NIGERIA: HOW CORONAVIRUS CRIPPLED ENTERTAINMENT AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRIES

With the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states and the subsequent nation-wide curfew imposed by the Federal Government, the Coronavirus has prevented social life to have a breather, writes Assistant Entertainment Editor GBENGA BADA

 

From New York to London, Paris to Berlin, Johannesburg to Lagos, the world’s social life has suffered a huge blow as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which has ravaged the world.

After a riveting 2019 that ended with a superb Christmas and New Year festivities across the world, showbiz impresarios, nightclub owners, cinema operators and other individuals made projections for 2020.

Sadly, a handful of these projections have remained but a dream due to the widespread of Coronavirus across the globe.

Just like other countries that are battling to curb the spread of the novel virus, Nigeria’s social life has come to its knees. Covid-19 has prevented the  social life to have a breather with two bastions -social distancing and lockdown.

With every arm of the world’s social life shattered like a windowpane, business owners in the entertainment world and other related sectors have been counting their losses. From the music and film industries to wedding, event management and the nightlife industries, Covid-19’s effect can be felt with a bang.

Musicians are beginning to count their losses after six weeks of no action. Tour dates, concerts and music festivals have been postponed indefinitely, leaving them with devotion to live performances on social media such as Instagram and Facebook. The cancelation of these events also has had an untoward effect on their fortune.

“No money for now… no show in sight abeg .. We all dey here together,” Davido said to a fan on Twitter when asked for a giveaway. “In like two to three months we go know the people that saved money.”

The rich musician had earlier released a terse statement on the need to cut short his North America tour, saying: “I’m saddened to halt what has been a fantastic sold-out tour so far, but postponing is the right thing to do. The health and safety of my fans and members of staff are most paramount and nothing else matters. Be safe and see you all soon. God be with us all.”

In the same manner, singer Tiwa Savage lamented how the pandemic has affected her tour plans after the release of her much-anticipated album.

“I had already finished my album and it was supposed to be released in the first week of the second quarter, but the pandemic has stalled it. I will be putting out a single in the next two or three weeks. The album will still be released, but I will share the dates later,” the United Kingdom (UK) trained Savage said, adding: “I had 45 dates and festivals lined up after my album release, but all these have  been canceled as a result of the Covid-19 and it has affected my pocket.”

Nevertheless, this is not to say that music stars are entirely not making any income or are not working.

During the lockdown, Teni the Entertainer, released an Elongated Play entitled: “The Quarantine EP”, while Peruzzi, MI, AQ, Mayorkun, Tiwa Savage, Davido and others recorded and released singles and EPs. As for other incomes, the musicians are still raking a lot of money both in  Naira and Dollars from streaming platforms that offer their songs to fans across the globe at a cost.

After the Federal Government in concert with Lagos State government imposed a general lockdown, which was relaxed six weeks after, the film industry appeared as one of the most hit in economic terms. The industry was literally shutdown with many actors resorting to the social media platform.

The first segment of the film industry to be hit was the cinema. Cinema were houses were forced to shut down operations across the state. These Cinema houses such as Silverbird, Genesis and Filmhouse,  under the aegis of the Cinemas Exhibitors Association of Nigeria unanimously agreed to shut down operations in Lagos, Abuja at first and other states of the federation much later. Their losses are unimaginable as they trickled down to loss of producers and eventually, actors and production crews.

As a result of the closure, actors, directors, producers and production crews working on different sets across the country were made to stop work. The various guilds in the industry – Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), TAMPAN and ITPAN released strict orders and placed embargo on any production activity until further notice.

Towing the same line, Multichoice Nigeria suspended all of its productions  and wrapped up the first edition of the reality TV show, Ultimate Love, a week earlier than scheduled.

The entertainment and media outfit went ahead to release up to N400 million as financial reprieves to producers, actors and technical talents, who currently have contracts with the organisation. Its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), John Ugbe said the palliative was to cushion the effect of the lockdown, which has disrupted creative activities.

