The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has suspended the executive secretary of the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB) for imposing a 5% tax on producers and digital platforms including Netflix and Iroko TV.
Gbenga Omotosho, spokesman for the state government and commissioner for information and strategy, said Bamidele Balogun acted without authorisation and was therefore suspended.
In a statement, the goverment said: “There is no levy on audio and visual contents of all physical and digital platforms in Lagos State. The executive secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Mr Bamidele Balogun, is said to have announced a 5% levy.
“The government hereby dissociates itself from the said announcement in the media. The executive secretary, who was not authorised to make such an announcement, has been suspended, pending an administrative enquiry.”
He added that the Sanwo-Olu administration was aware of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry and other sectors of the economy and a Federal High Court had barred the LSFVCB from levying film and video producers.
In June, Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court ruled that the LSFVCB cannot collect taxes at the same time as the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), as it would amount to double taxation. Despite this, Balogun wrote letters to several digital platforms, including Netflix and Iroko TV, demanding the 5% levy.
A letter addressed to Jason Njoku, MD of Iroko TV, dated August 31 reads: “We hereby request for immediate payment of the 5% 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.”
Balogun, who had earlier said that producers who failed to register would face severe sanctions by the board, declined to speak about the matter when contacted.
Adedayo Thomas, executive secretary of the NFVCB, said the new levy by the state government was wrong and would obstruct 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 and the president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Pretty Okafor, questioned the Lagos State government for going ahead with the levy despite a court judgment and claimed that the new levy would be challenged again in court.