•South East filmmakers worried over deaths in industry


From Magnus Eze, Enugu and Wilson Okereke, Afikpo


•Filmmakers march in Enugu


Different groups involved in filmmaking under the auspices of South East Film Crew Welfare (SEFCW), have protested the manner five of their members died after a boat conveying them from movie shoot location capsized in Anambra River.

John Odonwodo, aka Junior Pope, Abigail Frederick, Precious Oforum, Joseph Anointing and Friday Okoroafor, all lost their lives in the unfortunate incident that occurred on April 10, 2024. Junior Pope’s family announced that he will be laid to rest on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Members of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria (CDGN) in Enugu and Ebonyi states were joined by others to march on the streets in honour of their deceased colleagues.

On April 17, 2024, they moved from Okpara Square, Independence Layout, through Rangers Avenue, Bissala Road and terminated at the Film Arena, National Museum where a candle light procession was held in honour of the fallen heroes and heroines. 

Their spokesperson, Jonas Onunweze, a Props and Set designer, condemned the treatment given to artistes and other Nollywood crew members by film producers.  He addressed people anywhere the train made a stop. He was emphatic that the life of Nollywood crew mattered:

“There is no one that is happy about what happened. So, we are mourning them and this is what we feel as crew members in South East that we do and that we show them that we love them. This is also to show government that our members have a voice; that we can still speak for them. But we pray that their souls rest in perfect peace. 

“People didn’t need to die before solution will come. That is why we are calling on the society, Nigerians should come and help us. The film industry needs urgent intervention, we need some equipment. If we had the proper equipment which they have in Hollywood and they use in film making, we believe that this thing will not happen.

“Even though, we can say that they made a mistake by not putting on lifejackets but then, if we have proper instruction, proper rule that guides filmmakers, I believe this thing will not happen. Even when you know that it will not happen, you still need to be on guard.

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“This is a kind of wake-up call. We are trying to tell the world that we as the crew are tired of the way the producers are treating us and we need to be heard. The world must know that the life of Nollywood crew matters.”

In a similar event staged by the Ebonyi State chapter of AGN on April 20, 2024, the group had in its train, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Stanley Ogbuewu, who also belongs to the guild. He said the incident was a huge shock to the Nollywood family and condemned the alleged insensitivity of film producers towards the wellbeing and safety of actors and crew members:

“The producers are always after their production without caring for the welfare of the actors and the crew members, this is why I am advising that nobody should take up any assignment capable of claiming his life.”

During the event that involved road walk across major streets of Abakaliki and candle night at the Amusement Park, Basil Okezie prayed for the eternal rest of the victims.

Former chapter Secretary of the AGN, Ezechukwu Ohio, appealed to members of the public to discard the rumours making rounds that the Nollywood industry was characterized with untimely deaths as such could be found in other professions across the globe:

“People are dying and some people also are giving birth on daily basis, meaning that death is a natural thing rather the difference is that most of us are celebrities whom every blogger wants to publish online, that is why it looks as if we are the only people dying.”

Eulogies poured in torrents for the fallen artistes especially Junior Pope, whom a veteran actor, Augustine Ogbaegbe described as a nice and lively friend who had advocated for others. He said no movie was worth dying for advising that everyone should always take precautionary measures while shooting films in dangerous locations:

“It must not be only in the place of work; our style of living should also be trimmed to conform with moral principle.”

For former Vice President, AGN in South East, Roland Chukwu, their members were disturbed over the spate of death in the sector including those of John Okafor aka Mr. Ibu, Ameachi Muonagor and others, which according to him were circumstantial.

He said they were highly pained over the five victims of the boat mishap stating that their death was avoidable: “The case of Junior Pope would have been prevented, if the needful was done, this is why everyone is reacting.”

Chukwu stated that the industry in Nigeria had lost about 60 known actors and actresses to the cold hand of death in diverse ways between 2014 and 2024, adding that their members ought to be always spiritually conscious than other professions:

“To be an actor means to act someone else profession with its ethics in such a manner that it will be adequately represented, for instance, one can act as a native doctor, mermaid, shrine priest and others.

“All these require spiritual sensitivity to know their implications and this is why our people should always be prayerful and dedicate their dealings to God.”

He advised his members to always confide in people in the time of needs rather than dying of depression. He also suggested that life insurance be instituted for actors as obtainable in other parts of the world.