Worse hit is Funke Akindele-Bello, who was filming episodes of her series, which included Jenifa’s Diary, My Siblings & I, Industreets, and Omo Ghetto: The Saga. The film producer and popular actor had to down tools and wait as the pandemic refuses to ease its firm grip on the world.

Equally affected was Toyin Abraham, who had worked assiduously to complete her much-anticipated film, Alakada: The Party Planner, ahead of a release in March 2020. Abraham had hit the production sets a few months after welcoming her first child to work on the project only to meet a stumbling block in Covid-19 few weeks to the film’s premiere.

However, the situation is not totally a bad, at least in terms of finances, especially for all the actors and producers. This is because producers and studios with films on popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Iroko TV and SceneOne TV still rake in funds from rights on their contents. This is similar to music practitioners.

If the music and film industries cried and are still crying foul from the massive hit on box offices and concerts, the Nightlife appeared to have suffered more.

The night clubs have been so badly hit by the pandemic so much so that their existence and experience are gradually fading away from the memories of night crawlers whose lifestyle is patronising upscale bars and nightclubs in the Lagos metropolis.

Chibuike Okechukwu and Hon. Shina Peller are two of the biggest night club owners in Lagos. Okechukwu, widely known and referred to as Cubana Chief Priest, runs Cubana Nightclubs on Victoria Island and Ikeja, while Peller runs the famous Quilox on Victoria Island.

Both nightlife kings have the pandemic to blame for the closure of their businesses and itching to return to business. The nightclubs, which boast of a turnover of over N8 million per night, have undoubtedly, been hit harder.

Five weeks ago, Quilox announced the closure of business, saying it intended to bounce back on a date to be announced later.

The statement reads: “Sadly, the activities of Club Quilox Season 7 have come to an abrupt end due to the rising cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria. The management of Africa’s biggest nightlife brand decided to halt all its activities, thereby taking the customary yearly break earlier than expected.

“Club Quilox is concerned about the number of infected people and the rapid rate of transmission, especially the high probability of community spread in the country. More so, large gatherings make people more susceptible to this disease.”

Another player in the hospitality industry, Wale Oluwaleimu, co-owner of House 30 Lounge and Hotel, noted that his business was shut down for seven weeks until the lockdown was relaxed.

He said: “We were the first set of businesses that were affected by the lockdown. The Lagos State Police Commissioner drove around Ikeja looking for Bars and Nightclubs that were still running on the first day of the lockdown. So, we had to comply.”

In compliance with the guidelines by the Lagos State government, Oluwaleimu said sinks, soap and water have been put in place outside the compound to ensure that customers coming to pick up stuffs will wash their hands. He also reiterated that members of staff are protected with facemask and gloves, which are disposed of daily.

However, the pandemic might have started another trend in the industry. Though the outbreak may have disrupted once lively night spots around the country, innovative Disc Jockeys (DJs) have keyed in to going virtual with their performances so that night crawlers and fun seekers do not miss out.

The virtual club trend is another example of how Covid-19 has altered daily life in ways many never imagined until social distancing was imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

Worthy of mention is the strict enforcement of compliance to the lockdown guidelines by the Lagos State government in the last six weeks. This has left even decrepit local pubs in bad shape. Aside from erring pubs owners and hotels, which are less than one per cent of the industry, socialites have found it hard to either hobnob or exchange greetings by shaking hands.

From SBLive Band to Akin Shuga and Eboni Live Band, the story is the same. Nevertheless, music bands still connect with their fans via Instagram/Facebook live performances. Masters of Ceremony (MCs) and comedians are also some of those practitioners that are badly affected.

The colourless Easter celebration badly affected Nigerian comedians’ and Masters of Ceremonies’ (MCs’) incomes, as they lost shows and events because of Covid-19.

For instance, Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st cancelled the 10th anniversary of his comedy and music show in Ibadan after investing over N10 million. The same with his colleague, I Go Die, who was also planning to host the 10th anniversary of his show. I Go Die sunk several millions into the planning, but lost all to the novel Covid-19.

Also, Ayo AY Makun would not forget in a hurry how he missed another chance to rake in millions of naira as the pandemic prevented him from holding his popular AY Live on Easter Sunday.

 

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