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Published on 12 June 2011
Interview Originally published 28 April 2011
INterview with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammade at his office in Abuja
Penultimate week, Arts Editors of major Nigerian news media in Lagos paid a courtesy call to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammade at his office in Abuja. During the visit, the Editors, who formally brought to the attention of the Minister the existence of Art Writers Association of Nigeria, also used the opportunity to engage the culture bureaucrat on the different issues around the Ministry. McPhilips Nwachukwu was there. Excerpt.
The Cultural Policy is a key feature on the table of the ministry. Since I assumed duties, we have made frantic efforts to ensure that the policy is approved and launched by the government. You will recall that when the policy was reviewed, it was sent to the Federal Executive Council and there were observations raised regarding the financing of culture.
And when I assumed duty, I saw the need to convey a stakeholders’ forum to guide us on issues that relate to tax and incentives. After the stakeholders meeting, there was another committee of experts drawn from stakeholders who produced a final report.
At the forum, there was also a discussion about the National Endowment for the Arts. It was a law that was promulgated in 1991 and, of course, it was not effective for whatever reason.
Reasons for the delay
But, we also felt that we should look at it and inputs were made. Not long ago, we intended sending the draft to the FEC, but we realised the need for the Ministry of Justice to have input into it. So, we sent the draft of the amended copy to the Ministry of Justice. We are receiving preliminary reports from justice ministry asking us to send an officer to them for discussion.
In fact, we feel strongly that for us to underscore the importance of the funding for the arts, that law on art must go a long way….
That was why we felt we should carry them along. As soon as we get the inputs from justice ministry, we will include that and send it to the Federal Executive Council. In fact, the policy is one of the most important priority areas of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
Culture policy with the Ministry of Justice
The policy has been with the justice ministry since January. And I don’t know how long it will take them to complete their contributions. I thought the Ministry of Justice would respond with their input, however, we will follow up and ensure fast tracking of their input into the policy.
National Gallery of Art Bill, Embattled DG,Musa and matters arising
The NGA Bill sent to the National Assembly is a privately sponsored bill and we are in touch with the culture committee and the leadership of the assembly on the need for the passage of the bill. When the House is through with it, it will then go to the Senate. In fact, we are waiting for it to be listed in the order of papers.
As for the suspended DG of NGA, Chief Joe Musa, we did not replace him until his tenure expired. The government is at liberty to appoint or reappoint him. And if he wins the pending case and comes back, he will get his benefits.
$200million Intervention Fund, fate of Endowment for the Arts?
Well, for me, the President’s intervention fund is a complementary effort. In fact, it is a stop gap measure and it is one source fund. But the endowment for the Art is a multisource fund, which is more enduring. The President is very passionate about the creative industry and is ready to support it because of the contributions it has been making to the economy and national growth.
Endowment for the Art is an enduring process where the art will be continually sustained through various instruments. So, the intervention fund from the President is just a complementary initiative and I hope that the law will be able to bring a sustainable framework that will make not only entertainment but all the creative industry viable and profitable.
The Ministry, Stakeholders and Disconnection in the season of Political Campaigns.
I will not say there is disconnect between the ministry and stakeholders. But, the way the ministry relates with stakeholders can be different from the ways they can be used for political purposes. For us, it is an enduring relationship you build and you continue to sustain it through some instruments of useful mechanism.
There is no disconnection For this, we know clearly, why and how you want to use them. No matter how you want to be sure, we are with them and will continue to be with them. No matter what promises that were made, they have to be within a certain government’s framework. They cannot be in isolation. The relationship between the stakeholders and the Ministry will continue to grow.
Culture and Nigeria’s image laundering
We will use culture as a diplomatic tool to launder Nigeria’s image. Except for paucity of funds, there are several programmes to launder Nigeria’s image. The major challenge is insufficient resources but there are several ideas to correct image problems.
Kano City Wall and UNESCO listing
At the moment, we are only sensitising stakeholders about the enlistment plans. And we need to bring up the walls to a stage when the UNESCO assessors will not have much problem in considering it for enlistment.
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