The National Film and Video Censors Board, regulator of Nigeria’s film industry, has joined Nollywood stakeholders to appeal to the Lagos State Government to grant state pardon to actress Funke Akindele.
Alhaji Adebayo Thomas, the Executive Director of NFVCB, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.
NAN recalls that a Chief Magistrate Court in Lagos had on April convicted Akindele and her husband, AbdulRasheed Bello, popularly known as JJC Skillz, for flaunting the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020.
The couple were arrested and arraigned for hosting a birthday party at their residence at Amen Estate in Lagos in contravention of government’s lockdown order on social distancing amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 14 days of community service in addition to a fine of N100,000 each and an order that the state should keep them in isolation for 14 days.
The development, however, generated sympathy from within and outside the Nigerian entertainment industry for the thespian, popularly known as Jenifa by fans.
Fans of the actress, industry watchers, guilds and even human rights activists have continued to appeal to relevant authorities to officially pardon the artiste.
According to Thomas, the board and other stakeholders in the industry want the state government to grant state pardon to Akindele on compassionate grounds and by extension her husband.
The NFVCB chief said the appeal became necessary for the conviction not to hamper her future engagements and contributions as a stakeholder in the nation’s growing creative industry.
He said the board had received a deluge of pleas from concerned stakeholders, including the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Directors Guild of Nigeria and Association of Movie Producers on behalf of Akindele.
Thomas added that over 10,000 industry players, including Jide Kosoko and Ralph Nwadike among others, had lent their voices to the call for pardon from relevant authorities.
He said: “As a regulatory agency, we see her inexcusable action as a punishable oversight and an act that should be widely condemned considering her roles and status in the society.
“However, inasmuch as we agree to the fact that she erred and would have been a good example in words and deeds, we also empathise with her and the family having heard her explanation.
“We are not oblivious of the roles she has played in times past in getting the message of the preventive measures of COVID-19 across, and by taking up the gauntlet to apologise.
“She is global ambassador of not just the Nigerian film industry but the nation at large through her trailblazing successes and awards recorded across board.
“We trust and have confirmation that she has realised her errors, which was never intended to undermine the state government’s efforts at managing the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Thomas said the board had officially made an appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to grant state pardon to Akindele.
He said having learnt her lessons, he believed that the actress was committed to exercising extra caution and discretion in future activities and engagements.
He said: “Funke has also been at the forefront of selfless media campaigns and sensitisation for the state government in times past.
“Also, in setting another example, she took up her cross and has soberly served out the terms of her conviction.
“We strongly believe that having learnt her lessons, she is committed to exercising extra caution and discretion in future activities and engagements.
“In light of this, we are passionately appealing to Governor Sanwo-Olu to grant state pardon to Funke Akindele and by extension her husband, Abdul Rasheed-Bello, on compassionate grounds.”