Investigative journalist Tobore Ovuorie has replied EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu who recently released a video to address claims made by Tobore.
Ovuorie accused Abudu of copyright infringement with respect to her 2020 Netflix movie “Oloture”, where EbonyLife adapted 75 percent of her 2014 undercover investigation on sex trafficking.
The journalist also alleged that her work was copied without her express permission.
Reacting in a video shared on her Instagram page, Mo Abudu said that before the release of Oloture, Tobore was duly notified and was given a private screening, including a promise of five percent of the films’ gains.
The 56-year-old filmmaker also said she had earlier reached out to the publishers of Premium Times, Tobore’s employers as of when the story was filed and obtained a go-ahead to make the film while promising the reporter a cut from its theatre run.
Visit the link below to watch and read the full reply from Mo Abudu.
Tobore few minutes ago released her reply to the claims made by Mo.
RE: EBONYLIFE’S CLAIMS OVER THE OLOTURE FILM
1. My attention has been drawn to the recent video recording by Ms. Mo Abudu. Initially, I was unable to view the recording as Ms. Mo Abudu (Aunty Mo) had blocked me on Instagram since last year. I was however able to view the recording from other platforms that reposted the video.
2. Whilst I no longer intend to join issues on social media in respect of this matter, I wish to set the records straight for the sake of posterity.
3. Firstly, EbonyLife claimed that the right to use my life story was legally obtained from my erstwhile employer – Premium Times. Unfortunately for them and as I had earlier informed them through my lawyers, the human trafficking investigation in my story had commenced prior to my employment with Premium Times. It is disheartening that Aunty Mo could in fact mention that she got the right to my life-story (that has impacted on my life since then in many ways) from my ex-employer.
4. Secondly, I am in shock that Aunty Mo would claim that I was contacted prior to the Movie in one breath and in another breath that the story is not about me but about several other faceless journalists who had done what I did but did not publish their experiences.
5. If Ebonylife had given me full disclosure from the beginning, we would not be where we are, at this point. Yes, Oloture is an important film to be made but must be done the right way. A Movie about women’s victimization cannot end up creating further victimization.
6. Oloture is an ADAPTATION of my work and life-story. I experienced the investigation, the process, and the risks, upon which the movie is based. I also single-handedly authored the publication the Movie relied on. The publication of my experience is what gave birth to Oloture. A Movie about sex trafficking does not need to be centered around a journalist and it does not need to play out the plots of my published story.
7. The question is, why is the open credits for the story of Oloture bearing Mo Abudu, Temidayo Abudu, and three others? How ethical is that for an adapted story? Even the alleged end credit, how appropriate is it? This is not the standard practice in the industry and Ebonylife should know better.
8. Aunty Mo’s claims that Kenneth Gyang has had to deal with daily and weekly harassments from me is completely false. On October 4th, 2020 Kenneth Gyang confessed in the published Premium Times story that he became aware of the Oloture story, two weeks before the release of the film. A film director- whom I had worked with on a 30 minutes documentary on this same story in 2016, told Kenneth the actual source of the story and had warned him of the consequences.
9. Kenneth Gyang contacted me to grant an audio interview to DW, but my lawyers had advised me against further media engagement on the subject. I also considered Kenneth’s disposition when he asked for this, and rather than mincing my words in an interview that came through Kenneth Gyang, I decided not to grant it. It would be morally wrong for me to grant such interview when he is the person that released my contacts to the reporter who reached me then.
10. Aunty Mo’s claim that I am doing this because of money and because Oloture traveled far is another deliberate attempt at mischief. The question is whether the decision to tag this movie a fiction was a deliberate attempt at maximizing profit? The allusion to the fact that my claim for compensation was outrageous when I am claiming infringement of intellectual property right, shows that a lot needs to be done in terms of re-orientation for the entertainment landscape in Nigeria.
11. My obvious interest had always been to be given appropriate credit for my work, far above the compensatory claim. My lawyers’ letter to EbonyLife had categorically demanded for:
• “Compensation for copyright infringement in the sum of $5,000,000.00 (Five Million US Dollars).
• The immediate inclusion of proper open credit and end credit in the Movie, acknowledging the adaptation of her work in line with industry standard and practice; and
• Restriction on any further exploitation of our Client’s published life story by your good self, your company and its related companies or affiliates, in any form, including our Client’s post-investigation struggles and experiences, such as her nervous breakdown episodes, which she personally shared with you on set, on or about 6 June 2019 during the recording of the special edition of your program titled: ‘Moments With Mo’ at the Ilupeju recording studio of your company.
The open and end credits of the Movie should be re-edited to read as follows:
“THIS FILM IS LARGELY BASED ON EVENTS WHICH HAPPENED TO A NIGERIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST IN A 2014 PUBLISHED INVESTIGATIVE STORY”.
