equipment for student productions, providing the school prospectus to students, maintaining the aesthetics and hygiene of the school environment, establishing accessible WIFI for faculty and students, and updating the school website and portal. Every single one of these demands and concerns have remained unaddressed to date.”

He stressed that, “In response to our peaceful advocacy, the Management initially approved (but only verbally) 22, out of our 26 demands formally presented to the MD of NFC in a meeting with our officials. During the meeting, we acknowledged that even the fulfilment of at least 50% of these issues (especially those relating to fundamental amenities) was imperative and would be acceptable to resume classes…”

On the nine-man committee, he noted “By its terms of reference, this Committee was meant to intimidate and witch-hunt some of the students, further escalating the problem; whereas we had expected the Management to discuss and apply solutions to the challenges raised. To us, this means the Management, by this decision, intends to lock down the school, and keep students at home for more than 60 days, thereby forcing us to forfeit the remaining semester originally meant to elapse by November 2023…”