Both are in a battle over the ownership of the copyright, as, although Ejiro is the producer of the intial ‘Domitila’ and the current one, Njemanze, who played the role of the protagonist – Domitila – is claiming the copyright.
In an interview with equally veteran journalist and publisher, Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Ejiro recalls the ordeals he has allegedly experienced over the matter.
Akintunde-Johnson, popularly called FAJ, shares the encounter on his Facebook page thus:
FAJ: …What’s the real picture like to you?
ZEB: The case is still in court…it comes up on the 16th of May…because initially Anne Njemanze took me to court that I’ve stolen her right…of the movie, Domitila. The reason she’s doing this is because, as she said, she went behind my back to patent the name. She now owns it because of say she patented the name. I said no… I now went to the trademark tribunal to petition her…to tell them that I own the rights…that I’ve been using that name since 1996…used it in 1999…I’ve traveled all over the world to film festivals with that movie…she only acted in the movie…she was paid. I created the story…the script…everything before I even invited her… so she has no stake… me I’m shocked why she’s doing what she’s doing… Luckily for us, and for the industry…in fact, the victory yesterday is not just for Zeb Ejiro, it was for the entire industry…because the entire industry was waiting for this judgement by the tribunal… that an actor can act in your movie, and tomorrow she can lay claim that she owns the right to that movie.
It is not done anywhere. I did Sakobi…it’s like Susan Patrick going tomorrow and …says she owns the right to Sakobi… I did Nneka the Pretty Serpent…it’s for Ndidi Obi to go tomorrow and patent the name Nneka the Pretty Serpent… It doesn’t make sense. So, I’m dazed…I’m really surprised why she did what she did. But like I said, the case is in court… now it has been cleared that I own the rights… because that’s what she’s holding… because that is why she went to court to sue me for 16 million naira… And I called her, she refused to pick my calls… There’s nothing I didn’t do…as my little girl… I call her my daughter… there was no quarrel…no misunderstanding…
Even when I started the Reboot (Domitila sequel) with my partners, I called her…I said, look you’re going to be in this reboot…yes, you’re not as young anymore to play…you know…but you’re going to play Aunty to one of the girls… and she said I should give her ₦17m! And I said ₦17m for what now…how much is the cost of the entire movie?
I didn’t know she had gone ahead to patent the name, that’s what she was asking…she was so vehement about the ₦17m…or nothing. I said whaoh…where are you getting this power from…because for me it was shocking… For her to be so categorical…for just five scenes that you’re supposed to play an aunty. So I said no…
So we went on, and we shot the movie… edited the movie… but as we started promoting the movie…the next thing I got was…the court’s bailiffs…Yes, she went that far. They came to my office…to seal my office…ransack my office…they went to my partner’s office, they seized editing facilities and all that… and she was on my street… she was calling me names… I called her (on phone) and she refused to pick.
You see, I’m the chairman (of trustees) of Association of Movie Producers, and on the board of so many associations in the industry…so as a father in the industry, I said it’s not good for me to start fighting my ‘little girl’ – so I called a lot of movie heavyweights… I said you guys should speak to this lady…I don’t know what I’ve done wrong…this is what is happening…a lot of them tried, but she refused to listen to any of them.
Then, the president of the Directors’ Guild of Nigeria was able to get us to sit at the end of the day with our lawyers… so, I now asked her, “what’s happening? Why are you doing this? I mean, you know how we started this thing… Why are you fighting me? Have I done you wrong?” The lawyer said they were not there for such kinds of discussions but for us to sort them out. So, we now asked them, “what’s the way forward? What do you people want?”
They said we should give them ₦35m for them to take the case out of court!
I said, “Whaoh…whaoh… okay, we have heard. Bye bye.”
…I’d thought this was just a child’s play…but at that point, I said this is really a battle…and I have to really fight this battle…to let the world know that I’m the rightful owner of Domitila. I created this thing in 1995… I shot it in 1996… I went to 10 cinema houses…the first time a movie was shown in 10 cinema houses simultaneously in Nigeria… I partnered with AIT…it was a massive cinema show in 1996….
So, how suddenly… somebody is coming to say…you know, she hasn’t even done one little thing with the name…if she has done a skit for example… a two-minute play or something…to say I’ve been using this name…one would understand… nothing.
FAJ: I believe she said she has some other businesses with the name…because of the name recognition, and has been using it as a brand for some time, before…
ZEB: Well, we didn’t hear that presentation at the tribunal…the presentation we heard at the tribunal was that people call her Domi Domi… I don’t know… because if you do a movie, and the movie is very popular, the tendency is that people will use that movie to identify you… it’s always the case.