New culture policy on the way- Minister
Since assuming office early last year, Alhaji Sadiq Mohammed, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation has pledged to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of the Nigerian people.
As a young but very enterprising minister, Mohammed’s first promise was to ensure that the Cultural Policy for Nigeria sees the light of day. Recently, Daily Sun cornered the minister on the cultural policy and other vital issues in the ministry. He explained why the policy is yet to be launched, even years after it was reviewed and submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Since I assumed office; we’ve made frantic efforts to ensure that the policy is improved by government and eventually launched. You would recollect that the policy when it was reviewed was sent to the Federal Executive Council and an observation was raised on the financing of culture. And when I assumed duty, I saw the need to convene a stakeholders’ forum, which we did with stakeholders and federal liaison officers for proper guidance. After the meeting, there was a committee of experts drawn from stakeholders, which met and was able to produce the full report.
At that meeting, there was also a discussion about the National Endowment of Arts. And we also felt that we should look at it and inputs were made and not long ago; the department drafted a policy, which we wanted to present to the Federal Executive Council. At the same time, I looked at it and felt that there’s need for an input from the Ministry of Justice, as they have to send the amended law backing the policy from the Justice ministry.
We have received a preliminary report from them and they’ve asked us to send an officer and we’ve discussed with them about the law, because we felt strongly that for us to really discuss the importance of funding for the arts; that law would go around and its policy taken along with the law. Also at the Federal Executive Council, the understanding of it would be better and that was why we thought we should carry them along. So as soon as I get a feedback from the Ministry of Justice on their input, we would send the report to the Federal Executive Council and as soon as it is approved, we would launch the policy. The policy is the most important and a priority of the ministry.
President’s donation of $200m to Entertainment Sector
This is just a complementary effort, it is a stop-gap measure from the president and from one source. The entertainment fund from the government was just to show that the president is amiable and sympathetic to the entertainment industry.
The endowment for the arts is supposed to be an enduring process but the arts would continually be sustained through various investments and of course this is clearly stated in the law. So the $200m is just a complimentary initiative and I hope that the law would now be able to bring about a sustainable framework not only in the entertainment industry but also in the creative arts.
Bill on Visual Arts and status of suspended NGA Director
You are all aware the sent bill was privately sponsored and of course, we’ve made our own input. We were at the public hearing; we were in touch with the committee on culture and leadership of the National Assembly on the need for the passage of the bill for public interest.
But that does not mean we in the ministry are not after it. In fact; just before the elections started, I spoke with the chairman of the House Committee on culture to get us a feedback on the position of the bill and he told me that he was waiting for it because they’ve already prepared a report and he’s waiting for it to be listed in the other paper.
On the issue of the National Gallery of Arts (NGA), one would recall that the former DG (Chief Joe Musa) was suspended. Meanwhile, his tenure as the DG within the suspension period has expired and we waited until when the tenure ended.
That was July, 2010 and we still took time to do that because we felt strongly we should give him the benefit of doubt. Later the government asked that we should appoint a new DG instead of waiting for him. As much as appointment and re-appointment of the DG is at the discretion of government, I can assure you that if the former DG returns and absolved of the allegations, he will be paid his full benefits till the date his appointment expired.
Culture and Nigeria’s image
This ministry has initiated several projects with the hope of using culture as a diplomatic tool to promote Nigeria and her image. Nigeria has opened a cultural centre in Brazil and the one in China is yet to be commissioned. We also have other several projects, which we want to embark on, to ensure that we use culture as a veritable tool to correct the negative perception about Nigeria.
Besides, we have always taken exhibitions and artistes to other countries. We have in this process portrayed our country in a good light, and to show the creativity and the beauty of the nation. But the major challenge has been resources; we don’t have sufficient resources but we have several ideas that we want to use in order to generate resources to enable us to correct this negative impression about Nigeria. Last year we had a forum with Nollywood producers, because we observed that some of the films they produce show negative impressions about Nigeria.