Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has suspended the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Bamidele Balogun, for imposing a five per cent tax on digital platforms including Netflix and Iroko TV.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said this in a statement on Friday night titled, ‘Lagos State Has No 5% Levy on Audio and Visual Contents of Physical and Digital Platforms’
Omotosho, who is the Spokesman for the state government, said Balogun acted without authorisation and was therefore suspended.
The statement read in part, “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 five per cent 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 said the Sanwo-Olu administration is not insensitive to the fact that the industry has been badly hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and empathises with this and other sectors of the economy.
A Federal High Court had barred the LSFVCB from levying film and video producers.
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.
Despite the judgment, however, Balogun had written letters to several digital platforms including Netflix and Iroko TV demanding five per cent.
A letter, 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 dated August 31, 2020, 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.”
When contacted on the telephone, Balogun said he could not speak on the matter.
The Executive Secretary of the NFVCB, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, had 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 had also lambasted the Lagos State Government for going ahead with the levy despite a court judgment.
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.