“THIS FILM IS AN ADAPTATION OF:
WEST AFRICA| UNDERCOVER INSIDE THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING MAFIA, AN INVESTIGATIVE STORY BY TOBORE OVUORIE PUBLISHED BY ZAM MAGAZINE, NETHERLANDS, ON 22 JANUARY 2014 AND SUBSEQUENTLY BY PREMIUM TIMES, NIGERIA”.
12. On July 3rd, 2020, my father; Senior Apostle Jack Mit Ovuorie went to be with the Lord and I was informed on July 4th, 2020. My dad and God were all I had. I sent messages out to all the contacts on my phone subsequently, to inform them to please remember my family and I in prayers; including Aunty Mo, at that time (before the release of Oloture). I have NEVER asked Aunty Mo for money. Rather, she sent me a message to send my account details for her to send me a token towards my dad’s burial. I did. And she subsequently sent me N100,000.00 (one hundred thousand naira). My former editor at the Guardian newspaper, Mr. Fred Ohwahwa also sent me some money on hearing my dad had passed on. Several former bosses, colleagues and people I have NEVER even met came through for me. I was and I am still very grateful to all of them. Having watched the video, I now begin to wonder: The N100,000 sent by Aunty Mo, was it more than a gift? Was it intended to buy my silence when the film would be released?
13. So many women around the world are trafficked as claimed by Aunty Mo, but who else, and I also mean undercover journalists, have the same experiences as published before the production of Oloture and as depicted in the movie? Making a film on exploitation should not itself be exploitative.
14. I almost died (and I saw death) when I took a 7-month long journey to investigate human trafficking. Now, I am going through the ordeal a second time watching my life story on TV, without full credit or compensation and the subsequent campaign of calumny.
Earlier in an interview with Pulse, Tobore said the Oloture movie is a copy and paste of her work. She said;
Oloture’ does not closely resemble my work, It is a copy and paste of my work. Oloture is my life story. Whosoever claimed they wrote that script should be flogged”.
The 40-year-old journalist told Pulse what inspired the story.
“The investigation took place in 2013 but I would say the foundation to the investigation happened before 2013. Some years back, while I was still an undergraduate, I had a very close friend, Ifueko”, Ovuorie recounts.
“Suddenly, she disappeared from school and I later learnt she was taken to Italy for sex work. It was a rude shock to me because Ifueko was not that type of person. She was the type that when I would go see her, she would ask me what bible passage did you read today? How long did you pray?
“Much more later, I got to learn from a classmate that Ifueko was back in Nigeria. I had to wait for my dad to come to see me in school, to give me my pocket money for the month. With that, I transported myself to Benin to go look for Ifueko. Unfortunately for me, by the time I located their house, it was her grave that I met”.
“She was the one who led me to Christ and all of a sudden she disappeared. Reason ? Sex work! There was no correlation”.
Fast forward to 2013. South Africa based journalist Evelyn Groenink reached out to Tobore, who was at the time in the employ of another media house. She offered Tobore the opportunity to interview seven women about to be trafficked. Interestingly, Groenink’s proposition was timely but did not quite fit into Tobore’s grand idea.
“It was then I had to send a different proposal to her. I did state that the outcome would be wishy-washy. That, for me, wasn’t going to be a story that would transcend time. So I pitched something else and she fell in love with it. That was how the partnership or would I say relationship started”.
The top-secret investigation supervised by ZAM CHRONICLE began the same year in both Lagos and Abuja. Tobore went undercover for months as Ogogo, an aspiring sex worker seeking greener pastures. The report sought to investigate the dangerous sex trafficking business prevalent in Nigeria.
“I simply wanted to know the process. The investigation, professional but I have to admit that it was very personal for me. I had too many gaping holes in me that I needed to fill”.
Eight years after the acclaimed report, Tobore admits she is still in therapy. She recounts getting raped, tortured and forced to watch the beheading of two girls.
“To be candid, there are several memories. That which was published is only a minute part of my experiences. I deliberately didn’t put everything out because I uncovered certain things that led me to not release everything I had discovered during the investigation.
“However, there are numerous memories that I have been trying to let go off. I pushed them somewhere in me. The reason is I am trying to move on but to be honest, it has been difficult. For every time I get asked a question of my several close shaves with death, I get flashbacks.
“As a result of the investigation, I slid into depression, anxiety and panic attacks and there’s post-traumatic stress disorder which subsequently led me to be dependent on medications. I am still in therapy”.
For months, Tobore suffered in silence till she finally cried out to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) who collaborated with the International Women Media Foundation (IWMF) to get her checked into a rehabilitation centre in the United States of America.
Meanwhile, veteran Nollywood actor and lawyer, Kanayo O. Kanayo has slammed those who usually tag him a ritualist because of the role he normally plays in movies. In an Instagram rant, he said:
“Many of our youths are not focused and they see the social media as a place to get back at some people. The most unfortunate thing is that they abuse the privilege they have. Even people who cannot speak before one now think they have the opportunity to rubbish one,”